Create a Relaxing, Vibrant, Fantasy Lake Scene With Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a colorful fantasy scene using a range of photo manipulation techniques. 
First we'll create a lake scene from two sky images using a custom Displacement Map. Then we'll add the boat, roses and dove, and blend them together using adjustment layers, masking and brushes. We'll enhance the light, color and contrast of the scene with a soft yellow brush and several adjustment layers. 
Then we'll finish it up by creating a dreamy and twinkling effect using a light texture. During this tutorial you'll learn how to work with groups, create depth of field and more.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
The first step is to create a Displacement Map to use in creating an artificial water surface. Create a new 2000 x 1000 px document in Photoshop and fill it with white color. Hit Control-J to duplicate the background layer and convert it to a Smart Object. On this layer, go to Layer > Noise > Add Noise:

add noise

Press D to set the foreground/background color to default (black and white). Go toFilter > Sketch > Bas Relief:

bas relief

Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur to create an effect like ripples:

motion blur

Duplicate this layer and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to change its perspective as shown below:

change perspective displacement map

Use the Crop Tool (C) to select the middle section of this image and delete the unnecessary areas:

crop tool

Save this file as a PSD and name it "ripple_ texture" or whatever you want.
Create a new 2000 x 1288 px document with the settings below:

new file

Open the sky 1 image. Select the sky part only using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M):

select sky 1

Drag this selected part into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V), and place it onto the upper half. Name this layer "sky".

adding sky 1

Duplicate this layer and set it under the first one. Flip it vertically by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical. Move it downward to cover the white canvas. Name this layer "lake".

sky 1 flip vertical

To make a ripple effect for the lake, go to Filter > Distort > Displace and browse the ripple file we created in step 1. Change the settings of the Displace filter to get the result of your taste. Here is mine:

sky 1 displace

To soften the ripple, go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and change the Angle andDistance values:

lake motion blur

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to the sky layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to soften the line between the sky and lake:

masking horizon line

To make some depth for the lake, create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #e6af73 and the Opacity about 30–50% to paint around the horizon line. Change this layer mode to Multiply 100%:

horizon line darken

To create more depth, make a new layer and paint along the horizon area with a soft brush and the color #a99580. Set this layer mode to Multiply 50%:

horizon line darken more

Open the sky 2 image. Select the sky only using the Rectangular Marquee Tool:

select sky 2

Place this sky part onto the top of our main image and cover the existing one. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%, using a layer mask to erase the part that overlaps the lake, and reduce its opacity to make it blend better with the existing sky:

adding sky 2
sky 2 soft light mode

To reduce the noise of sky 2, go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches and change the Radius to 3 px:

sky 2 dust  scratches

Duplicate this layer and flip it vertically. Place it onto the existing lake to make the reflection of this sky on the lake surface.

sky 2 reflection

Apply a Displace filter with the settings changed below (because sky 2 has a different texture from sky 1, you should change the settings to get a suitable result). 

sky 2 displace

Apply a Motion Blur filter with Angle set to 0 and Distance set to 15:

sky 2 motion blur

There is an unwanted detail on the sky 2 image. To remove it, make a new layer and activate the Clone Tool (S). Use this tool to delete this indicated detail:

sky 2 unwanted detail
cloning result

Isolate the boat from the background, and place it in the middle of the lake. Flip it horizontally by selecting Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Use Control-T to change its perspective a bit as shown below:

adding boat

Duplicate the boat layer and move it under the first boat. Make the boat reflection using the Displace and Motion Blur filters.

boat reflection displace
boat reflection motion blur
reflection result

Add a mask to the boat reflection layer, and use a soft black brush to reduce the opacity of the top part to make it fade into the water:

boat reflection masking

Select the whole boat and its reflection layers, and press Control-G to make a group for them. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default group mode) to Normal 100%. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and decrease the lightness:

boat curves darken

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the front of the boat and its reflection as they're illuminated by the background light. 

boat curves masking

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer to add more vibrant red and yellow to the boat and the reflection:

boat color balance
boat color balance result

Make a new layer above the boat one and set it as a Clipping Mask. Use a soft brush with the color #f1bb52 to paint on the highest part of the boat to add some highlights there:

Create a Curves adjustment layer on top of the layers and reduce the lightness.

 whole scene curves 1

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase around the middle and leave the dark effect only visible at the sides and corners of the image. This step is to add a vignette effect to the scene:

curves masking

Create a Color Balance adjustment layer, and increase the Red and Blue values ofMidtones:

whole scene color balance 1

Open the roses image. Cut the roses out of the background using the Magic Wand Tool (W)

isolate roses

Use the Lasso Tool (L)  to select a part of the upper roses and place it onto the boat:

select upper roses
adding roses

Add a mask to this layer, and use a hard black brush to remove some of the roses to make them look as if they're lying inside the boat.

roses on boat masking

Select a part of the upper roses to add to the left of the existing ones, and useControl-T to make it a bit smaller:

select upper roses more
adding more roses

Take a part of the lower branches and an upper rose to place at the lower part of the boat:

select lower branches  upper branch rose
adding rose  branches

To make a reflection for all the roses on the boat, select all the rose layers. Right click and choose Duplicate Layers, and then merge all of them by choosing Merge Layers. Flip this layer vertically and move it under the boat part:

roses on boat flip vertical

Lower the Opacity of this layer to 90%. Apply the Displace and Motion Blur filters to this layer:

boat roses displace
boat roses motion blur

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the reflection with the water:

boat roses reflection masking

Select a rose branch from the original image and place it in the foreground of the lake:

select a rose branch
adding big rose

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to make the lower part of the rose sink a bit into the water:

big rose masking

Name this layer "big rose".
Make a reflection for the rose using the Displace and Motion Blur filters, and lower this layer Opacity to 80%.

big rose displace
big rose motion blur

Use a layer mask to make the reflection fade into the water:

big rose reflection masking

Make a group for all the rose layers including the big rose one. Create a Color Balance adjustment layer and bring the Red value of Midtones up to +79:

roses color balance

Use a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to remove the light on the rose at the foreground and the roses on the back of the boat:

roses curves 1

Make another Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the front of the roses on the boat and the big rose:

roses curves 2

Make a new layer above the big rose one (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

big rose dodge tool

Activate the Dodge Tool (O) with Midtones RangeExposure about 20–25% to paint on the upper of the leaves and the petals to bring more light to these details. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

big rose dodge tool result

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken this rose more. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper of the rose to maintain the lightness there:

big rose curves

Isolate the dove from the background and place him onto the boat bow:

adding dove

Make the dove reflection as we did with the other elements:

dove displace
dove motion blur

Make a group for the dove and the reflection layers. Use a Color Balanceadjustment layer and change the Midtones settings:

dove color balance

Create a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the highlight on the dove. Use a soft black brush on this layer mask to reduce this adjustment layer effect on the reflection.

dove curves

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness:

whole scene curves 2

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the middle section to keep the lightness there: 

whole scene curves 2 masking

Use another Curves adjustment layer to increase the light a bit:

whole scene curves 3

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the sides of the scene to make the light focused on the middle. 

whole scene curves 3 masking

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the whole scene color:

whole scene color balance 2
whole scene color balance 2 result

Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #b0975c to paint on the middle section to add more vibrant light to this area. 

middle light normal mode

Change this layer mode to Hard Light 100%:

middle light result

After changing the light and color we'll use two Curves adjustment layers to enhance the contrast of the whole scene. The first one is to darken the scene much more. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with a very low Opacity (about 10–15%) to reduce this adjustment layer effect on the boat and dove:

whole scene curves 4

To increase the vibrant light of the middle, use another Curves adjustment layer:

whole scene curves 5

Erase the sides of the scene, the boat and the bird using a soft black brush on thisCurves layer mask:

whole scene curves 5 result

Open the light texture pack. Choose the "starry 4" image and place it over the working document.

adding light texture

Change this layer mode to Screen 100%:

light texture screen mode

Duplicate this layer and apply a Motion Blur filter to it to create a twinkle effect for the glowing dots:

light texture motion blur

Add a mask to this layer, and use a soft black brush to reduce the light effect of these dots to get a subtler looking result:

light texture motion blur masking

Return to the first light layer and apply a Displace filter to it:

light texture displace

Make a group for these light layers and change the mode to Screen 100%. Use aHue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the light color a little:

light texture huesaturation

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce this adjustment layer effect on the glowing dots on the lake surface:

light texture huesaturation masking

Add a mask to this light group and use a soft black brush to reduce the red light on the top of the sky, the dove and the back of the boat to create a subtler effect:

light group masking

I hope that you've learned something new from my tutorial. Feel free to share your outcomes, suggestions and feedback in the comment box below. Enjoy photoshopping!

final result


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