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Ardis Creative Web Design Blog » Blog Archive » Learn how to create a dynamic butterfly inspired photo manipulation.

Learn how to create a dynamic butterfly inspired photo manipulation.

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a digital illustration using just stock images, Photoshop and your design skills. This tutorial can get tricky and is a bit long so some good knowledge in Photosop is a plus. If your a beginner, then you will learn some great Photoshop tips and tricks!

1. First, create a new document that is 8.5 inches by 5.25inches. 300 dpi. This image will be at a high enough resolution for a small printable piece. Title it anything you like. I titled mine A butterfly experience.

2. Apply a linear gradient using these two blues #a0afbb and #abb9c5. Put this in a folder called sky.

3. Now we have to create the ground and road, using this road image and grass field image. Drag a guide down for your horizon line to about the 2.75in mark. Using the grass field image, crop the grass from the bottom to just below where the people are sitting. This is done with the pen tool. Make a path around the area you want to crop out. When finished right click the path, choose make a selection, feather radius at 1.

Double click to layer and hit ok to unlock it. Now with that layer selected, click the layer mask button on the layers pallet and it’s cropped.

Place this image to match the guide of the horizon line and change the hue/saturation (Ctrl+U) to these specs. Hue +19, Saturation +4. This gives the grass a much healthier green color.

4. After the grass is set, open the road image. This part starts to get tricky. Create a mask and clip out the road (leave a little of the dirt on the edges) out of the background.

Place this over the grass image. Transform the road (Ctrl+T) to make it a little more flat.

After that we have to warp the road (edit>transform>warp) so that the front of the road is much wider but still keeping the curve in the back about the same.

5. The sun on the road is a bit too extreme.  Go to image>adjustments>shadow/highlights. Change shadow to 100 and highlights to 7, click OK. Then  go to image>adjustments>photo filter and choose warming filter (85) at density 10% to warm it up a bit.

6. Now select the clone stamp and clone out the dividing line from the bottom to where the road just starts to turn left, and also the tree shadows in the background.

After that create a long thin white rectangle shape. Duplicate it and move them slightly apart.  Now hold shift and select them both. Click (Ctrl+E) to merge them.

Transform the lines (Ctrl+T) to make the road appear to be coming more straight ahead than turning slightly left. Holding Ctrl and dragging the points allows you to change the perspective.

Use some grunge brushes to give it scratches and the road texture.

7. Select the grass, road and dividing lines shape and merge them (Ctrl+E).  using the elliptical marquee tool make a selection close to as shown and feather it at 200. Apply filter>blur>Gaussian blur  at 1.5 pixels. We are trying to give the illusion of a background that is slightly out of focus. This blurring will be applied much throughout the tutorial. Create a folder called ground&road put this new image in it.

8.Now to create the little corner building on the right. Use this image. Open it and clip out just the red brick part of the building and the side walk. Place it in our document a transform it (Ctrl+T),to make it smaller. Remember to hold shift while transforming some things if you want to keep the same proportions.

Now we have to warp it to fix the perspective a bit. (Ctrl+T) again and while holding Ctrl drag the top left corner so that the side of the building is straight.

9. Place the building on the right of the screen to where the third column of windows are barley visible. Now we have to clone out some distractions (the black wires on the building and the woman if you choose to). A good technique to get rid of an object is to first zoom in very close. Use the clone stamp set to very soft and then use the healing brush to blend the clone stamp spots with the image. Then apply a Gaussian blur to the building (filter>blur>Gaussian blur) of .08 pixels.

10. To create the curb, open the same building image again. Crop out the curb.

Drag it into our document and and right click the layer mask and hit apply layer mask so that it is easier to transform. duplicate it . Hide one layer because it will be used later for the other side. Use warp again to transform the curb layer so that it fit’s the contours of where the grass and road meet. Apply a Gaussian blur of .08 again.

11. Now for the street lamps. Use this image, crop out the lamp, place in our document and resize to fit proportionally with the building.  Then go to edit>transform>flip horizontally so that the lighting on the lamp fits the surroundings.

Duplicate the lamp, make a bit smaller and place further back to show more perspective. Give the lamp up front a Gaussian blur of .08 and the one further back a .09.

12. Now create a new layer and paint on some nice highlights and reflections on the windows using a small soft white brush.

13.Create a new folder called corner building and drop the building, the visible curb, the reflections and both lamp layers in there.

14. Now for the apple trees. Using this image, crop out the trees to the third tree back. To do this go click the channels next to the layers. Duplicate the blue channel and turn off all the other layers.

Change the levels of the blue layer copy (image>adjustments>levels) to the settings 99,1.00,209.

Now select all (Ctrl+A) and copy (Ctrl+C). throw away the blue layer copy and make sure the other layers are now visible. Go back to layers and click the quick mask button on the bottom of the tool bar. Paste the blue layer (Ctrl+V). Exit the quick mask by clicking the button again.

Hit (Ctrl+Shift+I) to inverse the selection. Now go to the background layer and unlock it by double clicking it and hitting OK. Now click the add layer mask button in the layers pallet and presto!

You’ve just cropped out some very complicated tree tops.

15. Drag the trees into our document and flip the horizontally, we want to keep only the first 3 trees and crop out everything else so on the mask of the trees layer use a black splatter shaped brush to erase around the tree and a black 85% soft brush to remove everything around the tree up to the bark.

16. To add further detail, select the grass brush and with the background and foreground colors black, paint on the mask of the tree layer were the ground of the tree layer and the grass layer meet to really make it blend together.

17. Again we are going to warp the image to make it fit more into the perspective of the rest of the image.

After that we are going to change the color a bit. Start with hue saturation (Ctrl+U) with hue +5 and saturation -22 then levels (Ctrl+L) and plug in 0, 1.26, and 215.

18. Now the apples. Using this image crop out a couple of apples. When the are selected just copy and past them into our document to speed up the process.

Resize them to fit the tree and duplicate the layers(many times) and placing them throughout the trees to make them look full. To save some time you may want to group some layers of apples together and duplicate whole groups. Also place some under the trees on the ground and make sure those are a bit darker.

Now select all the tree and apple layers, duplicate and merge (Ctrl+E). Using the elliptical marquee tool make a selection around the end of the trees with a feather of 150 and apply a Gaussian blur of .09 pixels. Again trying to create the depth of field. Take all the apples and trees layers and put the in a folder called apple trees. for the building behind the trees. Using this image crop out the building. Place into our document and resize to fit the proportions. (Ctrl+T) the building and be holding Ctrl and pulling the left and right points make the top of the building relatively flat.

Place this layer behind the trees and corner building. Give it a Gaussian blur of 1.1.

20. Now for the large curb. Take the curb layer that we hid before and using the transform>warp fit it to contour the left side of the road. ( you may have to duplicate the curb and blend it together to extend it so you have more to work with.

Using the elliptical marquee, feather 150 Gaussian blur the far end of it about 1.0 as done in the previous step to keep with the depth of field illusion.

21. Create a new layer a just like before, using a small soft white brush paint some sun reflections and highlights on the windows. Throw the curb, building and reflection layer in a folder called back building.

22. Now for the city in the background. Use this image and crop out the city. Place it in our document resize it to fit proportions. This image is too blue so (Ctrl+B) for color balance and move the blue to -30. Then (Ctrl+U) to bring up hue saturation and bring the saturation down to -20. We want it do look a bit dull to create the illusion that it is far in the distance.

Create a new layer and paint reflections on the windows and on building tops using the same techniques as before. Merge these layers and apply a Gaussian blur of 2.7.

23. Copy this layer and desaturate (Shift+Ctrl+U). put this layer above the previous city layer and in layer blending mode select overlay at 50% to strengthen the contrast.

Group these layers in a folder called city and place this behind everything but the sky layer.

24. Now to create some dynamic clouds. Create a new layer behind the city folder. Using a cloud brush set of your choosing (You can get a great one from this site here) create a cloud composition were just a bit of the blue sky is showing through. Use white and light shades of grey and blue for the clouds.

25. Select all the clouds, duplicate and merge. Desaturate (Shift+Ctrl+U) and change blend mode to overlay at 95%. Put this layer over the previous cloud layers for a more dynamic contrast. Put these in a folder called clouds. Place it behind the city.

Your image should look close to this now. Check yours out before we start to move on.

26. Now everything involved with the truck. Use this image and crop out the truck separate from the shadow. don’t forget to cut out the back and side windows, we will fill those back in later. Place it inside our document. Change the hue to +8 and saturation -15.  Resize it to fit the proportions and perspective of the road if needed.

27. Now create a black shape following the contours of the shadow of the original truck image. Place this under the truck. Use multiply as blend mode and opacity at 65%. Doing this allows you to have more freedom in shadow manipulation.

28. To fill in the cut out windows create a new layer. Load the selection of the truck by holding Ctrl and clicking the layer thumbnail of the truck or mask. Go back to the new layer and with a small soft brush at about 20% opacity paint over the cut out windows using this blue #223c58 until it matches with the front. You may also want to add some very light white highlights. Deselect when done.

29. To create the man in the truck use these two images, Head and Shoulders.  Crop out the head of the man with glasses and the shoulders and neck of the other man. Place them in our document. Transform horizontally (edit>transform>flip horizontal) the shoulders so they match the head. We have to make them seem like one image and we will do that with the clone stamp. Clone the neck up a bit and fade the bottom of the head out a bit. This will make a seamless and convincing unity of the head and neck. Change the levels to 7, 0.92, 227.

30. Now we have to place him in the truck.  Position him like he is looking out the window. Lower the opacity so you can see the truck behind him. Using the pen tool select the side and front window as shown and create a mask on the layer of the man so that he appears in the tuck.

You also want to lightly brush  the same blue #223c58 as before on his shoulder to make him appear more in the truck. Shadows around him really help too. Group these into a folder called man in truck.

31. Now to create brighter highlights on the truck and windshield. Create a new layer above the truck and with a soft white brush add some highlights to the windshield, hood and on the chrome parts of the truck. Set some of these layers to soft light. Set these layers and the man in truck folder in a folder called truck.

32. For the butterflies. The internet is full of images of butterflies but mainly we are looking for yellow ones in this case ( try google images or for some stock photos). You can also just change the hue and color balance of any butterfly image. We will start with the butterflies coming from behind the truck. Crop out a few butterflies and duplicate them a few times. Move them into positions so that they appear to be swarming towards the truck. Add Gaussian Blurs and motion blurs (filter>blur>motion blur) to almost all the butterflies giving them the sense of swift movement. You can really over exaggerate some.

Do this process over and over ( similar to the apples) until you have your desired effect. Add some behind the tree using the same technique as the truck driver to give it more depth.

33. After you have created the swarm, duplicate all the butterfly layers and merge them. Load a selection on them and with a soft dark brush at low opacity paint a shadow on some of the ones under the trees.

Duplicate this group, load a selection on them and fill it with a very dark green. This will become the shadow.

Make the shadow appear more flat by transforming it (Ctrl+T) and place it at the bottom on the grass. Apply a Gaussian blur of about 1.5 and set the blending mode to multiply at 75%. Put these layers in a folder called butterflies behind and place it behind the truck.

34. Now the butterflies coming out of the truck. Using the same technique as before. Try to create a nice flow to show them coming out of the truck and heading of screen. Place some butterflies behind the driver and just coming out of the truck.

Create the shadow the same way as the other group of butterflies but use black instead of dark green. Place this layer and the truck shadow layer in a folder called shadows. Merge the layers and blend them together using the clone stamp.

35. Now create a few large butterflies and put these over the others. don’t blur these as much as the others, we are going for the illusion that they are flying towards the camera. Put all the butterflies in a folder called butterflies mid. Place this above the truck.

36. To really create some depth we will place some large butterflies up front and really blur them. Crop some butterflies and ad various Gaussian and Motion blurs (around 3.0 pixels for the Gaussian and about 20 for the motion) until it looks right. Group these in a folder called butterflies front and place it above all the other layers.

37. Now we need to put some butterflies in the truck. Make a small butterfly group with the same techniques as the other groups. Merge them and lower the lightness (Ctrl+U) to about -30. After that load the selection of them and slightly paint over them with a soft brush and opacity at 20 with this blue #223c58 untill the look to be in the truck. Deselect and add some white reflections over them as well.

38. Ok we are close to done. Now for the reflections and shadows of the trees and butterflies on the truck to really make it fit its environment. Copy a section of the apple trees and place it over the truck layer and warp it to follow the contours of the truck.

Set the blend mode to softlight at about 62% opacity.

39. Do the same technique with the butterflies on both sides of the truck. Put the layers in a folder called reflections.

40. Now to add a shadow of the mid butterflies on the driver side of the truck. Select a few butterflies, merge them and fill them with a dark blue. Now warp them to fallow the contour of the truck. Set this layer to multiply at about 40%. And place it in the reflections folder. The reflections folder should be placed above the truck folder and below butterflies mid.

41. To create the car in the back use the same techniques as with the truck but with these images, car and driver. When finished, merge them and give it a Gaussian blur of 1.3. Place them in a folder called car and place the folder behind truck. This is optional but it just adds another element of depth and realism to the piece.

42. To finish it off we are going to add 2 adjustments layers. A hue/saturation and levels.

Hue saturation add saturation +21

and for levels its 0, 1.21, 232.

That’s it, Hope you enjoyed and learned some skill on how to create a dynamic piece using only stock images.

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15 Responses to “Learn how to create a dynamic butterfly inspired photo manipulation.”

  1. AFNAN Says:


    great , fantastic , all things

    its very nice

    thank you so much

  2. Skyeblue Says:

    Oh my Golly Geewilickers.

    this is so wow. :)


  3. UPrinting Canvas Printing Says:

    This is GREAT!!!

    This is a simple app but mostly doesn’t know how to use this.

    This should be taught to the young generations.

  4. photo retouching Says:

    A great bit of photo retouching in this easy to follow tutorial. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Talwinder Says:

    relay great budy

  6. shoolboy54321 Says:

    Incredible artwork! Thanks so much! ^^

  7. Clipping Path Says:

    wow… cool tuts.. i like it! thanks :-)

  8. Chris Planeta Says:

    Very nice tutorial. I have never been to good in photo manipulation but now one of my goals is to learn how to create something impressive - mainly for illustration purposes. Your tutorial was a nice start. Good job.

  9. LargeFormatPrintsExpert Says:

    wow! thanks.. i didnt think you designed so much things in there when i first saw the picture! you basically did it from scrap :o

  10. Large Format Prints Expert Says:

    Great tut, thank you very much for sharing this……………….

  11. Stickers and Labels lover Says:

    I love the expression on the elder man’s face, shear awesome.


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