Create a living museum in Photoshop CS4
Assemble your stock images and brushes. All resources used in this image are from deviantart. Some are available exclusively to deviantart members. Always
make sure you have license to use your chosen stock and be sure to give
proper credit to the provider. If you choose to post the image resulting from
this tutorial anywhere online, you must credit the stock provider by linking back
to their deviantart account.
You don't have to use the exact textures and images I used. You can achieve a
similar effect that is unique to you by finding your own stock images on sites
such as deviantart, sxc.hu, CG textures, and Wikimedia commons.
This won't be so much of an exact and precise, step-by-step tutorial. Rather, I will explain the basic steps and techniques I used... but I will be specific in some areas. This tutorial assumes you have basic knowledge of photoshop - how to use layers, layer masks, filters, and the tools in the tool panel.
middle frame: http://mjranum-stock.deviantart.com/art/Halloween-Stock-Y-1-183708403
right frame: http://stock-nightmare.deviantart.com/art/Gold-Frame-75183546
water brushes: http://lizard--queen.deviantart.com/art/Water-Dropplets-Brush-
water on floor: http://morbystock.deviantart.com/art/beach-stock-13-75990604
cloud brushes: http://linzee777.deviantart.com/art/Cloud-Brush-Pack-162956453
right mouse: http://szorny-stock.deviantart.com/art/mouse-belly-151755042
wall texture, plants, other mice:sxc http://www.sxc.hu/
Begin with the floor and wall. Open up the images you will be using and move
them into a new document. (I used 9'x5.5' at 300 dpi). For aesthetic purposes, it
works well to join the floor and wall about a third up from the bottom.
Use Edit > Transform > Perspective to adjust the floor. Depending on the floor
you choose, it can be difficult to get the perspective right. Make sure that the
planks in the middle look like they are coming straight down toward you.
The two images have likely come from totally different sources, so at first they
will not look like they belong together. But we need this to look like a cohesive,
realistic image. As you add more images to the file, a good way to get the
images to look as if they belong together is to adjust hue, saturation, and
levels. Do this now with the floor and wall until their colors and sharpness
match. Use the dodge and burn tools to darken the edges and brighten the
middle. This, combined with the perspective of the floor, will help to draw in the
Next, extract your frames. Take some time to make a clean extraction for each
new image you add to avoid unwanted pixels around the edges. The pen tool
works best for me to do this because it is very precise. The frames are easy...
but images like plants and animals can be very time consuming. Size the frames
and place them where you want them. Be sure that you are naming each new
layer as you add it, and save often.
Always keep an eye on the lighting of each new image you add. If your frames
seem to bright or too dark, use curves, hue/saturation, or the dodge and burn
tools to fix it. Remember that for the purpose of this image, we want the center
to be brightest, and the edges to be in shadow. Imagine that the light source is
coming from just above your view, and just behind you. For a touch of realism,
give the frames a slight shadow inside and outside at the edges. You can do this by adding a drop shadow layer style to the frames:
Time to fill the frames with scenery. I chose one field scene, one ocean scene,
and one mountainous scene for some variety. Paste your scenery into the file
on layers under the frames, and size and move them into place. Make sure to
name the layers and save your file.
Its starting to look like an art museum! To begin bringing it to life, we want the
ocean to spill out of the left frame. Open up your wave image. Select your
lasso tool, and in the tool's settings, give it a feather of about 30 pixels. Draw
a rough circle around the area you want to be "splashing out" of the ocean
Paste the feathered selection of wave into your file. Adjust the color and
sharpness of the water until it matches the water in the ocean frame a bit
better. Resize, warp, and stretch the wave until the top seems to be leaving the
frame, and the bottom falls onto the floor. Give the wave layer a mask. With a
large fuzzy brush at 50% opacity, blend the wave into the ocean. It can be
difficult to get this part right... water can be tricky. Don't worry about the edges
of the wave just yet.
Now we need to make the wave look like it is pooling on the floor. By
searching stock image sites for "beach" and "wave" you will easily find an
image that fits the angle we need. Look for a beach wave that is travelling
toward you to the right. Paste it into the file, and use a layer mask to blend
Open up beach stock 13 by MorbyStock from deviantart. Copy and paste the
waves into the file, placing the waves over the floor. Lower the opacity and
mask out the sandy areas so that the floorboards show through. Opacity masks
are your best friend when it comes to blending images together. It is good
practice to use a layer mask rather than erasing part of your image, as masks
are fully editable.
Use the splash water brushes to make the edge of the wave more realistic. Use
the eyedropper tool to select the color of the water at the very edge of the wave. Then add some lighter droplets with light grey or light blue above the
darker colors. Zoom into this area to make sure that your details are working
together. Also, make sure that you are painting the water additions on a new
As you go, you may find it helps to keep your file organized and manageable
to merge layers when you are happy with them. When you are happy with the
left frame and its escaping wave, merge the layers together. This will also keep
your file size small and photoshop running quickly. Now, we want it to be night
time on the ocean. Use the burn tool to darken the water and sky, and paste
in the moon. Give the moon a subtle outer glow, and move the outer edge
above the lip of the frame so that appears to be rising out of the picture. With
the dodge tool, add a moonlight trail on the ocean water.
So now here is our image, starting to come to life!
We will now add the imagery to the room, "outside" the frames. Extract the
Roman column and paste it in to the file on a new layer. Again, play with your
hue, saturation, and curves until the column seems to match its environment.
Give it highlights and shadows with dodge/burn. Mask out the very bottom of
the column so that it appears to be standing in the water on the floor. Then
copy the layer, and place one on each side of the middle frame.
Repeat these basic steps for every new element that you add to your image.
Always give everything its own new layer, naming them as you go. Use layer
masks to soften any edges that seem too striking. Use hue, saturation, and
curves to make the objects look as if they belong in this environment... not just
pasted from somewhere else. Use dodge and burn to give each object highlights
and shadows. Remember that some objects will need to cast more obvious
shadows than others.
I almost never use drop shadow layer styles to create object shadows, because
it can make the object look too flat. Drop shadows are alright for flatter
objects, such as the frames. But when creating shadows for bulky or organic
things, this will look false. Instead, paint black with a fuzzy round brush at a low
opacity on a layer under the object you want to give a shadow to. Try to
visualize what shapes the shadows would make if your light source were real. It
helps that this manipulation is kind of shadowy and dark in nature... so it is
good practice and will look good even if you don't get it quite right.
We are almost done! Now we need to bring to life our field and mountains.
Load up your cloud brushes. On a new layer, paint in some white clouds so
that it looks like they are emerging from the middle frame. It will look more
natural if you use varying opacities for the clouds. Add more clouds on a layer
under your trees, so it looks as if they are flowing out of the frame into the
trees in the room.
We have given a magical life to the sea and mountains, now we just want the
field to escape a little. Zoom in so you can see the details of the grasses.
Make a selection of some of the wheat tips, copy, then paste on a layer above
the frame which encloses them:
Once you have added all the details you like, there are just a few finishing
touches. On a new layer set to overlay mode, darken the edges of your image
with a black, large fuzzy brush, and brighten the middle with white. This will
make the image seem more dynamic and bring the focus to the center even
more. Then, only once you are fully satisfied with the image, go to layer >
flatten image. (If you like keeping you layer files like I do, save a copy before
you do this). Then go to filter > sharpen > sharpen, to make the details a little
crisper. Finally, go to image > adjustments > photo filter. Choose a warming
filter or color to tint your final image, with density at 50%. Keep the preview
box checked so you can see the difference your filter will make on the image.
This gives the museum a gentle, old fashioned feel by adding a touch of sepia.