How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a dark, sci-fi landscape photo manipulation in Adobe Photoshop.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

First, we’ll build the base scene using two stock images. After that, we’ll import the stars and add planets. Later, we’ll add the misty mountains and a big rock to the middle of the background. We’ll use several adjustment layers to change the color and contrast of the whole scene. Finally, we’ll create the lighting effect.

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Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. How to Build the Base Landscape

Step 1

Create a new 1920 x 1080 px document and fill it with white:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Open the landscape image and use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to isolate the landscape only. Move it into the white canvas and place it at the bottom using the Move Tool (V). Convert this layer to a Smart Object.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

There are some unwanted details on the ground. To correct them, create a new layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Use the Clone Tool (S) to remove the indicated details.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and change the Midtones settings:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value to -82:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness a lot. On this layer mask, select a soft round brush with black color (soft black
brush) with a lowered opacity (about 10-15%) to reveal some visibility on the middle of the ground.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Activate the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 25% to darken the left edge of the landscape. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 8

Open the sky image. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to select the sky only and place it in the upper half of the main canvas. Set this layer below the landscape group and reduce its opacity to 50%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the middle of the sky as we’re aiming to make the light source there.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 10

Add another Curves adjustment layer to darken the left more as it’s a bit brighter than the right. Paint on the right and the middle to show some light.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 11

To make the left darker, create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #8f939d to paint on there. Change this layer mode to Multiply 100%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 12

Use a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones settings to make the sky more purple:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

2. How to Add the Stars

Step 1

Place the star image over the main document and change its mode to Linear Dodge 100%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate the effect.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Use a Levels adjustment layer to decrease the effect’s brightness.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to clear the stars on the ground and reduce the effect’s visibility in the sky’s area.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

3. How to Import the Planets

Step 1

Open the planet texture. Check out this tutorialto know how to make a planet. Drag the planet into the main canvas and place it onto the top middle. Duplicate this layer twice and scale them down, and then arrange them on both sides of the big one.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Add a mask to the two small planet layers and make them fade out into the sky.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Double click the big planet layer, choose Inner Shadow and Outer Glow. Set the color of shadow to #f4f5f6 and color of glow to white.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Select these planet layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Set this group’s mode to Normal 100% and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within the group to desaturate the planets.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer to change the planets’ color. On the layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the magenta effect on the small planets.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the planets. Paint on the lower parts of the planets towards the middle light of the background.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Use another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the lower of the planets. Paint on the higher areas of the planets so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 8

Create another Curves adjustment layer to make the planets, especially the big one, hazier and blended more into the sky.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

4. How to Create the Background Mountains

Step 1

Isolate the mountains from the sky and add them to the left of the landscape. Lower the opacity of this layer to 70%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform >
Flip Horizontal). Move it to the right side and change its opacity to 90%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Add a mask to each of these layers and use a soft black brush to remove the areas on the ground and decrease the mountains’ opacity on the background.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Make a group for the mountain layers and use a Curves adjustment layer to change their lightness to match the landscape’s one.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

5. How to Add the Rock

Step 1

Cut out the rock from the background and place it in the middle of the background. Use a layer mask with a medium-soft black brush to erase the bottom and blend the rock with the existing ground.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -66.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

The rock looks too bright compared to the background, so add a Curves adjustment layer to darken it.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones values:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Create a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to paint bright edges for the contour of the rock where it should be illuminated by the background light, and also paint more details for the rock.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Use another Curves adjustment layer to make the contour of the rock softer and hazier. Paint on the rest to keep its contrast and shadow.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

6. How to Do the Basic Adjustments

Step 1

Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #a58869 and #94ece5. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 90%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Add a Curves adjustment layer to make the edges of the landscape darker. Paint on the middle to make it brighter than the edges.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

Create a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color #1200ec:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones and Highlights settings:

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Add another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the middle. Paint on the edges so they won’t be affected by this adjustment layer.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Make another Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast for the whole scene. The selected areas show where to paint on the layer mask.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

7. How to Make the Light Effect

Step 1

First, create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #b1c0d9 to make a spot on the canvas. After that, change the brush color to #cddbf3 to make a smaller spot on the middle of the previous one.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Convert this layer to a Smart Object and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to make it longer and much thinner.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe PhotoshopHow to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Add a mask to this layer to make the line fade into the rock and look like a gap.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 2

Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #f5f7fb to make a light spot on the existing one. Use Control-T and a layer mask to make the light spot appear like a subtle ray.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 3

On a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #cddbf3 to paint a highlight in the middle. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Duplicate this layer to make the light stronger.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 4

To make a light flare, take the Rectangular Marquee Tool to grab a square and set the Feather Radius to 2. Use a large soft brush with the color #cddbf3 to spot on the right side.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Hit Control-D to deselect and use Control-T to make it much thinner (convert this layer to a Smart Object before transforming). Move it to the light gap area.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Use a layer mask to remove the top and bottom, making it mostly visible on the left of the light gap.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 5

Use a small brush with the color #ff89aa to paint along the light line. Set this layer mode to Hard Light 100%.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 6

Use the same brush to paint around the light gap. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and mask it off so the red effect appears very subtle.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Step 7

Make a Vibrance adjustment layer on top of the layers to complete the final effect.

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop

Congratulations, You’re Done!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tutorial and learned something new for your own projects. Feel free to share your results or leave comments in the box below. Enjoy Photoshopping!

How to Create a Dark, Sci-Fi Landscape Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop