In this session, we were beyond excited to welcome back a legend in the Photoshop design industry, Colin Smith. Colin is a best-selling author and award-winning digital artist; his Photoshop art has created waves across the sector. Colin is the founder of PhotoshopCAFE, one of the world's biggest Photoshop resource sites, and has been nominated twice for the Photoshop Hall of Fame!

With Photoshop royalty in the Design Cuts house, there was no question that this session was going to deliver some real value. Give it a watch and find out how to use builders to manipulate and composite photos.

Pick a Photograph

In this session, Colin picked a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that he shot sometime back. If you notice, the photograph is just about okay, not as exciting with the blank sky. 

So begin by cropping the photo and removing the rocks in the photo with the Crop Tool. Resize it to 1920 x 1080 pixels. If you’re resizing in inches, make sure to add resolution at 300 PPI. Then level the photograph by rotating it. 

Pro tip: Use the Delete Crop Pixels only when you wish to change the photo as well as the canvas size. In order to use height and width independently, use clear. 

Now, let’s understand the difference between a Healing Brush and a Patch Tool. The Healing Brush and the Spot Healing Brush are great for getting rid of smaller unwanted elements in a photo, whereas the Patch Tool is good for getting rid of larger areas. 

Use Alt + Option and use the Clone Stamp Tool to stamp on the area and hide the rocks. 

Use the Sky Builder

Builders are pre-prepared elements that you can use in your composite. So whether you're using a simple composite, building something from scratch, or adding some finishing touches, these can be used for all. They have elements such as birds, clouds, etc, to add to your composite. They are cut out and layered already so all you can do is simply drag these assets and use them on your composite. 

There are JPEGs and PSDs in the sky folder. Select the PSDs and pick one from the Soft Clouds that would fit best in the composite. You’ll notice all the clouds are built and broken into layers, so choose the one you like and drag-drop it onto your composite.

Use the Command + 0 to resize the handles of the selected file and resize it to your composite. Soon you’ll notice the soft clouds on the composite, making the sky look natural and realistic. 

Add Elements

Add a birch by selecting one from the sky elements and drag-drop it onto your composite. You can rotate it as it best fits the composite. 

Next, add an airplane by selecting one from the elements folder and drag-drop it on your composite. Resize it to a realistic size, in accordance to the composite. Then, move the clouds around and nest the plane between the clouds.

Next, pick a parachute as an element and drag-drop it on your composite. Place it in front of the clouds and change the atmospheric perspective by resizing it. 

Next, add a sunbeam behind the parachute. To do this, add another layer and click on the brushes. Select the Ultimate Universe Creator Brush Pack, use the Light Beam and Flair Brushes to add the sunbeam.

Apply an adjustment layer on the parachute for dodging and burning. The Dodge Tool is used to add light and the Block Tool is used to block the light, whereas the Burn Tool helps add more light in the same area that you’re focusing on. 

Use the adjustments layer, then clip the parachute and add a purple color on the top of the parachute. 

Pick a brush and fade the sunbeam white color. 

Add birds from the elements folder and drag-drop them on the composite, giving your piece an atmospheric perspective. Reduce the opacity of the birds down to what fits best in the composite. 

Adjust Tone and Color

Use the Color Look Up in Photoshop and adjust the tone and color. You’ll see that the composite starts tying in together with an overall color.

Add a gradient by adding a new layer on top. Drag and drop the foreground transparent yellow gradient on the composite. Add an overlay and change the blend mode, giving it a realistic sunset look.

Pro tip: Include a flare underneath the parachute to settle it in the composite. 

Final Adjustments

Choose adjustments by selecting all the layers on the composite and holding Shift + Select. Turn this into smart objects and use the Camera RAW filter. Select the filter that suits the composite. 

Pro tip: Use Camera RAW for PSD files so in case you wish to get rid of any layers, that can be done easily.

That’s it! You’ve successfully learned how to manipulate photos and add elements with builders.