Creating surreal landscapes


If you ever had a poster of Salvador Dalí’s melting clocks or spindle-legged camels on your student bedroom wall, you’ll recognise this picture’s influences immediately.

The blank, open landscape, the juxtaposition of semi-random elements, and even the colour palette can be traced to surrealism. Another thing that the image has inherited from Dalí is close attention to detail and a high level of polish: while the images are random, the craftsmanship is meticulous.

In this tutorial, Justin Maller guides you step-by-step through the often painstaking process of compositing a convincing surreal landscape. While some of the images, such as the girl and the abstract ribbons, are provided on the disc, there are also tips for sourcing good background and texture images yourself.



01. The first task for a composite scene is selecting a workable background. Surfing stock sites is an inevitability when it comes to this kind of work; patience is everything. The key ingredients are width of shot and depth of focus – you want an image that offers a large plane to work within. I have selected a beach scene, but you can use anything that suits your style. Try and find something attractive, but uncluttered. Alternatively, open similair.jpg from the cover CD.



02. Remember that you never have to ‘make do’ when it comes to a piece’s environment. This particular shot lacks a memorable sky, so I’ve searched for one I find more attractive and pasted it in. Free Transform (Cmd/Ctrl + T) the ‘Sky’ layer so that it covers the area neatly, and add a layer mask. Drag out a black to white gradient that begins at the horizon, and use a soft, large brush (100 pixels, 100% Opacity, 25% Flow) to neaten the edges.

One response to “Creating surreal landscapes

  1. Ok, where are the sample photos? Where’s the rest of this tutorial?

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