Transforming run-of-the-mill stock photos into dreamy, fantastical compositions is easy when you know how.

In this brilliant tutorial, Photoshop wizard Fabio Sasso puts layer masks and Photoshop’s built-in filters to good use to create a beautiful, enchanting image that wouldn’t be out of place in a children’s book.

Before you start you’ll need to download your stock images – Sasso has bought images from Shutterstock (, although you can also use similar images of your own.

The girl image is at; the moon is at; some of the clouds are at You’ll also need a star flare; NASA ( is a good source for these.

Step 1
Open Photoshop and create a new A4 document. Fill the background layer with a very dark grey (#0d0e10). Import the image of a girl on a ladder you downloaded from Shutterstock ( Extract the backround using the Lasso Tool (L) or any other method. Then remove the back strut of the ladder as shown here.

Step 4
In a new layer, place the photo of the moon that you dowloaded at the start. Change the layer’s blending mode to Screen. Go to Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation, select Colorize, and make the moon bluer. Also go to Image > Adjustment > Brightness/Contrast. Increase the brightness to 54 and the contrast to 51.

Step 5
Fill a new layer with pink (ff80b6), then with a big soft brush, paint a light blur (61a5fb) where the moon will be. Change the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light. This layer will be on top of the others.

Step 6
Duplicate the moon layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, setting the radius to 10 – this will give the moon a nice glow. Now import the star flare. Change the blending mode to Screen and go to Image > Adjustment > Levels. Increase the black input to 15. With the Eraser Tool (E) delete all of the image except the flare.

Step 7
Open IMG_1466.jpg from the cover CD or the zip file linked opposite – this is a cloud photo taken by Fabio Sasso. Go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Reduce the Brightness to -5 and increase the contrast to 80. Also go to Image > Adjustments > Hue and Saturation. Select Colorize, then move the Hue to 270, reduce the saturation to 4 and the lightness to -12.

Step 8
Add more clouds to your composition: the idea is to create a fluffy horizon. You can use the cloud image you downloaded from Shutterstock at the start or any similar ones of your own – just be careful to make sure the colours fit in. Import the image and place in the document. Then with the Eraser tool (E) delete the edges of the image until it’s well blended with the other clouds.

Step 9
Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Select Colorize, then increase the hue to 220, reduce the Saturation to 12, and keep the lightness at 0. The idea is to match the colour of the clouds.

Step 10
Open stars.tif from the cover CD, import the image and place it beneath the other layers but in front of the background. Change the blending mode to Color Dodge and the opacity to 80%. Also select the lens flare layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Reduce the saturation to -60.

Step 11
Now let’s add a glow effect. Select all the layers and duplicate them, then merge the duplicated layers. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, setting a radius of 20 pixels. Change the blending mode to Screen. With the Eraser tool (E) delete most of the image, leaving only the areas that are illuminated by the moon.

Step 12
Add a layer at the top of the layer stack and use a large, soft black brush to paint the edges of the image. The idea is to create a subtle framing effect for the image.

Step 13
You can even add your own logo or pattern on top of the image. A nice tip for pattern overlay is to apply the Liquify filter and distort the pattern according to the image beneath – this creates a great effect.

Fabio Sasso –


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