How to Create a Surreal Moon Scene in Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a surreal scene featuring a crescent moon. First, we’ll build the background using three images of a sky, desert and mountains. Later, we’ll make the crescent moon and add some glow to it. After that, we’ll import the child and blend her with the background using adjustment layers, masking and brushes. We’ll use several adjustment layers and do some retouch to enhance the final effect.

Preview of the Final Result:

Step 1

Create a new 2000×1333 px document in Photoshop and fill it with white or any colors you like. Open the sky image and drag it into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V) and place it in the upper half. 

Step 2

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and decrease the lightness.

Step 3

Open the desert image and place it over the canvas and use the Free Transform Tool (Ctrl+T) to resize it to fit the size of the document. 

Step 4

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Hit B to activate the Brush Tool and select a soft round one with black color to remove the sky and the hard edges of the horizon.

Step 5

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer above the desert layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Bring the Saturation values down to -78:

Step 6

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Midtones settings:

Step 7

Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the desert. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with the opacity about 20% to reduce the darkness on both sides and the soft brush with 100% opacity to paint on the middle section as we aim to add the moon and the main light there.

Step 8

Open the mountain image  and place it onto the main canvas and convert it to a Smart Object. Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to remove most of the ground and a part of the sky. 

Step 9

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 6 px. On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to remove the blur effect on most of the background , leaving it visible on both sides of the ground only.

Step 10

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken the background. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with a lowered opacity (about 5-10%) to reduce the dark effect on some parts of both sides and the mountains. 

Step 11

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation values down to  maximum. 

Step 12

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers and pick the colors #010d17 and #010d17

Step 13

Make another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors  #1e0104 and #00601b. Lower the opacity of this layer to 20%

Step 14

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

Step 15

Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, paint on the middle section  to keep the light there.

Step 16

Add another Curves adjustment layer to bring more light to the middle of the ground. Paint on the rest to keep their shadow and contrast.

Step 17

Make a new layer on top of the layers and select the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to draw a circle on the canvas. Fill this selection with the color #c1e6eb and convert this layer to a Smart Object.  Use Ctrl+T to resize it to be smaller as shown below.

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