Create Cool Compositions Using Photoshop and Adobe Stock

Create Cool Compositions Using Photoshop and Adobe Stock

In this tutorial I will show you how quickly and easily to create a cool composition using Photoshop CC 2015 with one of my PSD templates and image from Adobe Stock. To follow this tutorial you do not need a huge knowledge nor experience. That's the advantage of PSD templates or popular mockups. When you add to that and Photoshop fantastic tools, plus images from Adobe Stock which are captured with larger composition in mind, then you have the opportunity to get professional looking result for a few minutes. You can use this technique to simply practice, play around and post image/composition on your blog, site or social network. This technique works also to deliver high quality results to your clients under pressure or deadline.

Note before we begin: at this moment (23.11.2015)licensing is not available in all countries. Check if your country is listed before you decide to create compositions for your client. Excerpt from Adobe Stock Learn & Support / Common Questions:
Adobe Stock can be purchased in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Cyprus.

Photoshop Plus

Step by step instructions

As already mentioned, we will use prepared mockup from my product: Folded Photo PSD Templates. In particular, we will use: top and bottom.psd file which is included in a trial or test version and you can download it from the link below. Another thing that will make our job easier is image from Adobe Stock which is captured with larger composition in mind. You do not have to use the exact same image, choose any similar image that you like or save a couple of previews in your Libraries in Photoshop CC 2015 and try them all. The best part is that you can create a couple of compositions and choose one that is most successful then to license image. All this you can do without leaving Photoshop. Once you are satisfied and you have composition just save it back to Libraries and use it in some other application like InDesign if that's your workflow.

You can also read my tutorial: Compositions Using Folded Photo PSD Templates with similar approach but with different image.


Foded Photo PSD Templates (Test)

Step 1 Open template (mockup) in Photoshop

The very first step is to open: top and bottom.psd file in Photoshop. Mentioned file is included in the package which you can download from the link above.

Step 2 Load action

To make things easier I have included and Photoshop action in the package. Go to File > Open and navigate to: Folded photos.atn file and double click on it. Excellent, now you have action loaded. One more thing: you must have Window > Actions panel displayed on your screen.

Step 3 Place photo

To place your image please use: Place image action. Click on the action name to select it, then click on Play selection button at the bottom of the Actions panel.
play action

When Photoshop open: Place Embedded dialog, please navigate to image that you want to use and double click on it.

After Photoshop import image, please scale and move it as needed. The Image should cover the entire canvas. Confirm transformations using Enter/Return and you are done.
transform image

Great! We have our composition with the background which we can change and improve the final result. There are many options available and I am always choosing the easiest option if quality can meet the requirement. In this case we will use image from Adobe Stock.
folded photo

Step 4 Find images on Adobe Stock and save to Libraries

You can visit File > Search Adobe Stock straightly from Photoshop. I will type coffee in the search bar and save preview of fourth image which appeared on my screen in My Library. Just navigate mouse over the image and click on down pointing arrow. You can also choose in which library to save image or to create a brand new library on the fly - just click on down pointing arrow on the right side of pop-up and choose any already created library. The Image will be saved and you can access it from Window > Libraries panel. Let's move to that step.
adobe stock save preview

You can follow along with me and to choose same image or choose any other that you like. In fact, you can save a couple of images and try them all. The only thing to keep in mind is our previously created folded photo composition: we are looking for image which can serve as background.

Step 5 Open image from Adobe Stock

In this step you should find a preview image from Adobe Stock in Libraries panel. Right click on image and choose: Edit. You have image open in a separate tab and we can proceed with importing our previously created composition with folded photo.
edit image from libraries

Step 6 Move folded photo

In this step we will move our folded photo composition. What we want is to place folded photo over background image and with small adjustments, shadings and little bit of masking to create a final product. What we do not want are shadings and shadow/highlights from folded photo composition because they do not match the lighting of the image with a cup of coffee. We can create new shadings when we move folded photo, that's the easiest way to work. For now we can hide layers which we do not want:

  • 3 shadows/highlights adjustments at the top of the image layer group. 
  • Shadows and highlights clipped to border layer. 
  • You can hide shading layer group although it is not necessary for what we are going to do.

hide shading layers

The next thing I will suggest you to do is to convert all layers in the image layer group to Smart Object layer: right/Cmd + click on the image layer group and choose: Convert to Smart Object.
convert image group to smart object layer

Activate the Move tool and drag image Smart Object layer onto a tab with image with background (image from Adobe Stock). You can also go to Window > Arrange > Tile All Vertically to display both tabs one next to another. Click on image with folded photo (assuming that image Smart Object layer is active layer) and drag it onto background image from Adobe Stock. To finish process go to Window > Arrange > Consolidate All to Tabs.
move folded photo

Another way is to same thing:

  1. Right click on SO layer and to choose: Duplicate Layer
  2. From Document drop down list choose the name of the document with image from Adobe Stock (or any other image which you are using for background image)
  3. Click OK button and switch to the document to which you have duplicated Smart Object layer.

Scale Smart Object
You probably need to scale or move SO layer (folded photo composition). Do it now using Move tool to move and position layer.Use Edit > Free Transform to scale image as needed. I want composition where the top right corner of folded photo is below cup of coffee, you may have some other idea about final comp and that's ok. Do it in your way.
scale and position folded photo

Mask Smart Object layer
If you are following along then you need to use Quick Selection tool to select a cup of coffee and to use created selection to create a layer mask which will hide top right portion of the image Smart Object layer so it will look to viewer that photo is below cup of coffee. Do the following:

  • Hide Smart Object layer (folded photo).
  • Click on Background layer (background image with a cup of coffee) and use Quick Selection Tool (Q) to select a cup of coffee.
  • Go to Select > Inverse because we have selected portion that we want to hide on SO layer.
  • Click on Smart Object layer (folded photo) to select it, then click on the eyeball on the left side to show the content of this layer.
  • Click on Add layer mask at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a layer mask and to hide top right corner.

mask folded photo

Step 7 Shadows/highlights

In order to make created composition more believable and more natural we must add few shadows/highlights layers. Things are easier when you already have example of shadows/highlights in the scene. Just by watching cup of coffee we can see in which direction we should create shadings.

To make things simpler I will use Drop Shadow effect from the Layer Style dialog. With image Smart Object layer active (blue highlight means layer is active) go to Layer > Layer Style > Drop Shadow. Here are my settings: Distance 22px, Spread 14% and Size 40px. Blend Mode is set to Multiply and Opacity to 70%. Those are initial settings and can be changed easily at any time.
layer style dialog

What is more important is to click on Blending Options at the top left corner and to check: Layer Mask Hides Effects. In this way you can use already created and applied mask to hide the drop shadow what is ideal and allows you to use Drop Shadow directly applied to layer with composition. Otherwise, the shadow must be created on a separate layer which must be masked and placed under the Smart Object layer with composition.
layer mask hides effects

By the way, when adjusting the position of Drop Shadow you can click and drag. Ensure that Drop Shadow tab is selected, then simply navigate mouse over image, click and drag.

Another thing to mention: feel free to create drop shadow on a separate layer below SO layer. I am just looking to avoid more steps and more complexity and from what I see it actually work very well with Drop Shadow as a layer effect.

Great, we are somewhere, but still not there. We need small adjustments which will make the difference between a boy and a man.

Shading on the left side of the cup
I will start with shadow on the left side of a cup of coffee. As it is, we do not have any shading over the photo on the left side of the cup, but in reality it should be there, right? Create a blank new layer above the Smart Object layer with folded photo composition and clip it to layer below (Layer > Create Clipping Mask). For simplicity's sake use the Brush tool and paint with black where shadows should appear, then lower the opacity of the layer. The brush should be slightly bigger than a cup of coffee and soft.
shadow on the left side of cup

Shadows/highlights in the image
As we can see, highlights on the top of a cup of coffee are stronger than at the bottom. You can ensure this by using the Eyedropper tool to measure RGB values. So we should match this on our photo. This can be done by lightening top of the photo, or by darkening bottom part. I decided to darken bottom part using Curves adjustment. Simply create a Curves adjustment on top of the layers stack, clip adjustment to bottom layers (Layer > Create Clipping Mask) and darken things a bit by dragging middle of the curve toward right and bottom.
darken with curves

Let's do one more thing: drag Gradient (Black to White) on the layer mask and restrict the adjustment to bottom part of the image. Black color on the mask is restricting adjustment while white color is allowing adjustment to affect colors on the image. You can also play with the opacity of Curves layer while adjusting shadows.
drag gradient on layer mask

We are almost done for this tutorial. There is one more tiny adjustment which I will suggest you to at least think about it. If we have bottom image part slightly darker, shouldn't be and white border at the bottom part shaded? Just a tiny bit, it's white color, but anyway, it should be level or two below of what is border on top of the image. It's up to you, I will suggest you to create a blank new layer above Smart Object layer and name it: border shading. Clip newly created layer to layer below and make a selection using the Magic Wand tool. Ensure that Sample All Layers is checked while selecting and click on the white border to make a selection. Use the Brush tool (B) to paint just over the bottom part with black color.
create border shading layer

Lastly, use the Opacity slider to lower the opacity for: border shading layer.
lower opacity for border shading layer

Step 8 Save composition to Libraries

I will save my composition to Creative Cloud libraries by selecting all layers and clicking on Add Graphic button in the Libraries panel.
save composition to libraries

Step 9 License image

We have nice composition and you have practiced a bit without any cost or complex searching for proper free image. You have any image from Adobe Stock available to you to try and play around. The only problem in case you want to use composition or to deliver to client is watermark. The watermark can be easily removed by licensing image. Please see the top of this post to ensure that licensing is available to you.

Step 10 Re-use template

Once you have template created and saved, you can re-use it as many times as you want. It is super easy to change image with any other image that you have. Here are the steps:
  • Double click on image Smart Object layer (in essence SO layer with folded photo composition).
  • double click smart object thumb
  • Once you have Smart Object content open in a separate tab, ensure that you have: image Smart Object layer in your document. If you don't then simply rename the layer.
  • image smart object layer
  • Play action: Place image.
  • Adjust shadings if needed, this depends on placed image and lighting in image.
composition with replaced smart object layer

 Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CC 2015
Adobe Stock


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