Well in this tutorial I will be going over a rather advanced technique that does require a bit of Photoshop knowledge as well as some colour understanding and common sense. That last part is quite crucial because these setting that I am using here will NOT apply to all of the images out there, you will have to adjust them slightly to your own image.
Turning a day time landscape into a night time is fairly difficult, especially if you are a beginner and you don’t understand all of the tools that we will be going over in this tutorial, so before I jump into anything, here is a list of tools/adjustments that we will be using:
So how are we going to go from this:
- Curves-This is the main key to success here, I’m not talking about understanding the basics of it such as how to change brightness or apply contrast, we are stripping this tool down to the very bottom and we will dive into advanced RGB mode where we will be able to adjust every single channel separately, not ones, not twice but many many times in order to achieve a desirable look. We will be recreating Dynamic Ranges that do not exist in our photo as well as destroying the ones that do, its important that you understand Curves quite well in this tutorial.
- Photo Filters-I’d say this is one of the most underestimated tools in Photoshop. If you have used normal photo filters in a real life photography then you should be able to understand the principles of them. For example if you have ever used a red filter in you black and white images, you will know that when photographing people , their skin looks a lot more clean, which we all want, it also darkens the skies.
- Colour Balance– I think that if you have been using Photoshop for a while, you’d expect this adjustment to be on this list, Balancing colours in important, but the key to success with this is to be gentle and not to over do it, its all about slight adjustments, since they are the ones that give us that ‘believable’ look. We have all been at a stage in our photography where dragging sliders all the way to one side, seemed like a good idea and it looked perfectly fine to us, until someone else came up and wanted to rip their eyeballs out because of all the hypnotical colours in the image! So bare in mind that more doesn’t necessarily mean better.
- Brush Tool– Just because we are photographers, doesn’t mean that the Brush Tool is for Illustrators or Graphic Designers, simply because its primary use is to draw or sketch. Big no no, if you have a tool USE IT! Yeah you may not always need it but its there for you if you do. Be creative! For example why would you look for a stock shot of starts? Just pain them in your self. Not many people know but Photoshop gives you an ability to create your own brush presets and I will go into that in more details later on (very useful feature).
- Gradient Tool– Great for masking out , darkening skies or blending two images together. Very simple tool with a lot of features that make your job easier, you can easily change the transparency of it or even the blending modes.
- Dodge/Burn Tool-We won’t be using a lot of this but you may need it at some point to darken some specific areas in your image, you may have heard before of Dodging and Burning, mainly used in retouching for Fashion and Beauty shots.
Apart from that, there will be quite a lot of masking, to make everything fit in properly as well as plenty of layers which we all love 😀 So lets get into it!
First step to my workflow is very important, put on some music, sitting in silence is not very enjoyable (at least for me), play something that you like and I’d advise you to have a play list rather than putting on different song every 3 minutes, it just puts you off and your workflow is not as effective. Also stay away from social media for at least 40 minutes, I know it can be difficult but believe me, that way you will get things done! Ok no more messing about, lets dive in.
First step is important , it will determine what sort of setting you will go for and whether the image is even going to work, so choose wisely or at least make sure that the image you chose is not taken in Spain at 12 pm where the sunshine is burning everything and casing strong shadows, its a lot more easy to work with an image where you have an overcast.
So this is the image that I went with, it has a lot of dark areas which will help during the process and as you can see it is not taken in the bright sun light so I don’t have any harsh shadows to work with, if you do choose an image with a lot of shadows, you will need to blend them in a lot and gradually, so a Burn/Dodge Tool will come in handy. After selecting an image, we need to clean it up (if you need to) I just noticed few distractions that I thought I’d like to get rid off
Replacing Sky + Colour Correction
It is important that you do this at the very early stage of you edit, it will allow you to envision your final piece and lead you to next step. Along with adding the sky I have darkened the horizon to create a more seamless transition. Both parts (Sky Gradient and Curves Adjustment has been masked out.) The curves adjustments were simply adjusted so that it darkened the image a bit:
Very important part that I need to to highlight is that the sky is not an actual image, its a gradient that starts from #103043 and goes to #06171f so we get a lifelike look where the sky goes darker as it gets higher. It is important to maintain realistic look throughout all the details especially if you are working on a composite image!
Here is a closer look at the Photo Filter+ Curves Adjustments:
Next step is to start applying more blue tones which in theory should make your image look more night time like, at this stage we also dive into more advanced Curves since we need to readjust the dynamic range, if you look closely at the Curves Adjustments, you can see that Greens and Reds have been brought down in the highlights (since colours, especially reds) will be representing warm tones in your day time image, that’s we need to bring them down. Whereas the Blue is clipped all the way to the top to add more blue tone into your highlights. Shadows are staying almost untouched, I have only added more blues to them.
and this is the effect that we have achieved :
Along with that I have added a Black Gradient to the sky to slightly darken it and set that realistic effect. So we can see that the image is coming together, we are starting to get this night time look that we were after. However in order to get this more believable effect I will take this a notch further and add some creative elements that will allow the audience to relate to and make them believe that this image was actually taken at night, what I’m talking about is stars. If you look at the image above, since the location is so dark, you would expect to see some stars unless its a cloudy night , so lets throw some in!
Adding Creative elements + Creating Brush Preset
As I have mentioned before, Photoshop allows you to create your own ‘Brush Preset’ which means you will be able to draw in a custom preset made by yourself! But how do we do that? Well instead of finding an image with starts, we will create our own, so open up a new document with dimension of 500×500 pixels:
Now, what you need to understand is: In order to create a brush, you must use BLACK on top of WHITE BACKGROUND, the principle is very similar to masks. So what we are going to do is, on top of our new file, we are going to paint black dots, just make sure you add some variation to this, don’t be bland , mess about! So in the end you should get something like this:
Like i said before, mess about, it doesn’t have to be the same as mine, you just want to make sure that you add some big and small dots, I have personally set my brush to 50% Hardness, so that I get a nice smooth edge to my dots but it really doesn’t have to be very specific or technical, its just a simple creative process! Next step is to actually turn out canvas into a usable brush, so head over to ‘Edit’ tab and select ‘Define Brush preset…’ then you should receive a confirmation menu that requires you to click ok, thats all! You now have a Stars Brush Preset in tour Brush tool! You will need to select Brush Tool and head over to the very bottom of its window in order to find your preset.
Before you start drawing in your stars, you want to add some variation to your brush, other wise every single time you draw in , the starts that you have created will stay exact the same and it would be very obvious and fake, so head over to your Brush Settings, if you cannot find them, go to Window and select Brush:
All you have to do now is just select ‘Shape Dynamics’ as well as ‘Scattering’. In Shape dynamics, you want to readjust the ‘Angle Jitter’ which will flip all the stars automatically as you are drawing and you may want to touch on the ‘Size Jitter’ to add even more variation. Again these settings don’t have to be accurate, you are free to play around with them to suit your needs. Bare in mind that you do have a ‘Live preview’ of what is happening to your brush as you are adjusting all of the settings, so just keep an eye on that. After that you are free to start painting in, just make sure that you apply a mask at the end and mask out any starts that are overlaying your image.
Here are the results (I’ve also dropped a little moon in there):
The very last step I did was adding some dimension to the image, I did that by putting some ‘bushes’ in the foreground, this was simply done finding images of leaves, turning them black and applying some Gaussian Blur
And that is all, we have turned a day time shot into a night time! Remember this technique is more about illusion, you are making people believe that its night. Also as I did mention before, its all about gentle adjustments, it need to look believable. Also as a little present, along with this tutorial, I’m including with you a star brush made by me, , just remember to apply all of the settings to it as mentioned before.
Here is the link to Star brush: https://www.dropbox.com/s/657ne1xf6edoy85/Star%20Brush.abr
I’d like to thank everyone for their attention and time, I hope that you have learned something new and I’d advise you to play around , try this technique your self and most important, set your self a challenge!
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