This tutorial is an outline of experiments and methods involved in creating my
Dream World image, for which I used a collection of my own photos and an ink and
watercolour painting to create a surreal, dream-like picture:
Everything was a matter of experiment so I only outline what I ended up doing for each
stage. The same experiments and techniques can be applied to any similar collection of
images aimed at creating a surreal or dream-like effect.
I began by creating a textured background using a simple colour gradient and a home-made
brush (any kind of grunge brush would do), painting on a Multiply layer for the darker
tones and a Screen layer for the lighter tones. It is just a case of messing about and
experimenting until you get an effect you like, then flattening the layers for
I placed the image of the mask on a new layer and positioned and resized it to fit.
I changed the Blend Mode to Overlay so that it blended in with the background and some
of the texture showed through, and used a large, soft-edged eraser to soften the edges.
I decided the surrounding area needed to be darker, so I duplicated the background
layer and used Brightness/Contrast to darken it. Because the mask looked better on
the lighter ground I used a soft-edged eraser to get rid of the darker area behind it.
On the top two thirds above the background layer I placed a cloud image and changed the
Blend Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 60%. On the bottom third I placed an image
of rippling water on an Overlay layer. I erased the areas behind the mask on both the
sky and water so that only the background texture showed through.
I duplicated the mask layer (Ctrl+J) flipped it vertically and positioned it to form
the reflection in the water. I used Filter > Blur > Motion Blur, Angle 90, and Distance
just a few pixels (experiment until it looks right), and reduced the Opacity to 70%.
I placed the forest painting above the water layer, resized it to fit, changed the
Blend Mode to Overlay and reduced the Opacity to 50%. I copied the female face, which
was hidden behind the mask and moved it up to the top left corner. I also created a
Normal layer at 70% below the water layer and painted in behind some of the
foreground trees and branches with a medium colour selected from the background
to make them more solid-looking.
I decided that the mask was beginning to get lost, so I duplicated it on a new layer,
changed the Blend Mode of the bottom copy to Normal and reduced the opacity to 30%.
It was then a case of more experimenting with painting and details until I felt the image
was finished. On a Multiply layer above the forest painting I added a left to right dark
brown to transparent gradient to darken the left side of the image. The colour was picked
from an existing dark area and the Opacity reduced to about 60%.
Above that I added an Overlay layer with a right to left gradient of bright yellow to
transparent to brighten the right side of the image and reduced the Opacity to 50%.
The bright yellow light on the forehead (a sort of Third Eye) was painted on an Overlay
layer above the mask with a Screen layer above it for the central white light.
The light rays were simply one line painted on its own layer below the yellow forehead
light then duplicated and rotated and merged repeatedly to get the final effect.
The layer was changed to Overlay at about 75% and with a slight Gaussian Blur added.
The stars were added using a Brush on a Screen layer, and the birds painted on a
Normal layer, both below the mask.
This has been a very simplified description of what was in fact a fairly protracted
series of experiments, many elements and ideas having been tried and discarded.
There are doubtless numerous other ways of achieving similar effects but I hope
this inspires you to experiment in the same way to create your own images.