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To start, you’ll need two cloud images – one of darker, stormy clouds and another of lighter, fluffy clouds. You’ll also need an image of a rocky cliff ledge, a picture of a polar bear (or your favorite animal), and a picture of a girl, boy or yourself reaching out a hand. 

Start by opening up Photoshop and going File>New. Set the new document width to 2100 pixels and the height to 1400 pixels. Make sure the document is oriented horizontally. Set the resolution to 72 pixels per inch and the color mode to RGB. The background contents should be white and 8 bit.    

Open the stormy cloud image. Use the move tool to drag and drop the cloud picture to the new document. Hit Command + T then hold down Option + Shift to resize and position the clouds where you want them on the page. 

Open the second cloud image and drag and drop that one on top of the stormy clouds. Hit Command + T and Option + Shift to resize and position the clouds. The stormy clouds should take up about the top two thirds of the document and the lighter clouds should take up the bottom third.

Click the small rectangle icon with the circle inside of it located at the bottom right corner of the screen to create a layer mask. You’ll see a box pop up next to the small cloud image in the working layer. 

Select the brush tool. Check the two small boxes in the bottom left corner and make sure the foreground is set to black. Increase the opacity and the size of the brush and start erasing out the fluffy clouds from the top of the image. Decrease the opacity as you get to the border between the two cloud images so they blend together more naturally. 

Select the stormy clouds in the layers panel and create a new adjustment layer by clicking on the small half black, half white icon in the bottom right corner. Click Color Balance. An editing box will pop up. Click on the small arrow icon at the bottom of the editing box to link the adjustment to the layer. Increase the Yellows and the Reds to give the stormy clouds a warmer hue. 

Select the lighter cloud layer, and create a new adjustment layer. Click Color Balance, and increase the Blues and Yellows. These color settings will vary from image to image, but you want the two cloud pictures to blend together nicely. 

Now open your cliff image and use the quick selection tool to cut out the cliff from the rest of the image. Once the cliff is selected, use the move tool to drag and drop the cliff to the working document. Hit Command + T and Option + Shift to resize and place the cliff in the bottom right corner of the image. It should look like the cliff is jutting out into a sky of clouds.

Create a new adjustment layer and select Color Balance. Increase the Reds and Yellows slightly. You want the hues of each cut out to match the hues of the clouds. 

Open the animal picture and cut out the animal from the background. Use the move tool to drag and drop the animal onto the working document. Resize and position the animal so that it’s coming out of the top left corner of the image facing the cliff. If you need to flip the animal around, rick click and select Flip Horizontal.  

Select the brush tool, and start to add some of the clouds back over the animal’s feet and around the edges so that it looks like it’s coming out of the clouds. Think Mufasa from The Lion King.  

Click on the icon in the bottom right corner that looks like a piece of paper with the corner folded over. This will create a new layer. Right click and select Create Clipping Mask. Use the eyedropper tool to select colors from the clouds and use the brush to add some of those tones to the animal. Then create a new adjustment layer and select Color Balance. Click the arrow icon to link the adjustments to the layer. Decrease the Cyan and increase the Blue sliders.  

Click on the layer mask next to the small bear icon in the layers panel. Right click and select Apply Layer Mask. 

Finally, open the image of your subject and use the quick selection tool to cut out the subject from the background. Use the move tool to drag and drop the selection onto the working document. Resize and place the subject so that they’re standing on the cliff facing the animal. The subject should be significantly smaller than the animal to give it a more fantastical look.

  

Select the brush tool and change the foreground to black. Brush a subtle shadow around the subject’s feet and in front of their body on the cliff to make the effect look more realistic.  

Make another adjustment layer and select Solid Color. Pick a bluish, gray hue and change the opacity to about 30 percent. Your entire image will take on this bluish tone. 

 

Click on the white box and select the brush tool. Set the foreground to black and brush over the girl and the animal to erase the blue hue from those areas of the picture. Now the girl and the animal should pop out against the otherwise blue tinted clouds.

Now you can use these techniques to create the perfect animal best friend of your dreams.

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