Photo Manipulation Tutorial: Create a Surreal Looping Staircase Illusion

In my prior tutorial, we showed we how to make a automobile fly. In this tutorial, we’ll be formulating a looping staircase tower. It has a surreal, dream-like demeanour to it.

The thought stemmed from visualizing a looping staircase illusion, one of a many famous being a Penrose step (you competence have seen it in a film Inception). Our categorical design is to emanate a looping staircase from scratch, regulating a garland of figure layers and afterwards requesting petrify hardness to a surfaces.

We will also play around with a brush apparatus to illustrate shadows, regulating a evasion and bake apparatus to darken and abate desireable texture and will also be utilizing tradition brushes. This will be a finish outcome after 78 steps.


Before we start though, squeeze these resources we will be needing:

  • Business Man
  • Zeppelin
  • Hot Air Balloons
  • Cloud Brushes
  • Concrete Wall 1
  • Concrete Wall 2
  • Flying birds
  • Milky way
  • Mountain View
  • The Moon

Step 1: Preparing a Background

Create a new document. Set a width: 2976 pixels wide and Height: 2083 pixels, with a fortitude during 150 pixels/inch.

Step 2

Click File Place to insert a towering viewpoint design as a intelligent object. Use Edit Free Transform to lean a towering to a left . Press Enter to apply.

Step 3

We need to mislay a highway within this towering viewpoint image, that could simply be finished with a Spot Healing Brush tool. Unfortunately, since we placed a towering viewpoint design as a intelligent intent in a prior step, we can’t use a Spot recovering brush apparatus yet.

The resolution is by changing a intelligent intent covering into a normal design layer. Do this by right-clicking a mountain-view intelligent intent layer, name Rasterize Layer from a pop-up menu. Grab a Spot Healing Brush tool, name Type: Content-aware from a choice bar, afterwards use it to reinstate a highway with a suitable surrounding textures.

Step 4

Continue regulating Spot Healing brush apparatus until all of a roads are transposed with suitable surrounding textures. It looks something like this.

Step 5

Press Ctrl+M to uncover Curves window. Manually drag a bend to boost contrariety between light and dim colors. we cite a elementary approach by selecting Preset: Strong Contrast, afterwards click OK.

Step 6

Show Levels window by dire Ctrl+L. Adjust submit spin sliders to pierce some-more contrast, or simply name Preset: boost contrariety 2. Click OK to apply.

Step 7

Press Ctrl+B to uncover Color Balance. Drag tinge sliders right or left until altogether tinge is some-more bluish. In this example, my tinge levels are -25, +16 and +43.

Step 8: Building a Stairs

Let’s start formulating a initial ladder-step for a looping stairs. Grab a Pen tool, set a choice to Shape. Create a lopsided rectangle as a initial step. Fill a figure with grey tinge (#e1e1e1) and set a cadence tinge to none.

Step 9

Our subsequent step is formulating a ladder-step’s height. Using a Pen tool, pull a second figure and fill it with darker grey color. Make certain we do this step in a new figure layer, underneath Shape 1 layer.

Step 10

Still regulating Pen tool, name Combine Shapes choice (this choice will mix a new figure with a aged one, depending on that figure layers are comparison during a time). Click behind a Shape 1 covering to name it, afterwards pull another lopsided rectangle as a second ladder-step.

Step 11

Click to Shape 2 covering to name it. Repeat a prior step, that adds tallness to a second ladder step.

Step 12

Repeat a routine to emanate a third ladder-step regulating Pen tool.

Step 13

Still regulating a Pen tool, pull a initial wall (it also works as a tallness of a stairs tower). We place this figure on a new layer, on tip of another figure layer. Make certain a tops of a side wall align ideally with a ladder steps. Here is a design for your reference.

Step 14

Add a fourth ladder-step shape. Make certain we emanate it in a new figure layer.

Step 15

Add 4 some-more ladder-steps, any in apart figure layers. To make those new ladder-steps easier to identify, give opposite fill colors for any of them.

Step 16

Draw a tower’s right-side wall, set a fill to a darker grey. Do this step in a new figure layer, above all figure layers.

Step 17: Layer management

We usually done a integrate of ladder-steps, and there was approach too many figure layers to brand them all. In this state if we continue adding shapes, I’m fearful it will too overwhelming. To make things easier to identify, lets do some covering management.

Select a initial 3 ladder-steps, that is Shape 1, Shape 2 and Shape 3 layer. Group them into a new folder, name it “side a”.

Step 18

Repeat a prior step to organisation a rest of a shapes layers. Name it “side b”.

Step 19

Add 3 some-more ladder-steps, any in 3 apart layers. As usual, fill any ladder-steps with opposite colors for easier identification.

Step 20

Draw a tower’s inside wall. Do this step in a new figure layer. See design subsequent as your reference.

Step 21

Select a 4 figure layers we usually created, organisation them into a new folder named “side c”.

Step 22

Repeat with a final side, afterwards name it “side d”.

Step 23: Applying Textures

Open concrete-wall 1 image. Press Ctrl+A to name all, afterwards transcribe a petrify wall hardness into a document.

Step 24

Our subsequent pursuit is to cover a tower’s right side with a petrify wall texture. Go to Edit Transform Distort to change a hardness perspective, tallness and breadth following a tower’s shape.

Step 25

Make certain to place a petrify wall covering on tip of a Shape 9 covering (tower’s right wall from “side b” group). Go to Layer Create Clipping Mask to modify petrify wall 1 covering into a writing facade layer. This will make a petrify wall hardness seem “placed inside” a Shape 9 layer.

Step 26

To supplement realism, some shade is indispensable during a dilemma of a petrify wall texture. Use a Burn apparatus to do a job, though set a Exposure: 50% and turn off a Protect Tones option.

Step 27

Open Concrete wall 2 image. Press Ctrl+A to name all, afterwards transcribe it into a document. Repeat a same diagnosis as a prior texture, crush and request it as a tower’s wall texture.

Step 28

Go to Image Adjustment Color Balance menu. Within Color Balance window, drag any tinge slider left or right until altogether petrify hardness tinge is bluish. Click OK to request Color Balance.

Step 29

To mix both petrify hardness nicely, change a “concrete wall 2” layer’s mix mode to Multiply.

Step 30

We need darker shadows. Achieve this by adding some-more shadows regulating a black soothing spin Brush apparatus with low opacity. Make certain we do this in a new writing facade covering above petrify wall 2 layer. See a design subsequent for your reference.

Step 31

Go behind to a “concrete wall 2” window. Use a Rectangular Marquee apparatus to emanate singular block selection, afterwards transcribe a comparison area into a document. Rename a covering into “texture 1” afterwards drag it underneath Shape 9 layer.

Step 32

Use a Edit Transform Distort menu to manually crush hardness 1. The design is to cover a initial ladder-step in covering organisation “side b” with this texture, and also with a right angle.

Step 33

Convert “texture 1” covering into writing mask, afterwards change a tinge tinge bluish regulating a Color Balance window.

Step 34

Use a Burn apparatus to dim a texture’s edge. See a design subsequent for reference.

Step 35

Repeat a texturing routine for a rest of a ladder-steps inside organisation “side b”. Distinguish any ladder step with a opposite hardness to make it unique. See this design subsequent for reference.

Step 36

Now we pierce to a “side a” covering group. Apply texturing and supplement shadows for a walls (repeat Step 27 to 30). See a design subsequent as reference.

Step 37

Apply a same hardness for ladder step “side a”. This time, use a full texure from” petrify wall 2″ image. Usethe transform crush command to request a texture.

Step 38

Still in a same hardness layer, modify it into writing facade (make certain a hardness covering is placed above Shape 1 covering before doing this). Since we usually use one hardness for 3 ladder-steps, we contingency initial emanate a preference before extinguishing a dilemma with a Burn tool.

Step 39

Repeat preference and dim a hardness for a rest of a ladder-steps regulating a multiple of Polygonal Lasso apparatus and Burn tool. See design subsequent for reference.

Step 40

Now we request hardness to a ladder-step height. Use a “concrete wall 1” texture, transcribe and place it above a Shape 2 layer. Then, again crush a hardness figure following a ladder-step’s tallness and perspective.

Step 41

Still in a hardness layer, modify it into writing mask. Grab a Burn apparatus again, so we can dim a hardness to make a elementary “fake shadow”. See design subsequent for reference.

Step 42

Continue requesting hardness for ladder-step in a folder “side c”. Give any ladder-step their possess hardness covering with a writing facade technique. Don’t forget to dim a hardness with a Burn tool.

Step 43

And finally, request a hardness for ladder-step in a “side d” folder (with Step 37 to 41).

Step 44

Add new covering above mountain-view layer. Draw a building shade regulating black colored soothing spin Brush apparatus with low opacity. See design subsequent for reference.

Step 45: Adding Foggy Atmosphere

Add a new covering above a shade layer. Set a Brush tinge to White and a size: 800 px. Draw a “fog” horizontally within a red dotted block (see below). Drag from left to right. In box a haze becomes too thick, try obscure a covering opacity.

Step 46: Adding a Zeppelin

Open a zeppelin image. The fastest approach to name a zeppelin is by regulating a Magic Wand apparatus since of a plain background. First, set Tolerance: 25 (lower value means smaller tinge operation to select), spin on Anti-alias and Contiguous option. Select a sky background, afterwards different a preference with Select Inverse.

Step 47

Go to Select Refine Edge or press Alt+Ctrl+R. we consider it will be easier to demeanour during a preference dilemma outcome when a viewpoint mode is set to black background. Inside a Refine Edge window, drag a Shift Edge slider to a left, around -31.

Click OK to request labour dilemma settings. Press Ctrl+C to transcribe comparison zeppelin.

Step 48

Paste a zeppelin into a document. Use a Transform authority to adjust a distance and place it on a tower’s right side. Go to Edit Transform Flip Horizotal to flip a zeppelin horizontally.

Go to Layer Matting Defringe. Within a Defringe window, set breadth value to: 1 afterwards click OK. Using defringe will tell Photoshop to mislay a remaining neglected pixels on a edges of a zeppelin. The bigger a defringe breadth value, a incomparable a area to remove.

Step 49

Add a new writing facade covering above a zeppelin layer, name it “zeppelin shadow”. Use a black soothing spin Brush apparatus with lower opacity to pull a tower’s shade “covering” a front partial of a zeppelin.

Step 50: Adding Starry Skies

Open a milkyway image, afterwards transcribe it into a document. Resize and place it on a top-left side of a canvas.

Step 51

Rename chalky approach covering to “stars”. Adda covering facade to this layer, afterwards use black colored soothing spin Brush apparatus with 100% opacity to censor a tools of a stars that are covering a mountains.

Step 52

Change a stars covering mix mode to Vivid Light. This step will mix a stars into a blue sky, formulating a dreamlike scene.

Step 53

Duplicate a stars covering by dire Ctrl+J. Move a stars transcribe to a right side.

Step 54

Click stars transcribe Layer Mask thumbnail to activate it. Use black colored soothing spin Brush apparatus with 25% opacity to make a stars apropos semi-transparent.

Step 55

Open a moon picture. Using a Rectangular Marquee tool, name a moon.

Step 56

Copy and pulp a moon into a document. Adjust a distance and place it on tip of a mountains.

Step 57

Set a moon covering mix mode to Screen. This will “blend” a moon with a blue sky and stars behind it.

Step 58

Duplicate a moon layer. Move it to a right. Use a giveaway renovate authority to stagger and downscale a moon copy.

Step 59: Adding Birds

Open drifting bird image, we need to name all of a birds. The fastest approach to do this is with a Magic Wand tool. First, set a Tolerance value: 32 and turn off a Contiguous choice (with this choice incited off, sorcery wand apparatus will means to name a same operation tinge in an image, even if a tinge is not connected directly).

Click one of a birds with a Magic Wand tool, all a birds should now be selected. Don’t transcribe it yet.

Step 60

Press Alt+Ctrl+R to uncover Refine Edge window. Drag a Shift Edge slider to a left, around -35, this will diminution a preference edge. Click OK to request Refine Edge. You’re giveaway to transcribe now.

Step 61

Place a birds into a document. Adjust a distance and position with a giveaway renovate command. Quick tip: Hold Shift while boring dilemma tranformation indicate to keep a design ratio. See design subsequent for reference.

Step 62: Adding Hot Air Balloons

Open atmosphere balloon image. Again, we’ll be utilizing a Magic Wand apparatus to do quick selection. Turn on a Contiguous option, afterwards click on a sky with a Magic Wand apparatus to emanate selection. Go to Select Inverse to upset preference areas.

Step 63

Copy a comparison atmosphere balloons into a document. Place it in front of a moon. Don’t worry about those trees, we’ll understanding with them in a subsequent step.

Step 64

Time to mislay those irritating trees. With a Eraser tool, mislay neglected trees.

Step 65

You substantially beheld that a yellow prohibited atmosphere balloon and a blue one behind it, do not have newcomer baskets. We will repair this by duplicating a basket from a immature atmosphere balloon. Using Rectangular Marquee tool, emanate block preference around newcomer basket. Copy comparison area into a new covering by dire Ctrl+J.

Step 66

Move a newcomer basket transcribe layer, place it underneath a yellow balloon. Adjust a distance with a giveaway renovate command.

Step 67

Press Ctrl+J to transcribe once more. This time, pierce a newcomer basket underneath a blue balloon. Don’t forget to re-adjust a size.

Step 68

If we follow 3 prior steps, we should get 3 layers from a atmosphere balloons. Select all 3 layers, afterwards combine them into one.

Step 69

Press Ctrl+L to uncover Levels window. Drag midtones slider to a left, around 2.90 value. This will make a atmosphere balloon tinge demeanour pale. We do this to impersonate a apart intent manners in photography: colors dim as objects are changed over into a background.

Step 70: Inserting a Business Man and Clouds

Open a business male image. Flip a design horizontally regulating Edit Transform Flip Horizontal menu.

Repeat a same pretence with a Magic Wand apparatus to name a business man. First, set a Tolerance to 25 and turn on a Contiguous option. Select a white background, afterwards upset a selection.

Step 71

Copy a comparison business man, adjust a distance afterwards place it on one of a ladder-steps.

Step 72

Show a Color Balance window, adjust a tinge levels to around -31, -15 and +40 until a business man’s tinge is looking bluish.

Step 73

Duplicate a business male layer. Change a business male transcribe covering mix mode to Soft Light. However, this creates business male seem too dark. We need to repair this, specifically on a tip physique area. Use Eraser apparatus to mislay neglected areas. See design subsequent for erasing reference.

Step 74

Add a new covering subsequent business male layer, name it “shadow”. Use a black soothing spin Brush apparatus with low opacity to manually pull business man’s shadow. we advise regulating a tiny brush distance to get a some-more accurate shadow.

Step 75

You substantially has notice a white pixels underneath business man’s shoes. This is a remaining pixel we get when we name a business male in a prior step.

We can simply mislay this neglected pixel, by going behind to business male layer, afterwards use a Layer Matting Defringe menu. Set a Defringe Width: 1 pixel is some-more than enough. Click OK to request defringe.

Step 76

This step is about loading tradition brush, if we already know how to do this afterwards we can skip it and usually bucket a cloud brushes we got from here.

To bucket tradition brush, click a gear symbol afterwards name Load Brushes menu. Find and name a cloud brush from your computer, afterwards click a Load button.

Step 77

With a cloud brushes loaded, now we can simply collect and try one of them to create overwhelming cloud compositions. Don’t forget to emanate a new covering named “clouds” subsequent “side d” organisation and set a brush tinge to white before adding a clouds.

Step 78

Add a new combination covering Color Balance on tip of layers stack. Set a tinge value around +64, +49, +4. One reason to do this step is to compare a altogether tinge tone, consistent a combination nicely.

Congrats! we finished a tutorial

Don’t forget to save! If we have questions, let me know in a comments section.

final img

Editor’s Note: This is created for by Jayan Saputra. Jayan is a striking engineer and book author from Indonesia. He adore designing, and You could find his new work in deviantart.