Using HDR Toning in Photoshop to Create a Fantasy Forest Scene

Using HDR Toning in Photoshop to Create a Fantasy Forest Scene

In this tutorial I'm going to show you my process for utilizing the HDR Toning feature of Photoshop CS5 in combination with a few lighting effects to create a fantasy forest scene.
Here's a look at the before and after images.

Step 1

First off we need to find a good forest image to use as the base. After some searching I came across this image of a foggy forest with a tiny bit of light coming through the trees. That's perfect that we can see the direction the light is coming from. It will help when placing the lighting effects later in the tutorial. Open the forest image in Photoshop and load the HDR Toning dialog (Image | Adjust | HDR Toning). Below is the image after applying the following settings. This warmer tone, applied by the HDR Toning, will be the color treatment will us for the rest of the comp.

Step 2

Now lets apply some lighting as it peaks through the branches of the trees. I used a few brushes from the Ultimate Lighting Effects brush set here at WeGraphics. I chose a light yellow and applied the brushes to a new layer with a blending mode set to Overlay.

Step 3

To enhance the lighting a bit more we need to light the ground a bit. To do this use a large round soft white brush and apply the brush to the ground with a single click. Now transform (Cmd+T) the soft white circle and flatten it vertically. Now set the layer's blend mode to Overlay, and repeat the step a few more times until the forest floor is well lit.

Step 4

Now lets add some rays of sunlight breaking through the leaves of the trees. To do this choose a small soft white brush, and while holding the shift key on your keyboard draw a straight line across the document on a new layer. Now transform (Cmd+T) and rotate the line so that it appears diagonal from the top left corner. Now set the layers blending mode to Overlay and reduce the opacity to 50%. Then repeat the step with several more lines. You may want to reduce the line weight for some and also use a soft eraser on portions so that it looks like some of the rays are going behind the tree trunks.

Step 5

Now I want to add a few lens flares at the top where the light is coming through the trees. I want these to be subtle and further enhance the lighting. I used the Bokeh Effect Brush Set here at WeGraphics to achieve the effect.

Step 6

For the final step I want to add 3 adjustment layers to help blend the effects. First up, lets add Black and White adjustment layer to reduce some of the saturation on the forest floor. Use a large soft brush to color the center portion of the layers mask to reveal the colors below the adjustment layer. Now lets add a Gradient Fill adjustment layer to darken the edges. Use the following settings. Now apply a gradient overlay layer style to the adjustment layer with the following settings. For the last adjustment layer add a solid blue color fill (#2a3d83) and set the blend mode to Overlay and opacity to 50%. I added these to cool some of the warm tones in the image.

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