The following tutorial is brought to you by Pete Harrison. Freelance, UK graphic designer and founder of and Pete used some incredible photos to put together this amazing surrealistic Floating Island, designed in Photoshop.

Fotolia Tutorial: Floating Island
by Pete Harrison
The following tutorial is brought to you by Pete Harrison. Freelance, UK graphic designer and founder of and Pete used some incredible photos to put together this amazing surrealistic Floating Island, designed in Photoshop.
The tutorial takes you through a 25 step process and explains how to create the image you see below. The design uses a variety of stock photos found on Fotolia and mentioned throughout the tutorial (select photos are available as complimentary downloads from Filter Foundry at
This tutorial assumes you have a medium level understanding of Photoshop.
Step 1
Open photo_1 into Photoshop and use the rectangular selection tool to select the right half of the image, just where the big moon cuts into the horizon.

Make a new layer and use a black to transparent gradient and holding shift drag up from the bottom to the middle. Select the pale yellow colour in the horizon as your main colour and do the same but this time from the top of the image to just over half way.
Step 2
Open photo_2 and select the pen tool, select around the mountain but ignore the houses on the side, we just want the rock, and this will form the base of our island. It does not have to be too accurate, rough is better to enhance the rockiness, cut it off where the mountain meets the road.. Right click and hit make selection, with feather radius set to 0 pixels and click ok. Copy this selection and paste it into the main canvas.

Step 3
Open photo_3 and use the pen tool and selection tools to cut around the buildings, basically knocking out the sky, and then copy this into our main image we are creating; place it behind the rock layer and position so it looks as if the building is on top of it.

Step 4
Open Photo_4 and bring it into the composition, set the mode to overlay and then go too layer > layer mask > reveal all, then use a soft round brush set to colour black and get rid of the straight edge where the stock photo ends. Reduce the flow to around 10% and brush over the bottom of the photo so it fades into the background smoothly and gives it more atmosphere

Step 5
Select the rock layer and add a layer mask the same way as we did in step 4. Use a small black brush again and mask out some of the rock layer so that it blends with the structures that we added.

Step 6
Select the burn tool at about 40% exposure and then brush the rock and building layers to darken them, our light source is behind them, so they would be in shadow. It will also help blend them into the rest of the image.

Step 7
Open photo 7 and bring this into the canvas, place it just above the background layer. Use the transform tool to make it smaller, set this blending mode to screen. Create a layer mask and erase the top half of the clouds and sky, then position into the canvas.

Step 8
Keep the cloud layer you just made selected and then go too image > adjustments > hue / saturation. Slide the hue too – 26 and saturation too + 31 and hit ok.

Step 9
Use a soft round brush and then the eye droplet tool to grab the yellow colour at the top of the image (the one we used previously), click on the screen and then place it on top of the rock island, but near the light source behind it. Change the layer mode to screen, so it looks like its coming from behind it and lighting up part of the island.

Step 10
Repeat step 9 but set the new one to overlay. Copy the layer with the old structures and then use the pen tool and selection tools to cut out part of it, scale it and place so it looks like it’s part of the landscape. I used this to cover up areas where the original stock photo cut off.

Step 11
Some of them are covered by other structures so a trick I used is to isolate one of them, and then copy half of it, pasting it back in over the top and flipping it horizontally, and deleting the half of the original layer.

Step 12
I copied the layer in step 11 and adjusted some parts like the lightness, so they didn’t all look the same; see the section to the right of the island. I copied the same as the last 2 steps for the left side of the island, and made sure not to try and make anything symmetrical, I set one of the layers to darken so the sky in the background came through in some places.

Step 13
Create a new layer above the rock layer and label it vines/roots.
Select a hard brush and keep the diameter a few pixels, select a dark green colour and paint in some small vines and roots hanging off the rock. Repeat this with a dark brown colour and vary some of the thicknesses of them to give some variation.

Step 14
I grouped some of the roots and then just copied the layer and resized, and flipped some to speed up this process. Now we have created our scene we will make it more interesting. Select all of the island layers that you created during the steps so far and put them in a folder, merge all the layers together in that folder, but first make a copy of the folder and make it invisible just in case we have to make changes later.

Step 15
Use the merged layer island and then use the magnetic selection tool to cut some of it off, try and make sure like it is breaking off, then edit > cut and paste back into the composition, reposition this so it looks like it is falling off the main island.

Step 16
Open photo 8 and bring it into the main canvas, scale it and position it over the crack we caused in the island, change the layer mode to screen.

Step 17
I just deleted the black gradient layer at the bottom of the composition and replaced it with a light blue colour, I also set the layer mode to screen.

Step 18
Where the crack in the island is it wouldn’t be so clean so we will add some debris and rocks that would fallen away with the crack etc. Create a new layer behind the main rock island layer and select the brush tool with a hard round brush and colour black. Play around with the brush settings like the diameter and spacing but keep the hardness at 100%, start brushing areas around the crack and make sure it looks like they are crumbling rocks.

Step 19
I also used the magnetic lasso tool to select areas of the main rock island and then copy > merge and paste them into a new layer to create big parts of rock that were falling down due to the crack etc..

Step 20
Select the glass photo (photo 8) and then crop out some of the shatters from the left, bring this into the main canvas and select the layer mode to darken, go too image > adjustments > brightness / contrast and up the contrast. Place this behind the main crack and some of the buildings to add to the effect.

Step 21
Bring photo 6 into the canvas and set the blending mode to screen, go to edit > transform > scale and make it smaller and fit around the island, almost as if to create a bubble type effect. I also erased some of the bottom areas where it was too bright.

Step 22
Open photo 10 and repeat step 21, but place it around where the island starts to crack.

Step 23
Download a stock picture of some smoke, this will be used to create a bit more atmosphere in our scene, set the layer mode to lighten or screen and place it somewhere around the crack in the island. I also went to image > adjustments > hue saturation, and with colourize selected I made it a more orange / yellow colour to fit into the scene better.

Step 24
Create a new adjustment layer with a gradient map. Select the black and white gradient map and set the blending mode to multiply. This will bring out the contrast and the darker colours a bit.

Step 25
Create another gradient map and place this above the one you created in step 24. This time pick a colour range, or create your own. It’s good to use one that blends with the colours you already used. There are some pre-set gradients that you can experiment with, just load them up from the gradient editor and have fun.

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