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Photo-manipulation tutorial: How to make a fairy in a bottle

This tutorial was originally commissioned for the book "Surreal Digital Photography 2" published by Ilex Press Ltd. in 2007. I am now sharing an edited version here with everyone for free!


If you're sad because fairies don't exist in real life and you weren't born as one, now you can learn how to make yourself appear as a magical fairy with wings!

This is an advanced tutorial where I don't explain all the basic tools, so if you're a beginner I suggest reading these articles first:

Step 1: Removing the background from the bottle

I photographed this glass bottle against the red wall.

Hand holding a bottle photograph - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Red walls are nice to have, but we don't want them in the final artwork, so here's what I did to remove the wall from the background. I chose the foreground color to be a bright red #C91828 and went to Select > Color Range.

I made sure that the hand and bottle edges are black, while the background and glass are white, and I increased the Fuziness setting until it looked like this. (Click on OK when you're done)

Selecting the red background using the Color Range feature - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Then I used the Select > Inverse command (Ctrl+Shift+I) and clicked the Quick Mask icon (Q), then double-click it and change the mask color to green (#00FF00) 100% so we can see the difference more clearly. After I used the black brush to mask the background where it's still not clear green, and white brush to bring back parts of hand and bottle which were hidden.

Editing the layer mask - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I pressed Q to get back to normal mode and apply the layer mask. I went over the glass with the Sponge tool to remove red tint from reflections.

Then I chose Image > Adjustments > Color Balance and set the settings similar like this: Shadows: 1 0 -6; Midtones: 11 -11 37; Highlights: -1 -8 -9.

Removing color from glass reflections - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Step 2: Adding the background

I made a new layer set named "background", and filled one layer with medium brown, then added a few texture images. You can download my free textures here.

Texture samples - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I set the blending modes of each to Overlay, Hard light or Soft light and varied the Opacity between 30% and 50%. I experimented with these setting unti I was satisfied with the looks.

Adding textures to the background - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Step 3: Turning a human into a fairy

I used this photo, photographed specifically for the purposes od this artwork.

Woman photo - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I selected the area arount the girl loosely with a Polygonal Lasso tool. Then I pressed Q to enter the Quick Mask mode again, and painted over the remaining background with a black brush (the mask appears green). If you make a mistake doing this, use the white brush to bring deleted part back.

Editing the mask - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

When I was done I pressed Q again, copied (Ctrl+C) the selected girl and pasted (Ctrl+V) into my working document. I flipped the bottle image horizontally so that the shadows on the bottle and the girl match.

Girl added into the bottle - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I selected the Dodge tool and used it to lighten areas where the light seems to fall. I used Burn tool on the left edge of palm a bit to add more shadows.

Girl added into the bottle - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I selected the Dodge tool and used it to lighten areas where the light seems to fall. I used Burn tool on the left edge of palm a bit to add more shadows.

Fixing shadows and highlights - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I used a photo of the butterfly and cut the wings from the rest of the image as I described already, and copied both of them on the layer under the girl layer. I transformed them so they fit the girl's pose. Then I applied a layer mask and painted around the wing edges to make them fade softly into the background.

Adding wings - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Step 4: Light effects

I lowered the opacity of the wings layer to 70% and added a layer style Outer Glow with the settings: white color, Blend Mode: Overlay, Opacity: 100%, Size: 115px. I then lowered the girl layer Opacity to 95% and added Outer Glow with settings: light yellow, Blend Mode: Hard Light, Opacity: 70%, size: 120px).

Adding glow - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

This step is optional, and depends on the girl model you are using &8212; since I didn't like the original hair, I painted new hair on a layer above. Even if you can't paint, you can do the same by using hair brushes available for free on numerous websites, or you can cut the hair from another photo.

Painting hair - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Creating fairy dust is very easy. Make a new layer with blending mode set to Overlay, about 75% Opacity. Take a soft white brush and click around on a separate layer, varying brush size.
Repeat this on a layer between the body and wings, this will add dimensionality to the image.

Fairy dust - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

Step 5: Final touches

We must not forget about the glass in front. I made a new layer on the top and drew a vertical line with a soft white brush (about 30% Opacity), then a thin black one next to it. I use the Blur tool to blur the body and wings directly underneath this line. Then I blurred some more on the parts that are further from the glass, while leaving the face and right palm completely crisp.

Glass reflections - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

The last thing to work on is the atmosphere. I added another texture on top of the document

Texture - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial

I set the blending mode of the texture to Soft Light and lowered Opacity until it looked the way I wanted. I masked the parts where the texture looked too intensive, especially the face and hands. I also added some shadows on the background beneath the hand to get a more threedimensional look.

Here's how the final image looks (click to see a large version in my portfolio!)

Final fairie image - How to make a fairy in a bottle tutorial



Enjoyed this tutorial? Read another photo-manipulation walkthrough!



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