How to Create a Mystical Effect in Your Landscapes with Photoshop


In case you were wondering how do landscape photographers create those surreal and misty scenes – look no further!

The following easy and simple tips will help you create such mysterious landscapes. The suggested techniques are non-destructive, which means that you will be using adjustment layers and retouching everything on a separate layer.

1. Lower the blues and reduce saturation

In order to give a certain spooky and grim vibe to your landscape, you have to make sure that there are no vibrant shades of blue in the sky. Generally speaking, the image shouldn’t look lively in terms of colors.

You should click on Create Adjustment Layer and choose Color Balance. Here you can experiment and shift colors in the highlights, shadows and midtones. Pay attention to Yellow/Blue Slider – this is where you should lower the blues.

Afterwards, you can add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. This is were you can adjust different colors by selecting them. For instance, you can select Greens and set saturation to -50, in case you want trees and grass in your landscape to look faded.

Photo by Matt Benson

2. Remove or add clouds

Landscapes can look mysterious either with clouds or totally cloudless, depending on your artistic intentions.

Before you start altering the existing clouds, click on the Background Layer and then go to Layer > Duplicate Layer to copy it. In this way, your editing won’t be destructive and you will be able to easily shift between the original and edited image.

Use the Spot Healing brush on your duplicate background to zoom in closer to the clouds and remove them. Alternatively, if you want more clouds, you can copy the existing ones with the Clone Stamp tool.

Photo by Robin Benad

3. Whiten the sky and darken the ground

You can enhance the surreal look if you whiten the sky and darken the ground – this will also make the atmosphere in your photo pretty ominous.

In order to achieve this in a non-destructive way, create a new layer (you can name it ’’Gradient’’), grab the Gradient tool and choose the Linear Gradient Style. The gradient you’re supposed to use to whiten the sky is called Foreground to Transparent. You should set the color of this gradient to white and opacity to anything between 20 and 40%.

When it comes to darkening the ground, create a new layer and set its mode to Overlay. Then select Fill with Overlay-Neutral Color and use the Burn tool to darken the land.

Photo by Hugo Kerr

3. Paint some mist and smudge it

It can be somewhat tricky to create a realistic mist, but you’ll surely improve your skills over time. In the best case scenario, you should photograph a landscape that is already misty (such as mountains and rivers in the early morning) and simply enhance the mist in editing.

In case you need to create some mist in Photoshop, select Spatter 14 in the Brush Preset Picker. Then go to Window > Brush > Brush Tip Shape, set its size to roughly 300px and spacing to 50%. This will allow you to paint a nice and disperse mist that you can further improve with the Smudge tool.

You should set the strength of the Smudge tool to 50% and use it to smudge the white brush strokes into swirls of mist that rise up from the ground. Don’t overdo it – it should look subtle and realistic!

Photo by Richard Loader

5. Add some final tonal tweaks

After you have applied all these tricks, take time to evaluate your image and introduce some final tweaks.

You should probably add a new Curves Adjustment Layer to boost the contrast in your image slightly In case you’re still not happy with the colors, you can also add a Color Balance or Photo Filter layer to bring your image even closer to your artistic vision.

Photo by Sebastian Pichler

In case you still want to learn more about retouching and shooting landscapes, feel free to check out these useful links!

Further Resources:

    1. 3 Quick Photoshop Tips To Improve Any Landscape Photo
    2. 5 Quick Lightroom Edits To Improve Any Landscape
    3. What You Need to Know About Light for Better Landscape Photography
    4. 7 Lightroom Workflow Tips For Simple, Stunning Landscape Photography

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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