Home Tutorials Photo Manipulation Create a Emotional Midnight Photo Manipulation with Painting-Like Effects

Create a Emotional Midnight Photo Manipulation with Painting-Like Effects

Learn how to composite this nighttime artwork and retouch skin with a smooth painting-like effect! This tutorial will show you how to composite this image with various stock photos, soften skin, and apply special lighting and color effects.

Preview of Final Results

Emotional Photo Manipulation Tutorial


  • Background – Darkdevil16 (Alternatives: 1, 2, 3)
  • Sky – Joannastar-stock
  • Lady – Mariaamanda
  • Stars (Image 5) – Cgtextures
  • Moon – Ischarm-stock
  • Hair Brush – Adonihs

Step 1 – Background

Open the Background image.


Open the Sky image and put it in a new layer above the Background layer. Transform it (CTRL+T) to fit the background and flip vertical. Set this layer to Soft Light.

Add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer and set the Brightness to -45.


Step 2 – Lady

Open the Lady image and make a selection of the subject. (I did it with Quick selection tool).


CTRL+J to extract her on a new layer. Delete the original image. As you can see the edges are not perfect. But don’t worry, in the next step we’ll fix it!


Let’s take the Smudge Tool to fix the borders. In this case, I used these settings: Strength 40% and Brush 55px (Soft round). Just pass the smudge over the borders to stretch them and remove the imperfections. Then delete the unwanted parts you don’t want. Here’s what we have so far. (It doesn’t have to be perfect for the moment, especially hair).


Now put the lady in a new layer above everything. (CTRL+T) Scale her and flip her horizontally (because it fits better the light source). Move her to the left part of the background. This is what we have.


We need now to cut the right part of the background. So.. let’s crop!


Step 3 – Skin

I will show you how I smudge the skin. If you are not familiar with the smudge tool it could be difficult, but still, you can try to achieve a good result and to practice this technique. Anyway if you don’t like smudged skin you can leave it alone and proceed with the next steps. As you can see below the difficulty is to smudge the hair on her face.


The first thing to do is making a copy of the layer containing the lady so that if something goes wrong you can return to the original one. From now you will work on this layer. Select the Smudge tool. Settings vary all the time. They depend on how much the image is big and on how much you want a smudged soft skin. In this case, I used a soft round brush 28px with strength between 15% and 20%. With this brush start to smudge the skin as if you are doing little circles (see image below).

TIPS: The bigger is the area to smudge (example the cheeks or the forehead) the bigger will be the brush you’ll have to use. If you have to smudge difficult areas (for example the hair on the face) just use more strength. Anyway test it every time, because it’s not always the same.


This is so far what I have after the smudging action. We have to fix the mouth and the eyes because there is some hair. (Indeed I am used to use the smudge tool also on the mouth and the eyes anyway because it gives more a painted effect).


To smudge the mouth just do it following the direction of details otherwise it would be messed up. Below I show you how. (it’s probable you have to give more strength to the brush).

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