Create an Incredible Desktopography Inspired Wallpaper

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Desktopography is a yearly desktop wallpaper collection that contains contributions from some of the best digital artists in the world. The innovation, techniques, concepts and skill in each wallpaper is always spectacular, but there are very few tutorials in existence that cover the extensive techniques and workflow for a good digital art wallpaper.

In this tutorial, Joe Moore will walk you through the creation of an incredible surreal nature desktop wallpaper.  Jam packed with information, this Photoshop tutorial will teach you various stock image manipulation skills, how to transform and liquify for good effects, paint reflections and shadows, and create an awesome finished result.

If you are looking for more photomanipulation tutorials, check out these posts:

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Tools Used:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Various Stock images
  • Tablet (not required)

Final Image Preview:

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 1: Scene setup, Whale implementation

To start off we will need our base stock image, something vibrant and beautiful. You can use whatever you like, I would suggest looking on Sxc for this, mine is from shutterstock but as I said, you can find wonderful stock on Sxc. Once you have your background chosen and dropped into Photoshop its time to start tweaking it into what we want it to look like. We can do this with the use of various layer type.  So go to your layer drop down and select new > adjustment layer > photo filter and set yours up as mine is in the below screen shot. Then set the opacity to around 15%.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Next create a new layer (CTRL SHIFT N) and fill it with yellow, set this layer to overlay at about 10-15%. Once you have created the yellow layer we can do the final adjustment, that is to duplicate your original stock image, grey scale it, apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of 255px and then set it to overlay at about 15%. Once

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now we can apply the grey scaled overlay.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Once all of this has been done its time to get our whale, mine is from Shutterstock but you can use anything you like here. A dolphin, whale, turtle etc… I choose the whale because I liked it but choose whatever you like and that your able to find, again Sxc is a great place to start looking. Once you have your stock you will need to isolate it out with your pen tool and drop it under all of your adjustment layers but above the original background layer. Once that is done position it as if it were floating in the sky.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now its time to start tweaking our whale and adding onto him. We will start off slowly by adding on the smaller details and adjusting his color. So to begin use your circular marquee to remove a section of the whale ( I did the fin), cut this section out and then paste it back in. You can do this more than once (as you can see below I did it twice). Be sure to leave ample room between the sections when doing this!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

And now with the section pasted back in, remember I did it twice.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Once your sections are pasted back in to the scene its time to create some string so it looks like they are being held afloat. To do this we can start off by using the line tool to create a thin 1px line in a semi grey color. Once you have created the line position it onto your section. Now we can switch over to a small brush (3px hard) and paint a little bow/loop so it looks like the string is tied around the fin. Be careful when doing this! The best method is to paint as if the string is continuing and then wrapping around the fin and coming back up (unseen) to form a bow.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Our brush should be something like this, granted if your on a very large canvas you might want to bump the size up.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now we can repeat the above step on any other sections we have created.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

If you look at our above fins you will notice that where we cut them they seem… fake. The scene will be abstract or surreal if you will, but we don’t want it to look sloppy. To fix this grab the same brush (still with the semi grey) and paint the holes/gaps so they appear 3D. I know its not that easy to spot but just because you might not see it at first doesn’t mean that someone else wont! So take your time and make it clean!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now its time to make another photo filter layer, this time specifically for the whale which in my opinion seems far to… dull. So to fix this we can create a new photo filter and set it up as mine is in the below screenshot. Since the photo filter layers have layer masks you can isolate out your whale so it’s the only affected section. Once this is done set the layer to overlay with an opacity of about 40-50%.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 2: Buildings and vegetation

Ok now its time to start adding elements to our scene, to give it more life! To do this we can start off by adding some buildings from SXC the first of which can be found here http://www.sxc.hu/photo/90320 you can find plenty more if you do a little digging. Once you have a few just isolate them out and place them under the whale layer sticking up from behind him.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now its time to add in some grass, this will help the illusion that the buildings are not simply behind the whale. So create a new layer and place it above the whale and his blue photo filter layer. Once this is done grab the same 3px brush this time with a hardness of about 50% and set your colors up as mine are in the below screen shot.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now using your brush paint the grass strokes along the back of the whale. Make your brush stokes go from the back of the whale a bit of the ways up the building, doing this will create the illusion as if the building is sitting on something rather than just behind the whale. Take your time with this step swapping between the darker and lighter green, if you like you can add some other colors in as well such as yellow or brown.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now it’s time to grab some trees from Sxc to place under the grass and on top of our whale. So head over and do a quick search or use the below links to grab some trees, then isolate them out with your pen tool. Once they are isolated just place them above the blue photo filter layer but under the grass.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1113494

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/739385

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1161714

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

My scene now looks like the below screenshot.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 3: Curved lines/3D lines

Once our vegetation is complete we can begin on making all of those fancy lines. So to start off create a new document about twice the size of your original piece. Why do it this way? Well I find it much easier to do this on a large canvas, and these lines always look so much better once they are sized down, so why not create them large and size them down to the size you want?

 

Once your new canvas has been made start off by making a simple bar (10px horizontal line). Once this has been done make a selection around it and move the selection so it only touches the top section of the line. Once you have done this right click and choose feather, feather your selection to about 6px and hit ok. Now with the selection still active create a new layer with an opacity of 20% and a blending mode of overlay. Once this is done fill the selection on your new layer with black, move it down to the opposing side and fill it with white.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

If your line is huge (in height) bumping up the feather would be a good idea, you want it distributed throughout like a gradient.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

And now that both are applied our line looks like the below image.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Once you have applied both the white and the black erase anything on your overlay layer that is not on the line. Once that is done merge it down and finish the shadow/highlight with the dodge and burn tool. Why finish it with the dodge and burn tool rather than setting the overlay layers opacity higher? Well I like to do it this way, you get more control over individual points/sections.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now its time to make that line look cool! We can do this by using the liquefy filter as we have done in previous tutorials. But before doing this if I were you I would make a few duplicates of the line you just created, that way you don’t have to do that over and over again, I mean we are going to want a ton of lines!

Ok so now its time to liquefy but how should we go about it? Well I like to make an S! but you can also do large C’s or S like shapes with multiple loops.  Anything that you like really, just use your warp forward tool and have fun!

An example of the S like shape can be seen here :

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Once you have one made drop it into your scene so it appears as if its wrapping around your whale.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Continue on doing this until you feel like you have made enough curved lines.

Once all your lines are created (or during the creation process) you will want to create some shadows. They way I like to do this to create a new layer beneath all of the lines and grab a soft brush something like 15px with 0% hardnes then just paint them in. Once they are all painted just drop the opacity down so it appears as if it’s a real shadow.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now lets take another line, in the simple S shape and lets give it some perspective. To do this grab a new line and then go to edit>transform>distort. Once the box appears around your shape its time to distort its perspective! To distort the shape simply move the outer boxes around as I have done so it appears as if one side is further away.  Now just drop it into your document behind your whale and your done!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Well not entirely but close. What we need to do now is to blur the line closest to the screen to give it depth. To do this simply grab your marquee tool and feather a selection around the shape, then apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of about 8. Make sure you are using a large feather, something like 100px!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now just do this a few more times, as you can see I also added one to the water which was not blurred.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now we can add in some stilts to hold our whale up, I will be using the stilts from one of our previous surreal tutorials located here : http://design.creativefan.com/create-an-unbelievable-surreal-abstract-artwork-with-photoshop/

If you haven’t read it I suggest you do so! It will describe the creation process of the stilts.

I made two that hold up my whale along with the perspective water line.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 4: Creating reflections

Now we need to make our reflections, because as is, it looks ridiculous. To create the reflections we need to duplicate one of the shapes that touches the water, I started with a stilt. Once it has been duplicated flip it vertically and then feather the end (use a large soft eraser and remove it, something like 300px with 0% hardness). Once that is done switch over to the original hard 3px brush along with your smudge tool (set to about 50%) and smudge it from left to right in small horizontal strokes following the waves. If your water has no waves or they aren’t that visible don’t worry, it will look good anyway. Once you have smudged the stilt apply a Gaussian blur with a radius of about 4px and feather anything else you like away. I feathered the sides down a tad as well as reduced the height of it after the blur was applied.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now create a new layer above the stilt and the duplicate, on this layer we will pain some waves/reflective patches. To do this grab that same old 3px brush and just paint thin horizontal lines were the original stilt hits the reflection.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now just repeat to the other objects that hit the water!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 5: Stock implementation

Now its time to start really adding in some stocks, specifically we will start with planes. So head over to sxc and grab yourself a few planes/blimps etc… once you have a few begin isolating them out and placing them about in the sky.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/143714

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1094062

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1094058

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1178347

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/472505

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now lets add in some little fun things, for example I have a tower on my whales back, what if we put someone bungee jumping off of it? To do this we need a stock of someone falling like the one below.

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/325843

Now we need to isolate our figure out, place him in the scene and draw a line that goes from him to the tower. I used the same grey that we used earlier for the fins and used black to attach it to him.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

As of now our scenes starting to take shape, but I think the water needs more. So we can head back over to Sxc, grab the below sign, isolate it out and apply the same reflection techniques we used earlier. This should give the water a bit more action rather than just being blank.

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=200979

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now lets add some more to the water. To start off we can head over to sxc and grab this piece of wood, once you have the wood isolate out one of the sides, size it down and place it in the scene without a reflection, we will do that later.

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=968433

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Once the boards in the scene isolate out the below house and place it on the board so it resembles something similar to a bird house. Once the bird house has been isolated and placed atop the board we can merge these two layers together and proceed to make the reflection.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

http://www.sxc.hu/pic/l/m/mo/mordoc/658838_82642337.jpg

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now lets add in some balloons! To create balloons in the scene just go to Sxc (link below) and grab stock. Once you have the stock, isolate it out and draw yourself a string just as we have done previously. I placed the first one down by our sign and ‘tied’ it to said sign. If you place your balloon be sure to add a reflection as well!

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1011246

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now just continue adding in balloons! I added in about 3 more and placed them randomly about, be sure when doing this that you vary their colors!

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now if you wanted to, you could grab one of the clown fish from our Iphone tutorial (http://design.creativefan.com/design-a-tropical-iphone-advertisement/ ) and attach him using the same method we did the jumper. I did this but its not a requirement by any means, it just adds a little more light heartedness to the piece.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Now its time to add in a little bit more vegetation. So grab the below stock (which is pre isolated) and go ahead and use your liquefy filter to create S like shapes from the tips of the leafs. Once you have done this place it behind your buildings so it is popping out the back.

http://wammyp.deviantart.com/gallery/24427238#/d10jfvl

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Step 6 : Extra tid-bits and closing

Now we can use the 3px hard brush (again) on our new layer to paint in all kind of little do-dads. For example I created some bubbles, some drips and some drool. I would cover how to go over this but we have done it in many tutorials previously, for example :

http://design.creativefan.com/create-story-coming-alive-fantasy-photomanipulation/

http://design.creativefan.com/colorful-candy-3d-text-effect-in-photoshop-and-3d-studio-max-tutorial/

http://design.creativefan.com/create-a-fantastic-environmental-awareness-composition/

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

Next I added in the 3D shapes we created in our Iphone tutorial, this is not a requirement but I liked the way it looked. Don’t know how to go about making them? Check out the tutorial!

http://design.creativefan.com/combine-3d-geometric-shapes-and-flowing-lines-for-a-sleek-iphone-ad/

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial

And well that’s it! I painted in a few more doo-dads like ladders and doors but none of this is a requirement for making the piece what it is. You can by all means add in tons of more and make the piece into what you imagine it should look like. My final image looks like the below screenshot.

Desktopography Wallpaper Tutorial
I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and maybe learned a thing or two! If you have any questions regarding a technique don’t be afraid to post a message and ask!

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