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[Feedback Available]darkness - a full coloured, stock&textures banner tutorial

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First of all, let me warn you – this will be a long and very detailed tutorial xD so brace yourselves. Make a cup of tea or something…and I hope this is helpful!
I will provide resources I used in making this banner and if you decide to use them yourselves please remember to credit the creators :)

people: Matt Trethe (Rhys Frampton for Rollacoaster Magazine) | Holliday Grainger (photo taken from her fansite)

stock: firethorn image (taken from pixabay) | Windsor ruins image by The Library of Congress@flickr (under a No known copyright restrictions license)

textures – these are all by tanja92@dA (unfortunately I don’t know from which pack because I have all her textures in one folder) 1+ | 2+ | 3+

brushes: The Birds by AboutTheBirds@dA

gradients used for colouring: by Evey@dA | by deNoctem@dA

fonts: Vanity by Hendrick Rolandez@behance | Sylfaen

The base

step one.
This may seem a bit backwards because I know most people start out their graphics by making the base first and then adding people but I do it people first, rest of the base after them :). Anyhow, take our people pictures and position them on the banner as shown below.
I tend to use people pictures that have some sort of dynamic to them so I get the flow of the banner going from the start. And I usually put my people a bit to the side, not in the centre (I say usually because sometimes central position can look good, but a lot of the time it tends to split the graphic in two parts).

step two.
I almost always have to do some colour corrections to the people images so they fit better together (general colour scheme, skin tones, brightness and contrast). Sometimes Photoshop’s auto tone/contrast/colour can help (tbh I use it a lot (and also use the Fade function under Edit so I have more control over the auto tone/contrast/colour) but I don’t remember whether I used them here (also in the stock images), sorry :/).
Anyway, make a Brightness/Contrast layer on top of the image of Matt and set Brightness to 43, Contrast to -13 and then right click on it, select Create Clipping Mask – that way it will only affect Matt’s layer. On top of the image of Holliday make a Selective Colour layer and set Reds C 0, M -100, Y -100, B 0. Do the clipping mask thing again like with the Brightness/Contrast layer. On both of these adjustment layers I had to do some brushing on their layer masks to remove the effect from any parts where I didn’t want it. This is the result:

step three.
I will now select two colours from the backgrounds of my people images to make blending easier. The colours I chose are #dbdad8 and #161615. Now make a gradient with those colours…
…and put that layer under your people layers.
You can see I already blended the people, but you can do that now. I'm lazy so my blending is lazy – I use layer masks and the gradient tool a lot and also a big soft brush set on 20% opacity and the eraser tool to bring back what I want, also using a soft brush on 20% opacity.

step four.
Now is the time when I start adding stock images (this is all happening beneath the people layers). For the sake of continuity and flow within my graphics I re-use stock images in different parts of graphics. In this banner I’ve taken the Windsor ruins image and pasted it into my document. Then I positioned it on the left side of the banner and duplicated the layer. I resized the duplicated layer to make it smaller and put it on the right side of the banner.
I also did some colour correction (again, to make things more cohesive and easier to blend) – make a Selective Colour layer on top of our first ruins image and set Neutrals C +15, M -2, Y -15, B 0. Again, make a clipping mask. Duplicate the Selective Colour layer, put it on top of our other ruins image and make a clipping mask.
I blended the ruins images using layer masks, gradient tool and soft brush.

step five.
I’ll be adding the first texture now (also beneath the people layers). Paste it in your document and place it as shown:
When you're placing anything (stock or textures) you should think about how the different shapes and colours work together. This texture was very useful as it had some interesting shapes and also the colour blends well with the halos I had left from my lazy blending of people so they're not noticeable when blending with textures ;). After placing it blend it in (layer masks/gradient tool/soft brush).
Paste the texture again and place it to the left side (remember how we did the same with stock because of continuity and whatnot – this is basically the same thing).
btw I know i'm saying stuff like place the texture to the right or to the left and all you guys see is just this big image placed more or less in the center but I'm talking about the parts of texture you want to use (in the first case I wanted the shapes to the right of Holliday and in the second I wanted the round thing+the shapes to the right of Matt). Anyhow, blend (again :P)

step six.
More stock! yay! :D I decided the banner needed something more so now we’re going to take the firethorn image from pixabay and place it (and resize of course) on our banner in places where we need to fill space (right side) and then on the left side for the sake of continuity (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I xD)
And we blend it in…

step seven.
More textures! ^_^ I wanted a vintage-y feel for this banner so I decided to use a scratchy texture (texture 2) and also to make some kind of a border like from old books (texture 3). Take texture 2 and place it where you want your scratches (beneath people layers except if you want scratches on your people then by all means, go for it! :P):
Put the texture on Screen, 55% opacity and blend.
Place it again on the left side:
Put it on Screen, 65% opacity and blend.
Now we'll add the border texture (texture 3) on both sides of our banner (obviously…'cause it's a border hahha xD)
Now you just have to blend (it's on Normal at 100% opacity so yeah, I basically brushed out 95% of the texture ^_^)

step eight.
I wanted even more flair and decided to use some bird brushes. I just brushed them in where I liked (using white colour).

The text

step nine.
Text woohoo :shiftyeye: I know a lot of people hate text/text hates them. I don’t hate it but it takes me a lot of time to find a font that works because I just go through all my fonts until I find the one I like best and think it fits best with the graphic. This time, however, wasn’t like that because this banner was supposed to be a part of a set with my Styx fanmix – I made the fanmix first and used the Vanity font for the main text there so it’s the same font I used in the banner (the smaller text is Sylfaen – nothing special, Times New Roman works just as well).

main text (darkness) – font is Vanity, set on Light Narrow Italic, size 39,86pt (don’t ask – I always transform my main text manually using the transform tool you use for resizing and placing images so this is the size I ended up with) and the tracking I set on 60 (this is the space between individual characters). The colour of the text doesn’t matter because you’re going to override it anyway in the Blending Options. Right click on the text layer, select Blending Options. Select Gradient Overlay and here I just choose the colours that are already in the banner - #755222 and #c79e36. Blend Mode is Normal, opacity 100%, style Liner, Align with Layer ticked, angle 90°, scale 100%. Then choose Drop Shadow. Again, I always choose a colour already there for this – in this case #e9e5e4. Blend Mode is Normal, opacity 75%, angle 120°, Use Global Light ticked, Distance 1, Spread 0, Size 0 and Anti-aliasing ticked.

smaller text (so i stayed in the) – font is Sylfaen, size 11pt, tracking 25, Italic and Small Caps selected. Colour is #cec4b6. Go to Blending Options again and choose Drop Shadow. Colour #000000, Blend Mode Normal, opacity 75%, angle 120°, Global Light ticked, Distance 1, Spread 0, Size 0. For the other smaller text (with you) and the quote everything is the same except the tracking which is 75, and for the quote the leading is 9pt (the space between lines of text). The quote is set to left alignment but I did two spaces at the start of the second line of text and four spaces at the start of the third line of text.

The colouring

step ten.
A fair warning – I use a lot of colouring layers. Especially gradient maps (maybe not so much in this banner, but usually). I’ll screencap them because it’s easier than writing all the colours. You can download the gradient maps I mentioned at the start.

1 – Gradient Map, by Evey@dA, soft light, 31% opacity
2 – Selective Colour, Reds C 0, M 20, Y 21, B 0
3 – Gradient Map, by Evey@dA, soft light, 40% opacity
4 – Colour Balance, Shadows CR 0, MG -1, YB +8
5 – Selective Colour, Neutrals C 0, M 2, Y 12, B 0
6 – Gradient Map, same as in 3) but this time set to soft light, 100% opacity
7 – Colour Fill with #bababa, normal, 10% opacity
8 – Gradient Map, by deNoctem@dA, soft light, 100% opacity
9 – Selective Colour, Yellows C 0, M 27, Y 17, B 0
10 – Colour Balance, Shadows CR 0, MG 0, YB +9
11 – Selective Colour, Yellows C -8, M 0, Y 40, B 0; Blacks C 1, M 2, Y 0, B 0
12 – Selective Colour, Yellows C 0, M 0, Y 16, B 0

whew…that’s it for colouring. For now :shiftyeye:

The filtering

step eleven.
You can skip this one if you like your own filtering just fiiiine :) Also I have the whole Topaz bundle so some of these can’t be replicated if you don’t have Topaz, sorry :/
I copy – merge all of my layers and paste into a new layer on top of everything.

1 – smart sharpen, I leave the default settings here and set it on Normal, 30% opacity, add a layer mask and mask out stuff I don’t like (where it’s too sharp like text).
copy – merge + paste
2 – Topaz Detail 3, Feature Enhancement 1, leave the default settings, set on Normal, 100% opacity
copy – merge + paste
2 – Topaz Clean 3, I have my own settings for this: Clean: Strength 0, Threshold 50, Radius 8, Edges: Accent 5, Radius 1.03, Sharpness 1.25, Texture: Texture 0.20, Boost 1.19, Size 2.00 (pretty sure edges and texture are default set like this but idk). Set it on Normal, 30% opacity, add a layer mask, mask out what you don’t like.
copy – merge + paste
4 – Gaussian Blur, Radius 4,6 pixels, set on Soft Light, 25% opacity
copy – merge + paste
5 – Gaussian Blur, Radius 4,6 pixels, set on Lighten, 35% opacity
copy – merge + paste
6 – Smart Sharpen, default settings, set on Normal, 15% opacity

just a note about opacities with the filtered layers – use your best judgements, the ones I wrote here are just for this banner, I always do what looks best for the graphic I’m making, so I’m not always doing the same thing ;)

step twelve.
We'll do some more colouring. sorry xD I know I’m crazy :P
1 – Selective Colour, Reds C 0, M 10, Y 10, B 0
2 – Gradient Map, default black and white one, set on Luminosity, 30% opacity.

And this is the finished graphic:

Wow this was extremely long! Those of you who managed to get through this congratssss! :D If anyone has any questions please post them below and I'll try to answer as best as I can. Also feel free to post your results but please don't put the min your galleries ^_^

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Honestly so in awe of how you get stock/textures to work like that? And I really love that blending method in the beginning where you put your people down first and use gradients to blend them in to create a base to build on - genius honestly. I've never made graphics like that and always get in trouble with finding the perfect model/actress image to place in that one available spot with the base I made :P This completely erases that dilemma! I also really like seeing your gradient maps - I'm honestly so boring with mine and have nothing but the default ones so this really inspired me to look for other ones and experiment! Thank you so much for this tut, I really did learn a lot of new things ^_^

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I'm still not happy with the bit over Holliday's shoulder, but I'm too lazy to find more stock and this was really just to get used to a new program so... yay! Thank you for making this!




Some notes on things I struggled with as a newbie to photoshop cc in hopes of being helpful to other people trying to follow this tutorial...


Step Two - I wasn't quite sure how to erase the selective coloring only on certain parts of Holliday, so (1) I duplicated the new layer, (2) created a layer mask, painted over the lips, cheeks, and bits of the shoulder to give her a bit more life. (3) After I had the look I wanted, I made all the other layers invisible, leaving only the selective coloring layer and the original layer underneath visible. (4) I merged the two together, made the other layers visible again, and added a new layer mask to blend her into the background.


Step Four - I couldn't wrap my head around the clipping layers and how to do the selective coloring in one go, so I just did the adjustments individually to each. If anyone else struggles, I suggest doing the coloring BEFORE duplicating and arranging the Windsor ruin images. 


Step Nine - I just created a new layer and used a dropper to pick up colors from the firethorn stock and used a brush to create a sort of filter over white text. I set the layer to multiply and right clicked on the layer and clicked "create clipping mask" so that it only showed up over the text. (Tbh this was just laziness. I didn't feel like going through all the effects. If I had all the fonts from my own computer, I probably would have used a script instead of Vanity. But, again, laziness.)


Step Ten - I honestly had no idea where all these layers were coming from without copying and pasting the visible layer again, but finally found the most magical button on ps. In the bottom right-hand corner is a half-filled circle. All the layers used in the tutorial are listed there. I liked the lighting that I had in the graphic, so I skipped all the black and gray gradients except for adding the darkest of Every-V's gradients on soft light at 50%. I just liked the darker look. 


Step Eleven - I downloaded the free Topaz legacy plugin, but the settings didn't really work with the coloring I had going, so I messed around with the "Glow" Filter and added another selective-coloring layer on top. 

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