Photoshop montage tutorial: putting wings on a horse

Let’s be clear, making a successful montage on Photoshop is no longer the prerogative of professionals. Thanks to a simple tutorial, even beginners can easily use it. Today, I will show you the steps to follow to integrate the elements of an image – on another image that will serve as a background. It’s kind of a basic manipulation on Photoshop. We will particularly put wings on a horse (did you say Pegasus?!).

Step 1: Find images to use for your Photoshop montage

To begin this montage in Photoshop, it will be necessary to find two images with which we will be able to work easily. Caution! It’s imperative that your images have the same perspective. In case you don’t know, perspective is a technique of representing volume on a plain surface. Learn more, here.

To produce a winged horse, I therefore chose two images: one of a bird (on which we’ll cut the wings) and the other – of a horse. Do not waste time looking for photos in the jungle that’s internet, feel free to search directly in the free image banks!

Find images to use for your Photoshop montage
Find images to use for your Photoshop montage

Step 2: Cut out wing No. 1

We will start by cutting the wings of the bird, starting with the largest one that we will call “Wing No. 1”. As you can see, there’s no need to clip the entire bird, we can stop at the birth of the wings.

How to proceed? In another tutorial, we’ve already seen the basics of how to clip an image using Photoshop, particularly with the pen tool. Today, we will use this same tool – which is, by the way, ideal for trimming curves and patterns with rounded ends.

A trick that always applies when cutting: trim slightly from inside your subject. You do not have to follow exactly the contours just to avoid having residues of the old background on the new one.

Note that the “Path” tab was created automatically when you started cutting the wing No. 1 with the pen tool.

Step 3: Cut out wing No. 2

We’ll create a new work path for wing No. 2 after deselecting the old (therefore the path of the wing No. 1). You will notice that we have a different path for both wings. After cutting wing No. 2 with the pen tool, double-click to save the new path.

Step 4: Define a selection

Now define a selection from the path that was created when you cut the wing No. 1. To do this, go to the menu of the path tab, represented by four overlapping lines, then click on “Define a selection“. A dialog box will appear on your screen.

Set the progressive edge to 1 pixel to soften the crenelated edges of the selection, and then finish with OK.

Step 5: Resize the wing

Then do a Ctrl + C (copy) on the source image and Ctrl + V (paste) on the image of the horse where it will land. There, a layer will automatically be created in our Photoshop montage.

It can be seen that the wing slightly protrudes at the edges. We’ll obviously have to reduce its size. Click on Crtl + T to manually resize Wing No. 1 and press Shift on your keyboard while “clicking-dragging” the image. This manipulation allows you to enlarge or reduce objects in a selected area. Finally click on Enter to validate your action. That’s it, Wing No. 1 is ready. However, notice that the birth of the wing does not follow the perspective of the side of our horse. So, we will have to distort it to correct that.

It will be necessary to deform the birth of the wing so that it follows the perspective of the side of the horse
It will be necessary to deform the birth of the wing so that it follows the perspective of the side of the horse

Step 6: Use the Free Transform command

To continue our Photoshop editing, click on the “Free Transform” icon, indicated in red in the screenshot below:

Photoshop’s "Free Transform" command (circled in red)
Photoshop’s “Free Transform” command (circled in red)

This tool enables you to make a rotation, a slope, a perspective, a twist, etc. Well, it makes it possible to skew an image. After clicking on the icon, grids appear on the screen. You just have to stretch the anchor points to “bend” the wing and adapt its shape to that of the horse.

We can clearly see the difference in the picture below.

The distorted wing, with the "free transform" tool, blends better into the decor
The skewed wing, with the “free transform” tool, blends better into the decor

This is much better! But we are not done with our Photoshop editing yet.

Step 7: Use the eraser

Let’s use the eraser tool to correct the blatant demarcation between the horse and what’s supposed to be its wing.

In the tool palette, take an eraser with a large diameter. I advise you to adjust the opacity to 30% or 20%, and set a hardness of 0. Apply it gradually so that the demarcation between the wing and the side of the horse fades.

The demarcation is no longer blatant between the wing and the side of the horse. The eraser has made its small effect!
The demarcation is no longer blatant between the wing and the side of the horse. The eraser has made its small effect!

Step 8: Recover the selection

Now it’s time to move to wing No. 2. So to recover the selection of its path, we need to go to the “Select” menu and “Recover selection“.

To convert this path into a selection, go to the path tab menu, symbolized by four overlapping lines, then click on “Define Selection”. Now set the progressive edge radius to 1 pixel, and click OK.

The progressive outline smoothes the crenelated edges of a selection, here, set it to 1 pixel!
The progressive outline smoothes the crenelated edges of a selection and here, set it to 1 pixel!

Then do a Ctrl + C on the image of the bird and Ctrl + V on the image with the horse. We then adjust the size, always doing Ctrl + T.

As you can see in the photo, wing No. 2 is not positioned correctly, because a part must be hidden behind the horse. Which brings us to step 9.

To fix the wing No. 2 in the right place, it will be necessary to carry out other manipulations
To fix the wing No. 2 in the right place, it will be necessary to carry out other manipulations

Step 9: Select the head of the horse

As we are going to put a part of the second wing behind the horse (more precisely behind his mane), we will have to select the whole animal’s head with the lasso tool.

As explained in our article on how to cut out hair in Photoshop (which I invite you to read to be able to succeed this step),we’ll test one by one the three layers that make up your image (Red, Green, Blue). These three layers are available in the Channels tab, near the layers tab.

Click successively on each layer and see which one offers the best contrast between the horse’s head and the background. For our image, it’s the blue layer.

Step 10: Make a copy of the right channel and adjust the levels

Let’s make a copy of the blue channel that we are going to call “alpha 1”, and work on it.

It will now be necessary to contrast as much as possible the white and the black. To do this, go to the “Image” menu, then “Adjustments“, then “Levels” and move the triangular black slider (for the black point) and the white (for the white point) so as to have a black horse body on a white background. To finish, click OK.

Step 11: Paint in black with the brush

Still referring to our article on cutting out hair on Photoshop, it’s necessary to paint all the parts of the head of the horse black (along with the mane) if they aren’t black enough. That’s it, we now have our selection layer.

A very black horse's head on a white background
A very black horse’s head on a white background

Step 12: Recover selection

Now back to the RGB, we have to recover the alpha 1 channel. In the select menu, go to “Recover selection“, and on the “channels”, click on alpha 1. Finish with OK.

Step 13: Apply the layer mask

Now that we have our selection, we click on the icon “create a layer mask”.

A layer mask is a selection attached to a layer. It’s in the form of a white thumbnail, positioned to the right of the standard layer. It serves as a stencil that can be changed as we want. The layer mask is also very useful for cutting without touching other elements.

The "add a layer mask" icon, circled in red, bottom right
The “add a layer mask” icon, circled in red, bottom right

Photoshop will automatically create a merge mask attached to the left wing layer. It’s identical to the recovered selection from the alpha channel and acts as a stencil on the wing.

We’ll just have to apply it by right-clicking (on the merge mask), then click on “Apply”. And now, after the clipping of the head and all those manipulations, the wing No. 2 is well placed on our montage Photoshop! On the other hand, you will notice that the colour of the wing is still very different from that of the horse.

We applied the merge mask and here is the result, the wing No. 2 is well placed
We applied the merge mask and here is the result, the wing No. 2 is well placed

Step 14: Link the layers

We must now merge the layers of the two wings. Hold down the Ctrl key and select both layers at the same time. Go to the menu, and “Link layers”.

Step 15: Adjust wing levels

You must also adjust the levels, because even if the wings are well placed on the horse, their tones are clearer than the body of the animal. It will therefore be necessary to darken it.

To adjust the levels, enter “Image“, then “Adjustments“, then “Levels“. Move the middle slider to the right and the “output levels” slider to the left to darken the wings.

We darkened the horse's wings to make it more natural
We darkened the horse’s wings to make it more natural

Step 16: Change the hue of the wings

We now want to get brown wings, which will be more in harmony with the horse. Once again, go to the “Image” menu, then “Adjustments“, then “Hue and Saturation“. Tick the “Colour” box.

There, move the cursor to have the ideal shade (a shade of brown). Play as much as you want with hue, saturation, but also with brightness. If you are satisfied, do OK.

Adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness to have "the ideal wing" :)
Adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness to have “the ideal wing” :)

Step 17: Flatten the image and export

You have to finish the Photoshop editing by flattening the layers. To do this, go to the layer menu, then “Flatten image”, and it’s good. All you have to do is export your work to show the results to your peers :).

Photoshop Montage: here is the final result, we have a nice winged horse!
Photoshop Montage: here is the final result, we have a nice winged horse!

I’ll see you soon for new tutorials that are always rewarding!

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