Creating an Awesome Retro Collage

In this complex and long tutorial, we will be making this abstract photo collage. Lots of images are used with exciting effects. Along the way, you will be using different blend modes, filters and some advanced adjustment layer techniques.
Preview of Final Image
First, you may want to download all the 14 photos we will be using here. You will notice that most of these photos are extremely versatile and surely you will find them of great use in other projects.
Paper Texture, Sky, Girl, Lady, Bird, Violin, Keyboard, Robot, Soldier, Tree, Color Drops, Tank, Lotus. Please note that the Zebra used in this tutorial is NOT a stock. The image is copyrighted by CaptBogart.
And we are ready to begin. Start by creating a new layer . Give it a size of about 16x 12 cm and bring in the Paper Texture and adjust its size to that it fits the canvas.
Bring in the Sky photo and paste it over the paper texture. Give it opacity of about 30% .

Now let us bring in the Girl. Extract her from the background and paste into the document. We only need the top part of her body to be visible.

Let’s add the objects behind. Start from the left with the lovely vintage Lady. After you got her set into place, take the Polygonal Lasso tool and draw a brief rectangle over her eyes (or you can simply create a rectangle and rotate it using the Transform tool). Next just get the Eraser tool and click twice so that you make the two holes for her eyes.
Moving on for the colorful Bird to enter the scene. Extract it from its background. Download watercolor brushes from Bittbox. Ctrl + left click on the bird layer so that you get it selected, create a new layer and start painting it using different types and colors of watercolor brushe. Feel free to experiment on this part.
Duplicate the layer created previously. Drag the original bird layer to be just between those two layers and change its opacity to 60% Select the top bird layer from and change its blend mode to Pin Light.
Adjust its size and just place it behind the girl as shown below.
Before we can add the rest of the objects, let’s make the violin first. Extract the violin from its background and fill it with black.
Bring in the keyboard photo. Change its size, rotate it with the Free Transform tool and set it in position on top of the violin. CTRL + left click on the violin layer to select it. Next, hit Shift + Ctrl + I to inverse the selection and with the keyboard layer selected, hit the Delete key.
Arrange the violin behind the girl nicely and start placing in the rest of the objects. Free transform all of them and rotate them until you have something similar mine below.
Let us proceed to work on the background. Open up the Tree and the Color Drops images. Resize the Color Drops layer and place it on top of the Tree. Change its Blend Mode to Hue.
Arrange the Tree behind all the central objects and reduce its Opacity to 20%.
Create a white circle just on top of the Tree layer. Reduce the Fill to 0 and then perform these settings in the Layer Styles panel.
Duplicate the circle and arrange both circles so that you end up with something looking like this.
Create another 4 new bigger circles using the same technique and arrange them in the back. We want these circles to be very subtle so reduce their opacity to about 10%.
Bring in the Lotus flower. Reduce its size, duplicate it twice and arrange them around the right circle. Also change their Blend Mode to Soft Light.
It is time for the pink Tank to enter the scene. Extract it from its background and delete the two rear wheels.
Go to Layer Styles and apply the following settings.
Repeat this procedure you used for the flowers. Reduce the size, duplicate it twice. But instead of changing its Blend Mode, just reduce the Opacity to 40%.
Press Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E to create a new layer from all the layers that are visible. Now with this new layer selected go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and apply the settings below.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and apply these settings. Change the Blend Mode of this layer to Soft Light.
Now all we need to do is just make this blur layer a bit bigger and erase its bottom part. We start by pressing Ctrl + T on your keyboard and change the size of the layer. Next get the Eraser tool and using a Soft Brush type, just erase the bottom half

We are ready for the final touches. Pick your Curves Adjustments Layer and get ready for some old fashion cross processing effect. Just use these settings and reduce the opacity of the final Curves layer to about 45%.

Create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and apply these settings.
In order to have more focus to the centre of the layout we will change the color of the Girl’s lips. So create a new layer, get a Soft Brush and start painting a bright red on top of her lips. Adjust the opacity of this layer to about 50%.
Create a new layer and pick a Rounded Soft Brush of a large size (around 200px). With black as your default color, start brushing around the edges of the canvas. Change the Opacity to about 60% and Blend Mode to Soft Light.
And you are done! Feel free to play with some more adjustment layers until you get the best result. Another thing you can do is to add another dimension to the background with an interesting pattern. I decided to test one found at Brusheezy. Hope you found this tutorial inspiring and see you again next time!

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84 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. Amy Mondragon says:

    I love the soft pink hues and vintage photographic effect. What a great collage!

  2. Davis says:

    this could be a good album cover

  3. Hellana says:

    brilliant work ! I love the idea of the violin/piano though it’s a detail in this great composition !

  4. rob sageme says:

    hey i like your tutorial but unfortunately most of the resources needed to finish it are unavailable

  5. vihor72 says:


  6. modernjianghu says:

    Thank u so much!very wonderful tut!

  7. CPO - Drupal says:

    That’s great, thanks.

  8. cj brosas says:

    eye loooovvveeit!

  9. cj brosas says:

    i loveeee eaaattttt! thanks!

  10. yuri says:

    nice tutorial!!!
    i’m korean
    your tutorial it’s very useful!!!xD

  11. ben smithson says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the tutorial.

  12. Jon says:

    Nice tutorial, a good inspiration for a later project. Thanks.

  13. asja says:

    where can i download the photoshop ? i tried the adobe cs4 but it says that the page has got too many redirects so it can’t open it aaaand i would really want to do some art :/

  14. S.Ting says:

    Thank You 😀

  15. Very nice Post! Really love it your post! thank you very much for your Information

  16. nothing says:

    reaslly good tutorial ..step by step.easy to understand

  17. Monica says:

    Very very good tutorial 🙂
    I have learnt so many techniques by doing this tutorial.
    A big THANKS for you :*

  18. CgBaran Tuts says:

    Great tutorial thanks

  19. georgiana says:

    Dear Naz
    The ctrl+I shortcut ( that is without the shift) will have that ” negative ” effect you are talking about so just make sure you are pressing all those 3 keys in the same time.
    Yours truly… 🙂

    • Raluca says:

      Georgiana, where are you from ? 🙂 (sounds for me like Romania?’couse I’m a romanian too).
      I was just wanna say to you congrats and THANK YOU!

  20. naz says:

    hey. i dont understand the violin part. when i press shift+ctrl+I, the layer becomes like a negative. why does that happen? please explain.

  21. Tu Tu says:

    Very simple but very artistic!

  22. Donar says:

    sky photo has been deleted!

  23. emil says:

    Very nice and and well explained. Thanks for showing

  24. jumbojet says:

    wow, nice tut! thnx

  25. Dzinepress says:

    awesome tips for make posters and may be something as per another graphic design too. thanks

  26. Bariski says:

    This one is really good buddy. Superb! ima try this out.

  27. Lori Buff says:

    Nice tutorial, lots of useful techniques covered here.
    Thanks for putting this together.

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