Catalog > Free Tutorials > Create a Stranger Things Image & Cinemagraph: Shadow Monster
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Create a Stranger Things Image & Cinemagraph: Shadow Monster

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Today, we’re venturing into the Upside Down to bring a giant shadow monster to life. We’ll show you step-by-step how to create the environment and the creature. Then we’ll animate them into a cinemagraph.

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Get Started Here: Download the Sample Image


We’re creating this image from scratch, using only stock images for some environmental elements and then we’ll be drawing in the monster and some additional structures. This image is all about creating depth, so we’re starting with our stormy sky background and then we’ll be slowly working our way to the foreground.

Quick Tip: When creating an image with a lot of depth, it’s generally a good idea to start with the elements that are further away and the work your way up to the foreground elements.

We also recommend placing a Black & White adjustment layer on the top of your layer stack before starting. This will help you focus more on highlights, shadows, and composition as you piece your image together. You can disable this or remove it at anytime, and we’ll eventually want it off once we start the coloring process.

Layer Blending Modes are going to be a huge asset as we continually add new layers to build the composite. For example, to create the sky, we brought in the image of our stormy sky, Duplicated that layer by hitting CTRL or CMD + J and then changed the Blending Mode of the new layer to Multiply. Use our FREE custom Cloud Brush to blend your cloud layers and add more variety.

Tools & Techniques

There are a variety of tools and techniques used to Mask objects in Photoshop and we’ll be using a ton of them throughout this tutorial. We’ll use everything from the Magic Wand Tool (W), to the Lasso Tool (L), to Channels, to Selective Color to make our masks. We’ll go over what masking techniques are best for specific situations.

We’ll be drawing in all of the elements that aren’t part of a stock photo. In this case, the light posts and the monster were created by hand. Using the Brush Tool (B), along with the same Cloud Brush that we used earlier, simply paint in shapes for each of the monster’s limbs. Since we’re working primarily in silhouette, it’s surprisingly easy to get something that looks like it’s emerging from the clouds. By sampling (ALT or OPTN) colors from the clouds, you can paint additional clouds in front of the monster which will help incorporate it into the environment. We recommend a flow of about 1% since we want this effect to be relatively subtle.

Additional Elements

For the additional buildings, light posts, and power lines, you can use a combination of the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), Polygonal Lasso Tool (L), and Pen Tool (P) to draw in more foreground elements. Again, since we’re working with silhouettes, this process is incredibly easy and effective.

We wanted to make this image more dynamic and thought it would be perfect for making into a simple cinemagraph. You can animate images in Photoshop by using the Video Timeline. By adding Key Frames for opacity adjustments to the lightning layers and street light layers, you can create the illusion of lightning flashes and flickering lights. If you’ve never made a cinemagraph before this is a great place to start! We also added a bit of opacity change to the monster to create the appearance of a little more movement.

Alright, ya demogorgons, that’s all we’ve got this week. We wanted to keep this image relatively simple so that once you understand the techniques, you can play around to create a monster image and animation that’s all your own. So have fun and be creative!


  1. Rated 3 out of 5

    Would love to revisit the “Stranger Things” world. This lesson did go kind of fast, maybe a different setting in that theme.

  2. Rated 2 out of 5

    Great content that was glossed over way too quickly. As an intermediate Photoshop user, everything went by way too fast. I had to search for other tutorials for creating the video of lightning flashes.

  3. Rated 2 out of 5

    This was a terrible tutorial. It didn’t really teach much and was really fast.

  4. Rated 4 out of 5


  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    The tutorial is just amazing! You did something really cool just from a scratch as you said.. But you are going so damn fast, I know it’s medium level tutorial but.. slow it down pleeeease! 🙂

  6. Rated 5 out of 5


  7. Rated 4 out of 5

    Too fast for me( Had to play / stop / repeat few times. But the result is very cool!

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    Found really fast and like the old format much easier to follow, good content.

  9. Rated 2 out of 5

    I downloaded the brush but it does not act like it does for you. What do i do?

  10. Rated 5 out of 5

    Sweet Jesus this was fast! Great tutorial but Aaron sounded really sped up – like the whole tutorial was slightly fast forwarded to condense the time – not real cool. Please slow things down so that we can actually PHLEARN the techniques! Thanks!

  11. Rated 5 out of 5

    Whoops! Nevermind, had to watch a little more. My bad 🙂

  12. Rated 5 out of 5

    Can you go over how you masked out the lightning so quickly? Is there another tutorial on masking?

  13. Rated 5 out of 5

    Aaron!!!! Holy crap, how many cups of coffee did you drink bro! I love the tutorial it was awesome. However I feel those unfamiliar or not as experienced with Photoshop might not be able to follow at such speed.

  14. Rated 5 out of 5

    Bloody shit. Very disapointing. Stick to the old format, mate!

  15. Rated 2 out of 5

    This isn’t funny at all. I was so happy to see another tutorial about cinemagraphs and I couldn’t understand anything. :\ Hope you’ll get to the old style. Thank you!

  16. Rated 5 out of 5

    I’m new please slow down.

  17. Rated 1 out of 5

    I am not impressed with the new format. Too fast. Was the goal to teach? If so, not accomplished.

  18. Rated 5 out of 5

    I agree with most of the rest of the reviews, I love the content, but it was way, way too fast.

  19. Rated 3 out of 5

    Like the tutorial but it is much too fast, please slow down. There is nothing wrong with the speed of the “old” format.

  20. Rated 1 out of 5

    I really felt like we were running against the clock to do this. To be honest I wont even waste my time getting frustrated trying to do the thing, I really dislike this rushed tutorial.

  21. Rated 1 out of 5

    I honestly cant do nothing with this, I hate this format, I dont have the skill level just to figure out all that on my own. Im deeply disappointed.

  22. Rated 1 out of 5

    Whether or not you give a sh*t, and for what it’s worth, my advice is “Don’t change a winning team” or “If it ‘aint broke don’t fix it” or any other homespun philosophy that can be deemed to be relevant.

  23. Rated 5 out of 5

    Is this the whole thing. Will this be a pro tut one day – go into detail as you did with other tutorials (few hours in length), or will this always be a 10-15 tutorial? Prefer the old method…..

  24. Rated 5 out of 5

    I don’t like the new format!!!!!

  25. Rated 5 out of 5

    While my head is still spinning, that video was very informative. I’ve been posting an image every day on Instagram, and I’m dying to upload a cinemagraph. Perhaps I’ll start off with something a little more simple. Regardless, you guys do a bang-up job, and I’ve been watching you for years. p.s. The cursing seems out of character….but I’m old.

  26. Rated 5 out of 5

    I love the quick and clear style.

  27. Rated 5 out of 5

    I like all your tutorials. However I hope this format is a one off. It’s much too Fast why. It’s not working. People have different skill levels some will find it very hard to follow. You have always been very professional don’t change the old style of format. Sorry to be so negative