Rowing in the moon light – Photo-manipulation using wacom tab


Very simple really. It took me a week just to get the line drawing done for a digital art that I’m working on at the moment. I still have to do the shading, colouring and I have not thought of a suitable background for it yet. I was stuck with a mental block. I needed a change of pace. And so, I played Batman Arkham City for a while.

Some time later, I thought for a change from digital art, I’ll work on some of my older photos. I was browsing through my older shots and found one which I thought is the worst thing which I could have ever shot with my Nikon L120. There was nothing in it. But then I thought I could whip-up some thing out of it using my Wacom tab. I tinkered with it a little bit and after about 30-40 minutes of coloring, I came up with this. Click on the image to open it on a dark background. It’ll look better.

Rowers in the night mahabalipuram beach irfan hussain thereddotman wordpress
Rowers in the night. Order a Limited Edition Print of this image.


Let me show you the original shot. This is unedited straight-from-the-camera version. And my Nikon L120 shoots only JPEGS, so there is no room for RAW adjustments either.

The original shot.
  • “Boy!!! You call yourself a photographer?!?”
  • “Poor shot”
  • “Utterly utterly disappointing”
  • “Oh god!!! My eyes!!!!”

If any of the above thoughts came to your mind(or any other foul thought that you can think of when you saw it), we are on the same page. I completely agree with you. I shot this about two months ago and never had opened it ever since then until just today. Since I was taking a break from my other digital art work, I was having the wacom tablet in my lap and that’s when I thought “there’s still some hope for this one”.


Converting a day light shot to look like night is a very challenging yet a very interesting process. It’s all about lighting. And like I have already said in my previous tutorials, it’s all about patience. But you should know that I just took about 30 mins to do this. If I can do it, hell, anyone can do it.

Since I wanted to create a night effect with moon light as the light source I kept these points in mind.

  1. Not everything is clearly visible under the moon light
  2. Colours cannot be as clearly visible as they seem in day light.
  3. Since there’s water, it will reflect moon light as well.
  4. Since it’s a back lit image, the illumination on the 3 men and the boat will be minimal. There will be more of shadows than Highlights.
Now that the concept is set, let’s see the tools I used.


  1. Adobe photoshop: I have CS5. But since I have used only the basic functionality of layers, I guess you should be able to pull this off in any other version.
  2. Wacom tab: Not exactly a necessity, but you will get better control through out your workflow and will better yield results if you use one of these. I have CTH670.
  3. Nik Silver Efex: My favourite tool of Nik software suite. For the black and white conversion.
  4. Moons stars sparkles brush set: You can download it from here.



Too much unwanted spaces. Right? Especially that top portion. Too much of bland solid colored sky there. I’m going to crop it out using the crop tool.

Select the crop tool from the tool bar on left. Click and drag on the image to make the section. Hit enter to crop the selection.


I mean that’s pretty obvious. Besides, colors are not that clearly visible in the night under moon light. And so I open the image in Nik Silver Efex.

Filter-> Nik Software-> Silver Efex

And make these changes to it.

Hit the “OK” button at the bottom right of the silver efex window and you should have your output image.


Seriously, who likes them. In this care though, I won’t get rid of them. I will just smudge ’em to give a painterly effect. Select the smudge tool from the tool bar on left, keep the strength to about 30-35% and smudge all over the sky. You will see that after applying the silver efex setting, you can now see the clouds and the smoke of the motor boat a little bit. Take care while smudging these areas. The movement of the brush should be in the flow of the clouds and the smoke.


Understanding light is very important when it comes to creating art. A good sense of lighting will help you create an illusion as realistic as possible but then again, you should remember that there’s no limit to creativity in digital art. Anything is possible. Since I want to make it look like a night shot I’m going to take the moon light as the light source and I’m going to place it on the top left corner of the image.

Add a new blank layer (hit ctrl+shift+n). I’m going to call it light source. Load the moon stars sparkles brush set. Select the moon brush and click on this new layer. To place the moon. I add it on a blank layer so that the image as such is not affected and I can easily manipulate the position of the moon in case I get any second thoughts about it’s positioning.


Now that we have the light source in place, it’s time to complete the illusion of night. This is a very crucial step and will define the realism of the illusion. Since the image is back lit and the light source is coming from the left side, the left side of all the three men on the boat should be bright. And the rest should all be dark. Same goes for the boat as well.

Keeping this visualization of light source in mind I’m going to shade the picture with black. Shading is best when done with a drawing tablet tab. Add a new blank layer below the moon layer, call it shadows. I will select a soft brush at 15% opacity. Now start shading the dark areas as indicated in the above image. When you are done shading the image should look like this.

Now to add the highlights on the men in the boat. Select a hard brush with white color and paint the highlights with these brush settings. I’m going to add highlights layer above the shadows layer and below the moon layer.

The effect will be best if you use a wacom tab or any other drawing tablet. You might not get exact effect if you are not using a tab. But It will be close enough.



So that’s it. Once you are done highlighting the subjects as per the light source, the manipulation is complete.

Rowers in the night mahabalipuram beach irfan hussain thereddotman wordpress
Rowers in the night. Order a Limited Edition Print of this image.

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