Dare to dream amazing scenes with help from Paul at Pixel Criminals.


Fantasy scenes are limited only by your imagination. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create amazing fantasy art using old photographs you never thought could be used, and learn how to use vibrant colour for that rich fantasy feel.

This tutorial will also polish your skills with blending modes, brushes, shadows, Photoshop effects and clipping masks to create a vibrant and extremely upbeat scene. This tutorial is all about fun – feel free to adapt it, adding your own elements.

Before you start this tutorial go to tinyurl.com/bwy2b9 to download and install the free cloud brushes created by javierzhx. The puddle image is by Beverley Bridge, who has kindly given her permission for us to use it. You can find the original picture at tinyurl.com/cdvgqw.


01. In Photoshop, open cobblepuddle. jpg from the cover disc, and rename the background layer ‘Backpuddle’. We then need to exaggerate the colour: go Select > Color Range, enter a fuzziness value of around 98 and select the brightest green colour in the grass. The grass will be highlighted but so will some parts of the cobbles. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy your selection then paste it (Cmd/Ctrl + V) in a new layer above. Name this layer ‘Grass’.


02. With the ‘Grass’ layer selected, click Image > Adjustments > Curves, make the output 74 and the input 91. Now select your ‘Backpuddle’ layer, right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Duplicate Layer; rename this as ‘Back puddle highlights’. Set this layer’s blending mode to Overlay to give some contrast. Holding Cmd/Ctrl, select all your layers, then Cmd/Ctrl + E to merge the layers together. Now rename this single layer ‘Background’.


03. Press Cmd/Ctrl + T to enter the Transform mode and at the top of the screen, click the button to switch between Free Transform and Warp modes, then warp the top of the image so that it looks like hills. Create a new layer underneath the ‘Background’ layer and call it ‘Sky’. Paint-bucket the layer white (Shift + F5) and then doubleclick the layer to open the Layer Styles menu. Give the layer a top-to-bottom gradient, with the top blue of #2870af and a bottom blue of #b3def8.


04. Select the Magic Wand tool and set the tolerance to 40, then select the puddle from the ‘Background’ layer. You’ll notice that you’ll only select a small section, so hold down the Shift key and continue clicking the rest of the blue of the puddle. Copy and paste the selection into a new layer called ‘Puddle’. Double-click the layer to open the Layer Style dialog box and give it a top-tobottom gradient of #addce9 to #184f6c.


05. Create a layer under ‘Puddle’ and merge this with the ‘Puddle’ layer by selecting both and pressing Cmd/Ctrl + E. Change the ‘Puddle’ layer’s blending mode to Saturation. Using the Eraser tool set to a soft, rounded brush at around 100 pixels, delete any blue from the ‘Puddle’ layer that runs over the cobbles or looks a little pixellated.


06. Create a new layer called ‘Puddlelight’, now with this layer selected, Cmd/Ctrl + click the picture preview of the ‘Puddle’ layer. Select the Paintbrush and paint some yellowy oranges and peach colours at the top of the puddle and some emerald blue at the bottom. Deselect your selection (Cmd/Ctrl + D) and drop the opacity to 57%.


07. In the Shape tool, select the ellipse. Create a yellow sun in the layer underneath ‘Background’ layer, and call the new shape layer ‘Sun’. Double-click this layer to open the Layer Style dialog and select ‘Outer Glow’, then enter these settings: Blend Mode – Normal (change the colour to yellow); Spread – 15%; Size – 250 pixels. Open the file grasshills.psd from the cover CD and drag the grass layer in. Place it above the ‘Sun’ layer and name it ‘Grass’.


08. With this new layer selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation and enter these settings: Hue = -2; Saturation = 31; Lightness = -7. Create a new layer called ‘Clouds’ above the ‘Sun’ layer. Select the Brush tool and the cloud brushes you downloaded at the beginning, and create some clouds and haze around the sun in white and peachy reds. Create a new layer behind the sun called ‘Sunhaze’ and use a soft, rounded brush in peach with a diameter of 1,400 pixels to paint a blob behind the sun.


09. Select the ‘Sunhaze’ and ‘Sun’ layers, then right-click (Ctrl + click) and select Duplicate Layers. Merge the two layers and name it ‘Grassreflect’. Select Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical and drag the ‘Grassreflect’ layer above the ‘Grass’ layer. Right-click (Ctrl + click) the ‘Glassreflect’ layer and select Create Clipping Mask. Change the blending mode to Hue and drag the layer to a good position on the grass to show the sun’s reflection.


10. With the soft, rounded brush, make various white blobs on a new layer called ‘Stars’ above the ‘Sky’ layer. Duplicate the ‘Stars’ layer and open the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl + T). Holding down Shift, shrink the duplicated ‘Stars copy’ layer down and place it over the ‘Sun’. Duplicate the ‘Stars copy’ layer and shrink it down even more and put it in the puddle to function as a reflection.


11. Open trees.psd on the cover CD to take a look at different trees I cut out from various old photos. Drag some onto the scene or make some of your own. To give the trees a shadow, duplicate the layer of a particular tree and flip it vertically (Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical). Position it under the tree and hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to rotate it at an angle. Then select Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation and set the lightness to -100. Now that it’s black, take the rounded Eraser tool and delete the tips and also fade the opacity. For trees further away or in a bunch, create a new layer under the tree and use the rounded paintbrush to paint some dark colour underneath. Repeat until you are happy with the trees in your scene.


12. You’ll need to add some light from the sun to the trees: select the tree you want to do this to, and create a new layer above it, naming it ‘Treelight’. Select your paintbrush and paint some yellow over the tree as sun reflections. Right-click (Ctrl + click) the layer ‘Treelight’ and select Create Clipping Mask, then change the blending mode Pin-Light’ and lower the opacity to about 80%. Do this to all trees that you feel need light and shade. Also select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to change the trees’ colour to match the setting.


13. Open fence.psd on the CD and drag it into your scene. This is a photo I took. Apply the shadow and light areas using the same effect you used on the trees in the previous steps.


14. Open flowers.psd on the CD: this is a bunch of flowers, insects, shadows and sparks of light. Again, these are from old pictures. Create shadows for the flowers in the same way you did for the fence and trees; create drop shadows in the Layer Styles dialog. To make water reflections, duplicate the flowers and transform and rotate them to reflect in the water using Cmd/Ctrl + T. Then use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to create a ripple feel. Also use Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to change the colour of the flowers or give them a higher saturation. To give the leaves at the top-mid left a windy look, just duplicate the leaf layer and use the Filter > Stylize > Wind effect until it has warped and put the layer behind the leaves. Drop the opacity if need be.


15. Open raysoflight.psd on the cover CD and drag them over into your scene. These were created using a brush or shape, then modified using Outer Glow in the Layer Styles palette. Put them anywhere in the scene to help create that fantasy feel. Select the layer ‘Background’ and open the file field.psd on the cover CD. This is a picture I took of a field and used a soft brush to delete certain sections randomly. Drag this image into your scene on a layer above ‘Background’. Rename this new layer ‘Cobblehighlights’ and change the blending mode to Soft Light.


16. Open the file sky.psd on the cover CD. This is a sky from a picture I took. Increase its saturation and use the Eraser in a rounded brush to delete random sections. Then use the cloud brushes downloaded to add some more white clouds. Drag sky.psd into the layer above ‘Sky’ and name the layer ‘Skyclouds’ and position it appropriately.


17. Open the file on the CD titled burstlight.psd and drag it into your scene behind the ‘Sun’ layer. Title your new layer ‘Sunlight’ and position it behind the sun. Open the animalinsect.psd file on the CD and position them into your scene. These images were cut out again from old images, feel free to try your own. If you place anything over the water it needs to reflect in the water. Select the layer – in this case the ‘Bird’ layer and duplicate it and call this new layer ‘Birdreflect’. Then go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical and position this upside bird underneath the original bird. Cmd/Ctrl + T the reflection layer and while holding shift shrink it down, rotate it a little and finally change the opacity to 36%.


18. Finally, zoom into the image and feel free to change any of the flower colours or the green grass by using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to suit the overall image. Clean up the puddle edges with the Eraser tool. Add shadows anywhere you feel it is necessary or add more flowers and animals. It’s totally up to you how far you want to go with this scene.

Tip

It’s essential to pay close attention to the light sources at all times. It helps to make the scene more realistic.

Who: Warsaw-based web and graphic artist Paul Cowley (aka Pixel Criminals) specializes mainly in design for the web, but also designs for print and other mediums. His style is very colourful and lively, using digital surrealism and digital matte painting. Paul studied at the Worcester College of Art and Design, and The London College of Communication.
Contact: pixelcriminals.com
Software: Adobe Photoshop CS4
Time to complete: 3-5 hours
On the CD: All the files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.