This is a 4 part series on painting landscapes in Photoshop.
Part 1 – Creating the brushes
I’ve never painted landscapes before. It was always something I wanted to tr, but just couldn’t get the hang of it. Painting fur and feathers have become easy for me over the years, but when it came to trees and leaves, I was clueless. It became even more of a challenge when I switched to digital painting. So I set out in search of inspiration and tutorials. But I came up against a block wall. Painting tutorials assumed you are using traditional paints on canvas and digital painting tutorials assumed you are painting cartoons or dragons. This was going to be a steep learning curve.
The first thing I had to learn was how to make the brushes. This was a matter of trial and error. More error than anything else. Photoshop is a powerful program and has a lot of settings just to make one brush. The trick is to make the settings act the way you want. This was a frustrating task. Not only do you have the ability to change how the brush performs, you can add two brushes, textures and color dynamics. Not to mention you have to actually make the shape of the brush and they don’t always act the way you thought they would.
Slowly I started narrowing it down and now have my own set of brushes for the different elements. I will more than likely make 1 or 2 new brushes for every painting I do.
This is a brush test. The single brush is on the left and the results when used are on the right. This one is now ready to use.
Here’s where all the magic happens. In the brush settings, there are a number of options and in each option, there are more options, and in those options there are still more options. The very thing that makes Photoshop so powerful is the very thing that makes it so complicated. But with a bit of play and experiment, you start to see the possibilities.
I’ll show you just a few examples of what you can do with just the one brush from above just by changing things like Shape Dynamics, Scattering, Texture, and Colors.
I’m not going to give you all the settings for each example. That’s just too in depth. I could write a book just on these, but I will explain some of the differences between each example.
When using these brushes, I can either tap the brush for one single “stamp” or drag it around for more “stamps”. It all depends on the look I need to achieve.
This is the brush with no settings at all. I dragged the brush to achieve this look. All the options have been turned off.
I’ve turned on the Scattering settings and chose the pen pressure. The softer the pressure on the tablet, the smaller the brush size. As the pressure is increased, the size of the brush is also increased. Great for creating perspective.
Next, I turned on the Texture option leaving the Scattering on. Using a texture already provided, Mode set to Height and depth at 9% A great brush for adding texture to rocks or pathways.
Adding the Dual Brush option really makes things interesting. All the above options have been left as they were. This time I chose a second brush and got this result. Dragged the brush at first, then scribbled it at the end.
Let’s play with some color. I chose two greens, a dark and a golden green color. I also turned off the Texture and Dual Brush options and turned on the Color Dynamics option. I upped the Hue, Saturation and Brightness jitter sliders just a bit. Each time the computer “stamps” the brush, it changes the colors between the two I chose. I dragged the brush for this example.
Just for the fun of it, I simply changed the colors to a bright yellow and bright pink to get this result
OK, let’s make something. I’ll use the same brush through out this entire demo. The only thing I’ll change is the size, color and maybe the scatter.
Painting a Tree
To start I turned off all the options except the scatter. I’ll start with a sky color background on its own layer. I used the gradient tool here and chose a dark blue to a light blue. On a new layer, I’ll add a hill varying the color for interest.
Add the tree trunk and some branches on a separate layer. This brush isn’t really the best tool for this, but make it smaller and more pencil like. Change the color and add some highlights.
On a new layer put in the darkest leaves. For those who paint on canvas, you know the steps, dark to light. It’s the same here. The difference is each layer is exactly that, a new layer. This allows you to change just one element
Again, on a new layer, add the middle tone leaves. Careful not to cover the dark layer completely.
Yup, new layer. Add the bright leaves. Keep in mind what direction the sun is shining.
This layer is for the highlights. Instead of just brushing on the leaves, use a more tap on style. I also adjusted the size and scatter for this step.
Add a layer above the hill layer and put the tree’s shadow. If you find the shadow too opaque change the opacity to about 75%
I wanted a bit more of the sky to show through the tree. The first thing is to merge all the tree layers, not the sky, hill or shadow layers. I then clicked the eraser tool and chose this exact same brush. I turned off all the brush options and simply tapped it here and there so the sky would show. I then added a few birds in the sky.
That’s it. This entire demo was done using just the one brush.
In part 2, I will show you a few more brushes I created and another demo on painting foliage.