Trying Some Creative Art
This week does not include a lot of actual painting, but it does contain a lot of free textures and brushes. I am not sure it matters as long as the creation is one of your own. Once again I followed a Julieanne Kost video called Photoshop Compositing Tools and Techniques from Adobe MAX 2020. It was an excellent fairly short video and a good refresher on how to make “fine art” digitally. Previously I did a Creating Composite Images Using the Julieanne Kost Workflow blog which gave details on her basic workflow. I am still learning her techniques and trying to keep my images as simplistic and to the point as she does. Her art does make me think about what I am trying to do with mine.
Julieanne says the “majority of her photos contain a primary subject, a secondary subject, and are set in a background or landscape that she creates.” All her items are there for a reason and she does not like to add in extraneous items that could be distracting. This is the goal I was trying to achieve with the above image.
I thought it might be helpful to include where my resources are from for this image and some of the basic techniques that were used. I hope this is something most people will find useful to do get a similar effect and quite easily.
- The tree was created first – just used the Filter -> Render -> Tree. No. 4 Maple Tree was selected (Light direction 36, Leaves Amount 1, Leaf Size 0, Branches Height 153, and Branches Thickness 58) which created a tree with no leaves. Lots of trees can be chosen here and the settings can be changed to get different effects easily. Really fun to do!
- Next a free texture was added from Shadowhouse Creations called Daguerreotype-8 to get the really odd foreground pattern. I have talked about his fabulous textures for years and he still has them all available for free. In a layer mask, the Gradient Tool was used to remove the texture from the sky area and leave it in the foreground only. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Linear Dodge blend mode.
- Next a sky was needed so back to Shadowhouse Creations to get one called GF-5 – a beautiful painterly texture. A duplicate of the sky was flipped horizontally with the Free Transform tool to get the the look needed. A layer mask on the top one was used to blend the two versions together.
- I felt like a hill would make a nice element behind the tree so one was painted in using a great free set of Chalky Brushes by Ioana Sopov and containing Chalk Noisy-2 texture brush, which gave the painted soft edge – it was set to 89% layer opacity. It still needed more texture so one called GF-3, which is an old post card in the same group of textures as the sky, was added to the image and clipped (ALT + click between the two layers to link the top layer to the bottom one) to the plain painted hill and set to Multiply blend mode. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to blend the hills into the scene, mainly desaturating and lightening it in the Master settings.
- Then to cover up the harsh horizon line, a brush from Jose Rodriguez called PTC Hair Brush set to 200 pixels and a darkish brown color (can download brush for free at his How to Blur Backgrounds in Photoshop video which was very good) was used to create the fence, and I thought it was an important element to further separate the tree and give it more of a sense of loneliness. Note this is a small Hairbrush but it worked great for this image so keep this in mind when using brushes – they are not always what they seem!
- The tree looked too harsh so it was duplicated and taken into Topaz (see sidebar of Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 where Impression was opened with just the Oil Pastel preset applied. (The older version of Topaz Impression would also have worked.) Now it looked a lot more painterly. The original tree layer was turned off permanently now. For the Painterly tree, a Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and set to 68% layer opacity to almost turn the tree black and white. This is something else to remember, single layers with just one element can often be brought into PS filters to give interesting element effects.
- On two New Layers, the first airbrush found in the Converted Legacy Tool Presets Airbrush folder (loaded just like the Legacy brushes – see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog on how to load brushes) – it was set to a regular brush (it is a Mixer in the Tool Presets so select any regular brush first, then on the Airbrush mixer press CTRL+ALT+ click to switch it to a regular brush – and now adjust the brush settings to 3 pixels Size with Build Up and Smoothing checked) was used to draw along the tree roots – first used a dark brown, then with the same brush a lighter color was drawn next to them to make the roots stand out. If you have not used these older Tool Preset brushes, check them out – there are some good ones in there.
- Added textures – used the Adobe Paper Texture Pro, which is still working in PS for me, but it is no longer available from Adobe. Not sure what has happened, but textures can be added manually quite easily. The first one was called Necropolis that was set to Difference at 55% opacity – this gives a bluish tone to the whole image. Then Villa Adriana set to Color Dodge – opacity 32% and Fill 30% – a black layer mask was added and just the root area and a little bit of the trunk was painted back to get the rather glowy edges for the roots. They are both from Flypaper Textures – I believe I got the textures a long time ago with the PS extension so if you have it or had it previously, you may have already have a nice set of textures.
- Next a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer was added using a dark gold color (#8e7329) at 50% opacity.
- Added a Curves Adjustment Layer – just a straight diagonal line to upper right with a starting point at lower left set to Input 0 and Output 40 – gave a little bit of a matte look to the most dark pixels in the image.
- Next added a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to give more of a dark blue as opposed to a dark black to the image – this technique was discussed in Julieanne’s video. A stop was added on the bottom of the gradient at Location 20 and a color swatch set to #292d33, a very dark blue. She continued adjusting the Saturation and Brightness amounts in the HSB settings of the swatch, but I did not need this. I liked this color that was being added. Only wanted it applied to the top area of the image, so in the layer mask a black to white gradient was created with the Gradient Tool to blend it in at the horizon.
- Added a New Layer and selected a brush I call “SJ Soft Br (MK) to blend orig. bkgds back into mask for animal pix” created from a Matt Kloskowski webinar. Basically the settings use a 30-pixel soft round brush with the Options Bar set to Opacity 41% and Flow to 26%. Matt uses this brush in a different way than how it was used in this image to soften the edges of the tree trunk so it blended into the background more, and soften some of the sharp color and edges of the smaller branches high up in the tree. A sampled color from the sky was used for this.
- A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added and just a subtle change was made to add some lightness into the Highlights (Yellow-Blue set to -3) and darkness to the Shadows (Yellow-Blue +4).
- A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the color in the overall image. The one used was called On1-Heat Wave LUTs-7 but there are so many to choose from that several were looked at before settling on this one – set to Normal at 19% layer opacity. I like to look at these last because LUTs tend to pull colors together really well.
- A Spotlight Effect was made with a New Layer set to Overlay blend mode at 87% opacity – using a white soft round brush to lighten up the middle of the sky where where the branches are. See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog for more on this.
- Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer which was applied to only the top of the image by using the Gradient Tool in the layer mask at 90% layer opacity.
As you can see, it was a pretty large endeavor to get this image. Even though the steps look straight-forward, it definitely was not. Several adjustment layers were added and removed and changes in opacity were made to them as an after-thought. I guess one of my main points is that if you look around there are lots of free resources that can be added into your composites. I wanted to share some of these with you since it is expensive to always be buying products that you may only use once or twice. Some brushes included are all pretty simple to make and several free ones are very nice and totally different from what Kyle Webster offers with PS. And as a second point, if you are like me, I am always trying to find something new and different to do in PS and to add some new dimension to an image. I think Julieanne has lots of good ideas and it did start me thinking. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd