Create a Chinese fire dragon in Photoshop

Dragons are beautiful, mystical and legendary creatures that live in books, movies and our imaginations. In this lesson, we will test your creative skills and create a Chinese fire dragon. Let’s start!

Note that the lesson is designed for advanced Photoshop users who know how to work with adjustment layers, masks and layer styles.

In case you get confused, at the end of each step there will be a screenshot with the structure of the layers, which should be at a certain stage of the lesson.

Final result:

1. Create a background

Step 1

Create a new document that is 2000 pixels wide and 2631 pixels high. Add a new layer and fill it with a dark red color (# 1f0000).

Add a new layer and change its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap).

Using a large soft round brush (B) in black, we draw along the edges of the document to create a vignette effect. Then decrease Opacity (opacity) layer up to 70%.

Step 2

Add a new layer and change its blend mode to Overlay (Overlap).

The same brush, but white color, we spend in the center of the working canvas.

Step 3

Create ANOTHER layer in blend mode Overlay (Overlap) and draw a white spot at the bottom of the center of the document.

Step 4

Create the last layer in blend mode. Overlay (Overlap) and draw a more saturated spot at the bottom of the document.

As you can see, at the bottom of the document we created a bright light source. Group (Ctrl + G) all created layers and call the group “Background”.


2. Add a dragon

Step 1

Next we will add a dragon. You can choose another picture or draw your own.

Place the dragon in the center of the working canvas.

Double click on the dragon layer and apply the layer style Bevel Emboss (Embossed).

Add style GradientOverlay (Gradient overlay).

Add the last layer style OuterGlow (External glow).

Step 2

Next we will add glow effects.

Duplicate (Ctrl + J) the dragon layer and apply the layer style to the duplicate ColorOverlay (Overlay color). Use the red color (# ff0000). Set the layer blending mode to Screen (Lightening).

Activate the transformation (Ctrl + T) and select the mode Warp (Deformation). We deform the duplicate form as shown below.

Step 3

Duplicate the deformed dragon layer and apply a filter to the copy FilterBlurGaussianBlur (Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur). Settings depend on the size of your picture. Also, if necessary, remove excess glow. Here is the result I got:

Duplicate the dragon layer and apply a filter to the copy. GaussianBlur (Gaussian Blur) with a very large radius value.

Duplicate this copy to enhance the effect.

Step 4

Duplicate the original non-blurred dragon layer and place a copy above all the blurred layers.

Change the copy color to white with ImageAdjustmentHue/Saturation (Image – Correction – Hue / Saturation), set Lightness (Brightness) at +100. Set the blending mode of this layer to Overlay (Overlap).

Group all the layers with the dragon and call the group “Dragon”.


3. Create a shadow

Step 1

Now we draw a dramatic shadow.

Duplicate the dragon layer and change the color of the copy to black. Place a copy under the original layer and set the blending mode to Normal (Normal).

Using the transformation mode Warp (Deformation), increase the upper part of the dragon and narrow the bottom.

Step 2

Add GaussianBlur (Gaussian Blur) with a small radius value.

Duplicate the shadow layer 2-3 times to increase its saturation.

Step 3

Group all the shadow layers together and name the group “Shadow”. She must be a POD group “Dragon.”


4. Create a bag

Step 1

Next we add an object, from which the dragon flies. I will use a traditional Chinese New Year bag.

Cut out the bag and insert it at the base of the dragon.

Over the layer with the bag add a correction layer Brightness/Contrast (Brightness / Contrast) and transform it into a clipping mask (Ctrl + Alt + G). Use the following settings: Brightness (Brightness) -75, Contrast (Contrast) 57.

Step 2

Now add an adjustment layer. ColorBalance (Color balance) and also transform it into a clipping mask. Customize: Red (Red) 17 and Blue (Blue) -19.

Above we create a new layer and transform it into a clipping mask for the bag. Change layer blend mode to Overlay (Overlap).

Using a medium / small round soft brush (B) with a low level of pressure (10-15%), we paint highlights in white, and shadows in black.

Step 3

Create a new layer in the clipping mask and change the blending mode to Screen (Lightening).

Use the same red brush (# ff0000) to paint over the top and sides of the bag.

Repeat the action, only this time we use orange color (# ff601a). We carry out on the sharp edges of the bag, for example, folds.

Step 4

Now draw a shadow from the bag.

Above the layer with the bag, add a new one and set its blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication).

With a soft round brush of medium diameter, black paint over the central and lower areas of the bag, including the area under the bag.

Step 5

Create a new layer and place it under the layer with the bag and all the clipping masks. Set the blending mode to Overlay (Overlap).

Use the small / medium tassel in black under the bag to create the effect of a blurred horizontal line.

Step 6

Now we have to connect the dragon and the pouch.

Duplicate the original dragon layer and place it under the layers with the bag. Right click on the copy and select RasterizeLayerStyle (Rasterize the layer style).

Set the blending mode to Screen (Clarification) and move it down so that the tail overlaps a little with the bag.

Add a mask to the copy and use a large soft brush (B) in black to hide the upper and central part of the dragon’s copy. We leave, basically, only the tail.

Create a new layer in blend mode. Screen (Lightening). Add an orange glow coming out of the bag.


5. Eyes and glow

Step 1

Next we will add glow effects, mainly in the eye area.

Create a new layer above the dragon group.

We take a hard brush of white color and paint over the eye holes.

Step 2

Create a new layer, set the blending mode to Screen (Lightening) and choose any brush in the form of smoke. Or you can use the usual soft brush.

Draw the smoke flying out of the dragon’s eyes.

Duplicate the layer to increase the saturation of the effect and its opacity.

Step 3

Under the group “Bag” create a new layer in the blend mode Screen (Lightening).

With any brush with highlights or rays draw a glow under the bag and the eyes of the dragon. You can also do it manually using a regular round brush.


6. Smoke and sparks

Step 1

In this step we will add more effects.

We take a picture with smoke. Place it in the upper left part of the working canvas under the layers with highlights and bag and set the blending mode to Screen (Lightening).

Step 2

We create and transform two adjustment layers into clipping masks:

ColorBalance (Color balance): Red (Red) +100 and Blue (Blue) -74.

Brightness/Contrast (Brightness / Contrast): Brightness (Brightness) -25 and Contrast (Contrast) 100.

Find a suitable smoke or fog texture and set its blend mode to Screen (Lightening).

Step 3

Above the texture we create three adjustment layers and transform them into clipping masks:

Curves (Curves):

ColorBalance (Color balance): Red (Red) 100, Blue (Blue) -74.

Brightness/Contrast (Brightness / Contrast): Contrast (Contrast) 100

Add a mask and remove the sharp edges using a soft black brush (B).

In the lower right corner of the working canvas add more smoke. If necessary, edit it and stretch it.

Under the groups with the dragon and the bag create a new layer.

Step 4

Using any brush with particles, we draw sparks at the head and tail of the dragon.


7. Color correction

To complete the creation of the atmosphere, we will add six adjustment layers.

Starting from top to bottom:

ColorLookup (Color search): Horror Blue, opacity 50%

Brightness/Contrast (Brightness / Contrast): Brightness (Brightness) -16, Contrast (Contrast) 25

ColorLookup (Color Search): Crisp Warm, Opacity 21%

Color lookup (Color Search): (Device Link) Smokey, 50%

Color lookup (Color search): (Abstract) Gold-Crimson, 35%

Color lookup (Color Search): Horror Blue, 62%

We are done. The lesson is quite difficult for the average user, but you are well done if you did it!

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