Making a Christmas card with a Christmas tree in Photoshop

A wonderful holiday, the New Year, is approaching faster, followed by Christmas. Especially for the holiday season, I created a simple postcard in which the word XMAS (Christmas) is put together in the Christmas tree – the idea was to experiment with typography. After working on a couple of sketches and some small experiments with Illustrator, I switched to Photoshop to complete the composition used in this postcard.

So in this case, I’ll show you my creative process, from the very beginning to the very end.

Note: The author used paid materials. In the archive you will find an alternative version of the images to perform the lesson.

Step 1

When I thought about creating a Christmas card, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, and then I had the idea to make a little Christmas tree in the shape of the word XMAS (Christmas). I came up with this while jogging, and as soon as I returned home, I immediately sat down to create sketches in order to understand how it would look.

My artistic abilities leave much to be desired, but then I understood approximately how my idea will look. I started with a simple cone, then played with the word XMAS to see how the letters would look. In the end, I worked a little on the shadows, as you can see in the image below.

Before we go to the next step, I would like to emphasize the importance of creating sketches before going to the computer. It is not necessary to have amazing drawing skills, because sketches are needed to quickly capture the idea on paper, and the fastest and most convenient way to do this in the world is with a pencil and paper.

Translator’s Note: Note that drawing a shape can be done immediately in Photoshopand using the same tools (Feather and ellipse). After completing the figure drawing, you can proceed to Step 6.

Step 2. Illustrator

Then I photographed the sketches and imported them into Illustrator. There using a tool Pen (Feather) (P) I created the main lines of the tree. In the case of rounded pieces, the instrument came to my aid Ellipse (Ellipse) (L), after which I simply removed the extra segments. Approximately present the process will help you image below.

Another very important detail is the distance between the characters X M A S. Without this distance, it would be completely unreadable.

Step 3

After turning the sketch into a vector, I decided to play with colors and 3D effects, but I was not hooked on anything.

Step 4

I decided to try to add something else to the main element, creating some kind of composition. I did the first in Illustrator, and in fact, I just put the texture of old paper on top of the main and all other elements. In general, it was the original idea – to make something like a vintage postcard, but the result did not impress me.

Step 5

Since I was not happy with what happened in Illustrator, I decided it was time to resort to a proven savior – Photoshop. I just copied the main shape from Illustrator and placed it in Photoshop.

Step 6

To get my intended effect, I imported a photo of a Christmas wreath from Shutterstock.

Step 7

As soon as I got a wreath with no background, I duplicated it several times so that the wreaths completely covered the figure.

Step 8

Here I grouped all the wreaths in one folder, and then selected the figure of the Christmas tree.

Step 9

Then I applied the mask to the wreath folder, and they became visible only in the area of ​​the figure. But, as you can see in the image below, the result was not quite realistic. The edges are too clear and perfect, but it’s very easy to fix.

Step 10. Creating a Brush

Select several areas of the Christmas wreath and copy them, then duplicate and rotate until you have a single object with edges and needles. Merge layers into one new layer, then click Image> Adjustments> Desaturate (Image> Correction> Discolor). Now that you have a grayscale object, click Image> Adjustment> Levels (Image> Correction> Levels). Increase the input values ​​of black so that the picture becomes dark, and also increase the input data of white to enhance the contrast.

When you get the object in beautiful black and white, select the square area with the tool. Rectangle marquee selection (Rectangular area) (M) while holding down the SHIFT key. Then click Edit> Define Brush Preset (Edit> Define Brush).

Step 11

Using the brush created in the previous step, I began to paint on the edges of the mask with a white brush to make them look more realistic. After that, I duplicated the group and merged all the layers into one, so that I had the opportunity to play with different styles of the layer.

Step 12

Being on the resulting layer click Layer> Layer Style> Drop Shadow (Layers> Layer Style> Shadow). Select blend mode Multiply (Multiplication), Opacity (opacity) 88%, Angle (angle) 90 degrees. Distance (Offset) – 14 pixels, Spread (Span) – 0%, and Size (Size) – 32 pixels.

Step 13

After that I applied the layer style Inner shadow (Inner Shadow) to add depth and create something like a 3D effect. I selected the blend mode Soft light (soft light), Opacity (opacity) 100%, Angle (angle) -87 degrees, Distance (Offset) 24 pixels, Choke (0%), Size (Size) 21 pixels.

Step 14

And last I applied the layer style InnerGlow (Internal glow). Blend mode Overlay (Overlap), the color is light gray, the source is at the edges, the size is 68 pixels.

Note: on the screenshot: opacity 59%, whipping 0%, fluctuation 17%, range 100%

Step 15

This is what happened after applying all these layer styles. Already it looks much better, but I wanted to add banal Christmas tree toys :)

Step 16

First of all, before adding jewelry, I lowered saturation.

Step 17

Here I added red Christmas balls. I took them from a photo from Shutterstock.

As you can see, I used the same ball several times, however, they are all located at a different angle. Nevertheless, they looked artificial – it seemed that they were simply put on a wreath.

Step 18

To fix the problem with the balls, and make them fit into the big picture, I duplicated the tree and deleted the layer styles. I moved a copy of the layer forward and pressed Layer> Layer Mask> Hide all (Layer> Mask Layer> Hide All). Then, using the brush I created in the tenth step, I began to paint on the layer mask in black, thereby hiding some parts of the balls.

Step 19

Here I added simple lighting effects – garlands have traditionally been a must-have decoration in my family, and in large quantities. I used a photo of a flash of light, simply duplicating it several times. As with Christmas balls, I changed the angle and size of some flashes.

Step 20

For each light, I applied different hue and saturation values ​​to create red, green, blue, and yellow lights.

Step 21

Select all the layers and duplicate them, after the copy merge into one layer, and then click Filter> Blur> Gaussian blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur). The radius is 15 pixels. After that, duplicate the layer once.

Step 22

Change the opacity of both blurred layers to 50%, but the blending modes should be different. At the top layer overlay mode Screen (Screen), and the one below it Overlay (Overlap).


Finally, I wanted to add the Abduzeedo logo. The font to which the greeting is written is Helvetica Neue Ultra Light. I also added the texture of old paper on top of everything with blending mode Multiply (Multiplication) and 20% opacity.

In general, the purpose of this lesson was to show you how from a simple idea I got to the final result. I hope that this will help you in future projects and motivates you to create sketches instead of immediately rushing to portray the idea using a computer.

Author: Fabio Sasso

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