Winter landscape in Photoshop

This lesson is for advanced users; and assumes (at least) experience with Layers, Layers-masks, Blending modes, Brushes and Brush Settings – even if I put all my efforts, I can’t explain the essence of these tools.

I will demonstrate the techniques that I use when working on my favorite effect – the “freeze” effect. We will work with digital staining, and I will use the tool Pen (Pen) and graphics tablet. I do not know if you will get a similar result if you use the mouse, but if you feel comfortable, try it.

Here is our source:

Materials for the lesson:


And here is what we should have:

The first thing we should think about is what result you want to achieve. Snow and ice glistening on the top? This implies the use of light – accordingly, we need a blue sky and clouds. This will be described below.

I usually use a 1000×1200 pixel size — that’s what looks best. However, it is rare to find a good photo that meets all your requirements, so I will first create the scene, adding the necessary items in the process. Thus, you can add lighting in the middle of work, when some work has already been done, and we will get an approximate picture.

So, first of all let’s work on the background, I added to the project photos of the landscape and sky, which I will use:

The layer with the sky overlaps the layer with the landscape, and a simple gradient mask blends them together. By this time I had already discolored both layers a little, using Image> Adjustment> Hue / Saturation (Image> Correction> Hue / Saturation), and also slightly corrected the color balance using Image> Adjustment> Color Balance (Image> Adjustment> Color Balance). I tried to create a holistic cold atmosphere.

We need to achieve integrity – so that these two layers look like one image. I note that some discoloration and adding more cold shades to the color balance are important steps to achieve the desired result.

Now that our background looks quite “cold”, let’s move on to working on the main object – I use our source code, which I showed at the very beginning. I place the source layer on top of other layers (I deliberately first make it transparent in order to find the best place for it and place it in the best way):

Now remove all unnecessary from the layer, using the main layer mask. You do not need to do this too carefully – only the basic form, because we will carry out more detailed work later:

The next step is to adjust the saturation, color balance and temperature of the layer with the pyramid as if it were part of our background. Let’s play with the settings – I used these:

For information, since I am dealing with a stone here, you can see a lot of brown at the bottom of the background, which means that even if I added cold shades here, I would have to add warm shades back before bleaching.

What we have? The pyramid still sticks out like a thumb — it still doesn’t fit into the background. All because the light falls wrong. Even if the shadows are in the right place, we need to do the following – to highlight those parts of the pyramid that are against the sky.

Take a soft brush, change the blending mode to Soft Light (Soft Light) and choose a very light blue color, the sample of which is taken from the background. In general, this is a very good thing – if you sample colors directly from your work, your work will look most realistic.

We expose opacity brushes 30%, and begin to paint over the left edge of the pyramid, as shown in the figure. I painted over the top – where the largest proportion of light falls.

It looks good, but not dramatic – and drama is what distinguishes your work. So, using the same brush with the same settings, just changing the blending mode to Color Dodge (Brightening Basics), paint over the same places (do not forget to focus on the upper part of the pyramid):

I understand – now the result looks as if I am very far from the topic of lighting in general, but still ahead. This is only the initial version – the base.

What I have achieved at the moment is simple, but it is vital for the final result. The combination of colors, the “frame” of lighting, the adjusted temperature of the color palette are all well done initial work, but the most important thing that you should have at the moment is the integrity of all layers. The work should look as if it is a single photograph, and not a collage glued together from several fragments.

So now create layers with snow and ice. For this you need a photo:

Cut the desired piece, transfer it to the project and adjust it with the help of the tool. Warp tool (Warp):

Using the methods of working with color balance and saturation, which I showed earlier, we “customize” the colors of the new layer with snow to the colors of the overall work. Also create Layer Mask (Layer mask) for this layer and paint all the contour. It is important, without losing a single original line on a layer with snow, to hold a brush on Layer Mask (layer mask) along the contour of each. To add depth, I darkened the sky a bit and added a shadow to our “cap” of snow, using a black brush with blending mode Multiply. Set the desired value Opacity.

When working with a mask, it is very important to understand and see the lines and “edges” of our “snowdrift”, it is important to work with flexibility, scrupulously drawing all the details. You can also apply to the mask Gaussian Blur (Gaussian Blur), then use the option Levels to adjust.

Despite the fact that I did a good job at lighting, I need to do something else. Using a brush with blending modes (as I showed earlier – Linear Dodge, Soft Light, Color Dodge, Multiply (Line Brightener, Soft Light, Brightening Base, Dimming)), again add “drama” to your work:

To be sure that the colors of the shadows and highlights that I added are the same as the source, I sampled the colors from the source. Practical advice – I, for example, use a tablet, and therefore in my case I set the button asAlt, so it is more convenient for me to sample.

And now we proceed to the “coloring.”

The main work is done, it remains to “tint” the details. I say without exaggeration – you have to work on the speed of work, and at the same time you can check how well you own brushes.

Hit F5 to bring up the brush settings window. As I said, I can’t cover in this lesson all the topics that we will have to somehow touch on at work – you will have to learn to work with brushes on other tutorials.

So let’s get started. Use a hard, scattered dotted brush to create a freezing effect – if you do not understand what I mean, it is something like patterns on the windows. Copy the mask of the pyramid layer – so the edges will not stand out and the effect will not be lost (you can also use a mask here, but I personally do not use it). While I was doing this, I noticed that I forgot to freeze the masonry around the pyramid. This is not a problem – freeze now, using the brush that we used earlier:

Now the “tricky” part begins – and there really is no other way to learn how to do it, except to practice a lot. The work is scrupulous – so zoom in on the image. And increase. Now select the standard soft brush. Reduce the brush size to two pixels, or even one … and start working on a new layer. Colors are sampled from the source, so that everything looks more realistic – I spoke about this above. Now gently begin to follow the contours of the ice lines at the top of the pyramid. If necessary, change the settings of the brush, and most importantly – do not forget that every element reflects the light and casts a shadow. So:

Honestly, this part implies a lot of work, and I would like to believe that you will take the time to practice this until it is easier for you. A little hint: I used the key Shift – by holding this key, you can get strictly vertical or horizontal lines. When working, zoom in and out and work until the result fully satisfies you. In the end, you get a great realistic picture.

At this stage, I work through all the layers. If I find any “cant”, I have to fix it at this stage of work.

Draw a shadow:

And the last step, we use Photo Filter (Photo Filter) on top of all layers to create a common color gamut of the photo, which will give us realism and hide all barely noticeable “seams” between different layers:

As you can see, I slightly moved the layer with the clouds so that the pyramid’s snow cap was not against the white background, which looks very bad – this is an example of the fact that you will have to correct some of the strokes. I liked the arrangement of the clouds at first, but now new circumstances have appeared, and I had to redo it.

It was possible, of course, to correct minor touches along the way, but as a result, circumstances may change again, and you will have to correct what you have already corrected. Therefore, make it a rule to engage in the final adjustment when the work gets the final look.

But if you are prepared in the right manner (in this case, you have picked up the correct tones, temperature, thought up lighting and shadows, etc.), you will have to work on correcting less. The devil is not always in the details, as the proverb says, trifles are part of the work in which you can make your image “cool.”

So we finished, of course, the result is not so amazing, but I hope that this lesson taught you a technique that you can use in your own ideas.

Good luck – and do not forget to practice!

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