Use color to create mood in Adobe Photoshop


Final result

Color is important for getting the right mood in all digital arts. Therefore, in today’s lesson I will show how to create three different moods for one picture, and also tell you about using Adobe Photoshop tools to move from one mood to another.

What is the mood?

If you close your eyes and imagine the sunset, what associations do you have in your head? The warmth of the sun instantly touches the face, and hot, fiery colors fill the sky. You can even feel the magical calmness and pleasure flowing from contemplating the beauty of the transition from day to night flowing through your body.

Simply put, this is the mood.

The mood in the painting is an opportunity to transfer emotions to the canvas, using colors, composition and lighting. And no matter whether it is intentional or not, the basis of the work is always the mood.

How can I change my mood?

First of all, let’s reveal the basics of color theory. Each color has a certain mood. And some may even cause several emotions at once.

Red and blue have their own distinct moods. What do you feel looking at these colors?

The bloody passion of red, for example, can convey both love and anger, and the calm of blue can also illustrate its polar opposite – strong sadness.

So are the same important aspects of mood?

  1. Composition
  2. Lighting
  3. Colour

But why is the color last? Well, you first need to draw a scene; Composition is the key to the emotionality of your masterpiece.

Since the color of the picture goes hand in hand with the lighting scheme, it is important to establish how time of day, light sources and even weather conditions affect the emotionality of the work. When everything is ready, you can start experimenting with different shades.


To demonstrate the power of different moods, I will take a simple beach landscape and draw it in three ways: at noon, at sunset and at night.

Create new document by size 800 x 700 px with permission 150 dpi. Using the tool Ellipse (Ellipse Tool), I will create a simple circle with Contour (Stroke) thick in 1 pt, then add New layer (New Layer) and set it up as Clipping mask (Clipping Mask) to the circle. Here I draw sand, crab and waves with Rigid Round Brush (Hard Round Brush).

The crab picture from Envato Market was the inspiration for the composition, and I filled in everything else with various details found on the Internet. Note that the sketch is very minimalistic. This will make it easy to go to different times of the day, where I can concentrate on distinct changes in the sky and on the surface of the water.

Now that the sketch is ready, let’s move on to drawing.

1. How to draw a sunny midday scene

Step 1

To simplify the process, the first drawing will be the basis for the rest. A simple lighting scheme will then help me easily draw evening and night if I use intelligently Adjustment layers (Adjustment Layers). As we draw the base, it is important to do everything on separate layers so that you can switch later.

Remove temporary Stroke (Stroke) from the circle, then click right click, to Rasterize layer (Rasterize Layer). Select it with Magic wand (Magic Wand Tool). Click right click and select Invert selection (Inverse Selection). Create New group (New Group), then, without removing the selection, add Layer mask (Layer Mask) for the group.

Place your sketch inside the group. Setting the picture in this way is the best way to organize layers.

Step 2

Create a new layer for each section of the drawing, make sure that all the main parts are separated for better organization. Name the layers by their contents, and then use Hard Round Brush (Hard Round Brush) to paint over the areas with the main color. “Mix” the draft layer by setting its blending mode to Soft light (Soft Light) and use dim light shades as the main color so that you can easily add light and shade later.

Step 3

For each site create New Layer – Clipping Mask (New Layers as Clipping Masks). This will allow you to draw in a restricted area. Set the layer blending mode for this step to Multiplication (Multiply) and start drawing a shadow. Since we have a bright sunny day, the light will fall from above, and the sun itself will not be visible on the horizon.

Use the reference from the Internet to understand the lighting scheme. Take the colors of a certain photo as a basis, making the drawing more realistic. Add texture for sand, stones and leaves with Square pastel brush (Square Pastel Brush) from the tool presets menu Brush (Brush presets).

Step 4

Continue to develop a lighting scheme. Add a New layers (New Layers) with blending mode Overlap (Overlay) by adding light to sand, water, leaves and sky.

With help Soft round brush (Soft Round Brush) draw light clouds in the sky and soft waves in the ocean. As for the sky, make free strokes, while maintaining the linearity of the clouds. And for the ocean, draw curving waves that break on the shore. You can switch to a tool at any time. Eraser (Eraser Tool) to soften the strokes.

Step 5

Continue to draw the details on separate clipping layers for each section. Switch to Toughround brush (Hard Round Brush) with 100%Stiffness (Hardness) to emphasize the edges and make the picture not so blurry.

In nature, light is reflected from a variety of objects, so be sure to add bright shiny reflections on the water and sand. This can be achieved by drawing long ripples on the sea and tiny dots on the beach.

Step 6

Finish defining the drawing. Add more bright light to the sky, showing that the sun can be hidden behind the clouds. Add a New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) Color search (Color Lookup) with the following settings, making the colors clearer and warmer.

This is the final drawing. Work has a very warm and happy mood, right?

2. How to draw a sunrise / sunset

Step 1

Let’s go to the sunset scene. As I mentioned earlier, we use the original picture to make it easier to go to a different mood and time of day. Since we need to drastically change the lighting scheme, Remove (Delete) several layers from the previous figure and return to the initial stage, where there are no most of the main sources of light.

To save time, use previous work layers to redraw the scene.

I needed to change the lighting. First add the primary colors. Do New layers (New Layers) clipping to each section and paint over areas on top of the bases using Gradient (Gradient Tool). Make the water lighter, the sand is richer, and the leaves are darker by simulating a silhouette.

Step 2

Start applying a color scheme for sunset. Install New layers (New Layers) like Clipping masks (Clipping Masks) for the sky and use the tool Gradient (Gradient Tool) by creating Linear gradients (Linear Gradients) orange and purple hues above water. This will help to keep such parts of the picture as clouds, because you can simply Show (Unhide) these layers by adding them to the drawing.

Step 3

To drastically change the color and lighting, and also to make the drawing more holistic, we need to experiment with Corrective layers (Adjustment Layers). Add a New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) Color search (Color Lookup) with the following settings over all others. Then create Layer mask (Layer Mask) and softly paint over the black areas, removing a warm shade from the sky and the beach.

Then add New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) Gradient map (Gradient Map) using sunset colors. Set the blending mode to Chromaticity (Color) and cut Opacity (Opacity) to thirty%.

Continue adjustments until you are ready to return to drawing. Here I added another layer Color search (Color Lookup) with these settings:

Let the corrective layers help you! Now I can move on to drawing, because the colors look much more harmonious.

Step 4

After all these corrections, you need to return to drawing in order to balance everything. Set the blending mode New layer (New Layer) on Overlap (Overlay), adding more heat to the sky and water, as well as drawing a bright sun on the horizon. Choose orange and white shades for the best brightness.

Sunset creates frozen silhouettes, so be sure to change the color of the ship. Draw shadows on the crab, as well as a distinct shadow behind it.

Step 5

Start painting water highlights. At this time of day, the mood is much calmer than during the sunny day that we painted earlier. Keep the water still by focusing on the reflection of the sun on a long, smooth ripple.

Step 6

Also as in the previous steps, use Hard Round Brush (Hard Round Brush) with 100% Stiffness (Hardness) in order to clean up the details of the picture. Now the crab looks very blurry, so be sure to add a clear stroke to it.

Paint even more highlights in the sand, water and sky. Draw shiny dots, keeping the style similar to the first one. When you’re done, the final result will look like this.

Can you believe that we started with sunny weather?

3. How to draw a night landscape

Step 1

Last but not least, we will have a night beach! Also, like last time, we can start painting using a sunny day as a base. This time we will save some of the lower sections of the picture, removing most of the layers for the sky.

Start with the original sunny beach and clear the sky so that we can turn it into a night landscape!

Step 2

Combine the layers of the sky. Then create New layer (New Layer) above it and set it as Clipping mask (Clipping Masks) to the sky. Use the tool Gradient (Gradient Tool) and add Linear gradient (Linear Gradient) dark blue. This will help create an empty “canvas” for our night landscape.

Step 3

To remove the remaining solar areas, we will need again Adjustment layers (Adjustment Layers). Start with two New adjustment layers (New Adjustment Layer) Color search (Color Lookup). They will immediately make the colors more suitable for a cold night mood.

Entrust Photoshop to change color and mood using the Find Color tool.

Add one more Correction layer (Adjustment Layer) Levels (Levels), adjusting the settings for RGB channel as shown below:

Step 4

Create New layer (New Layer) with blend mode Multiplication (Multiply). Draw shadows along the beach with Soft round brush (Soft Round Brush), leaving a free space in the middle, where the moon will be. Try again to depict the effect of the silhouette, create more drama by concentrating the shadows on the edges. You may also notice that I decided to paint the earth on the horizon, allowing the boat to stand out in contrast with the background.

Step 5

Create New layer (New Layer) with blend mode Overlap (Overlay), then draw a large bright white moon against a dark sky. Add more radiance around the moon and let it bounce off of the water, as this helps illuminate the landscape.

Step 6

As usual, switch to Hard Round Brush (Hard Round Brush) with 100% Stiffness (Hardness), making every detail clearer. Add tiny dots in the sky and shine from the shine of the moon in the sand and water. Draw a reflection of the moon on the surface of the water with a little wavy ripple.

Continue to improve the drawing. For extra contrast and a touch of tint, create New adjustment layer (New Adjustment Layer) Color search (Color Lookup) with the following settings.

And here is the final result!

Good luck!

You can magically navigate to different moods and color schemes of a single pattern with the help of Adjustment Layers and Blend Modes.

Experiments lead to excellent results, so learn how to move away from the usual linear drawing process and have fun with various tools and settings in Photoshop.

Studying the process of creating color drawings takes time, so if you have questions about the process, ask them in the comments.

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