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How to Create an Imaginative, Magical Painted Scene

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In this tutorial, we will be using several basic tools and stock images to create a fantasy artwork where everything seems to come alive from what is being painted on an old piece of paper. Let's get working!

Editorial Note: this tutorial is influenced by the work Afterlife by Maciej Mizer.

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the image we'll be creating. 

Preparation

Before you start take a look at the images we'll be using: Paper Texture from Bashcorpo, Sky from Neoikeia, Paint Brushes from Nyssi, Tree from WolfC Stock, Stroke Brush Set from FlightOfGrey, Toucan from sxc, Airplane from sxc, and Hand holding brush from sxc.

Step 1

Create a document with size 827px by 1169px. Download the Paper Texture from Bashcorpo and resize it to fit into the document.

Step 2

Then we will need an image of a cloudy sky. I found a pretty one sky image by Neoikeia. Resize the sky image and place it at the center of the document. Use Lasso Tool to draw an irregular selection as shown.

Go to Select > Modify > Feather. Set the Feather Radius to 30px. Follow by Select > Inverse then press Delete. Duplicate twice for this sky image as we will be using them later. Rename the sky layers (from bottom up) as "Sky 1," "Sky 2" and "Sky 3" respectively. Hide "Sky 2" and "Sky 3" for now.

Step 3

Select the "Sky 1" layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then follow by Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Check on Colorize. Set the Hue to 30, Saturation to 20 and Lightness to 30. Go to Filter > Brush Strokes > Crosshatch. Set the Stroke Length to 50, Sharpness to 20 and Strength to 1. Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Linear Burn.

Step 4

Unhide the "Sky 3" layer. Go to Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges. Then follow by Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Multiply.

Step 5

Unhide the "Sky 2" layer. Create a Layer Mask on the "Sky 2" layer. Fill the mask with black. Download the Paint Brushes from Nyssi. Set the foreground color to white. Using the brushes downloaded, paint the layer mask to reveal part of the sky image. Then go to Filter > Paint Daubs. Set the Brush Size to 5, Sharpness to 7 and Brush Type to Simple.

Step 6

Let's proceed on to the tree. Download the tree image made by WolfC Stock. Extract the tree away from its background using the Extract Tool (Click here for other methods of extraction). Position it as shown. Go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. Set the Radius to 3 and Threshold to 10.

Step 7

Duplicate the tree image three times, and rename the four layers (from bottom up) as "Painted Tree," "Blurred Tree," "Inverted Tree," and "Outline Tree." We will get on to them one by one now. Select the "Inverted Tree" layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert.

Step 8

Set the Blend Mode of the "Inverted Tree" layer to Color Dodge. Using the Brush Tool (set the color to black, size to 200, and Opacity to 40%), paint over the inverted tree and you will add the highlight.

Select the "Outline Tree" layer, go to Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges, then Image > Adjustments > Desaturate ,and follow by Image > Adjustments > Invert. Set the Blend Mode of the "Outline Tree" layer to Multiply.

Step 9

Now hide the "Blurred Tree," "Inverted Tree," and "Outline Tree" layers. Select the "Painted Tree" layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then Filter > Brush Strokes > Cross Hatch. Set the Stroke Length to 20, Sharpness to 20, and Strength to 1. Follow by Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, and Check on Colorize. Set the Hue to 30, Saturation to 20 and Lightness to 30.

Step 10

Unhide all the tree layers and create a group folder. Place the "Outline Tree," "Inverted Tree," and "Blurred Tree" layers into the folder. Select the folder and create a Layer Mask. Fill the layer mask with black. Using the paint brushes downloaded earlier, paint the layer mask to reveal part of the tree image.

Step 11

Create a new layer and name it as "Tree Stroke." Download the Stroke Brush Set from FlightOfGrey. Select the last brush of the set and paint it with #22130D at the end of the tree trunk.

Step 12

Create a new layer behind the tree layers and name it "Tree Splatter." Place several splattered green paints around the trunk area.

Step 13

Download several stock images from sxc.hu. For this tutorial, I have hot air balloon 1, hot air balloon 2, plane, crane, and seagulls. Place them around the left side of the document.

Go to Select > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then Filter > Brush Strokes > Cross Hatch. Set the Stroke Length to 20, Sharpness to 20 and Strength to 1. Follow by Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, and Check on Colorize. Set the Hue to 30, Saturation to 20, and Lightness to 30. Set the Blend Mode of these layers to Linear Burn.

Step 14

Extract another hot air balloon and place it above all the other layers. Right-click on the hot air balloon layer and choose Blending Option. Check on Drop Shadow. Set the Blend Mode to Multiply, Color to black, Opacity to 20%, Angle to 90, Distance to 80, Spread to 0, Size to 5 and leave the rest as default.

Step 15

Repeat Step 14 for the crane.

Step 16

Download a Toucan from sxc.hu. Extract the toucan out from its background and position it as shown.

Step 17

Using one of the paint brushes downloaded earlier, place black splattered paint at the bottom of the toucan.

Step 18

Create a Layer Mask on the "Toucan" layer, use the Brush Tool with a black color to reveal some of the leaves behind.

Step 19

Download an airplane from sxc.hu. Extract the plane from its background and position it the way shown below.

Step 20

Duplicate the "Plane" layer. Select the "bottom plane" layer and go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 90 and Distance to 20. Move the blurred plane slightly to its left.

Step 21

Create a new layer and name it "Line." Using the Pen Tool, draw a path as shown below.

Step 22

Select the Brush Tool, set the size to 3px and color to #C83926. Right-click on the path you have drawn earlier, and choose Stroke Path. Check on Simulate Pressure and Type to Brush.

Step 23

Repeat Step 22 for a few more lines with different colors.

Step 24

Duplicate the original "Plane" layer. Select the duplicated plane and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Set the Lightness to 0, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and set the radius to 10px. Follow by Edit > Free Transform. Resize the plane shadow and move it under the original plane. Set the Opacity of this layer to 40%.

Step 25

Repeat Steps 19 to 24 for a colorful kite at the right side of the tree.

Step 26

Download an image of a hand holding brush from sxc.hu. Extract the hand and brush from their background and position it the way shown in the diagram.

Step 27

Duplicate the "Hand" layer. Select the duplicated hand and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Set the Lightness to 0, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 10px. Now go to Edit > Free Transform. Rotate the shadow slightly so the two tips of the brushes meet.

Step 28

Create a new layer above the brush. Place a small drop of paint at the tip of the brush with color #251A10. Right-click on this layer and choose Blending Options. Check on Bevel and Emboss. Set the Depth to 1, Size to 5, Angle to 165, Highlight Opacity to 30, and leave the rest as default.

Step 29

Create a new layer above the plane. Using the Lasso Tool, draw an irregular selection around the plane.

Step 30

With the selection, go to Select > Modify > Feather. Set the Feather Radius to 30px. Then go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Set the Blend Mode of this layer to Hard Light.

Step 31

Create one last new layer. Select the Brush Tool, pick the default Star 33 pixels brush and open up the Brush Palette. In the palette, check on Shape Dynamics. Set the Size Jitter to 100 and Minimum Diameter to 0

Conclusion

The final image is below. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I look forward to seeing your results!

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