For graphic designers, nature is often an excellent source of inspiration. Sometimes those things not created by man showcase more beauty and style than we would have imagined. In modern web and graphic design, the natural elements of trees, leaves, and grass are a recurring theme.
Fortunately, designers have unlimited potential for using Photoshop to create stunning artwork depicting nature. In this post, we'll take a look at inspirational website designs and photos, as well as some tutorials and free brushes that can help you to easily integrate these elements into your own work.
Splashy Leaf Wallpaper in Photoshop
Abduzeedo has an excellent tutorial for drawing a colorful and fun wallpaper of a leaf. The tutorial shows the process of creating the leaves in Photoshop, as well as creating some water drops and a nice background.
This tutorial uses an older version of Photoshop, but it shows a nice approach to creating beautiful blades of grass. The author shows how to create the blades of grass, add a shadow effect, duplicate layers, and lighten and darken areas using the burn tool. By changing the shape and size of the blades when creating duplicate layers, he's able to wind up with a more realistic look.
By starting with a basic leaf brush you can easily create images full of various-sized leaves of all different shades and colors. This tutorial will show you how to use a brush to quickly create an attractive background or wallpaper-type image of autumn leaves. Working with the brush will make the process quick and relatively easy.
Photoshoplovr will show you how to create a simple, attractive leaf logo. The tutorial starts with a simple preset shape that comes with Photoshop, and the end result is a web 2.0 style logo. By following this tutorial you can have a leaf for your logo in less than ten steps with Photoshop. Leaves are pretty common in logos right now, but if you mix it up and experiment with some of the effects used in the tutorial you can wind up with something a little bit different.
A Tree with Rich Leafage
Starting from scratch, you'll learn how to create the trunk of the tree, the outline of the tree, and of course the green leaves that cover the tree. The brush tool is key to this approach for creating the leafy green foliage. The author also user the eraser and some simple effects to create the final product. We also have a tutorial on a similar subject called Digitally Paint a Fantasy Tree Scene.
Designing "Interface Leaves" for Clan Templates
This tutorial shows web designers how to improve a basic website template by using a small leaf image created in Photoshop. You'll get a drastically-improved look that features a more artistic feel just by using a small image like the own shown in the tutorial. Drawn items like this one are pretty popular right now, so this is definitely plenty of opportunity for real-world use of this tutorial.
Create a Spectacular Grass Text Effect in Photoshop
Most Psdtuts+ readers have seen this tutorial by Collis from a few months ago, but this topic would be missing something without mentioning it. Collis shows how to make realistic letters look like cut out patches of grass. The work with the blades of grass can be a bit tedious, but the end result is spectacular and worth the effort.
Jaider Morais also uses a large background image of a tree and some grass, but with a different approach. Some leafy plants creep up the sides of the content area, which almost bleed the background into the content. Again, the sky is also a significant factor in the design, and there are even some birds thrown in for effect. As you move through other pages of the site, the background changes to just a header of grass and sky.
Modern Arboricultural Services
There are a number of modern websites using a similar approach as this one with the grass and sky as a header and the content of the site being shown with a brown, underground background. The design works well in this situation because the nature of the company and the services that it provides. With the help of some good brushes, creating the grassy image used in the header is achievable for Photoshop users.
Project Vino is a community vine site that features a wonderful illustration of the grassy rolling hills of a vineyard. The whole site is designed well, but the large illustration is certainly the focal point of the design, and the nice green hills go beautifully with the neutral colors used throughout the site. This is a bit of a different approach to some of the other sites showcased here that use these elements more in terms of a background for the design.
Il Frutteto features a cartoonish illustrated background of grass, trees, and the sky. It's a fun, colorful design that makes use of different shades of green, blue, and brown to set off the bright red apple in the center of the screen. The trees and clouds are all the same shapes, just different sizes. This of course makes it a quicker design to achieve in Photoshop, and one that could serve as inspiration for all kinds of design projects.
Up at Trees
This free stock photo uses an interesting angle to look up at the leaves of a tree with the sun shining through the leaves from the background of the photo. The sunlight helps to give the leaves a bright green glow contrasted by the dark sides of the photo where the trees and foliage are thick. Like some of the illustrations showcased above, the light blue sky completes the look.
Not all leafy inspiration has to be green! These autumn leaves hanging on to an almost-bare tree have beautiful deep orangish-red color. The bright leaves contrast the dark, dreary and out-of-focus fall background. Earlier we looked at a tutorial for creating similar autumn leaves in Photoshop, so a similar image to this photo could be created.
This DeviantArt photo of trees in Kauai doesn't focus on the leafy aspect of the tress, but rather an usual and intriguing set of above-ground roots. These trees are anything but plain brown poles holding some green leaves. The complex roots and trunk show all kinds of shadows and texture spruce up an otherwise ordinary subject of a tree.
Grass and Sun
We've seen a number of tutorials and websites using grass in the design, and we'll look at some grass brushes below, but this photo is a good source of inspiration that could be used when creating a Photoshop image of grass. Some blades are in focus and some are out, and the sun peeking through the grass gives the entire photo a different look. You can see a good example of the contrast and shadows that would be necessary to create a realistic grassy look with Photoshop.
Another photo of an autumn leaf, this one is inspiring for a few different reasons. The leaf contains different beautiful shades of red and the dark wood background gives it wonderful contrast. There's plenty of tutorials out there for creating wood backgrounds in Photoshop, so this photo could probably be replicated pretty well by some Psdtuts+ readers.
Of course Bittbox is well-known for their high-quality freebies, and this set of brushes is no exception. There are 10 brushes of 2500 pixels for your Photoshopping pleasure. These brushes were creating by scanning real leaves, and there is a nice variety with some different types of leaves to choose from.
This is a large set of 36 different grass brushes that will allow you to quickly and easily create all kinds of grassy images. The brushes can be used together to create a more varied image, or just use one that suits your needs. Just about any type of grass you could need is available in this set from Qbrushes.
Branches and Foliage Brushes
This set of 12 brushes is available at Brusheezy. It features a variety of brushes, including a few of bare trees and branches, which aren't as easy to find as the green grass and leaf brushes. There are also a few other plants and some grassy brushes as well. For a well-rounded collection of foliage brushes, this set is a nice addition.
Complete Tree Brush Pack
Also available at Brusheezy, this set is appropriately title the Complete Tree Brush Pack. The set includes 40 different brushes including several types of trees. These brushes are high-resolution as well.
Grass Brush Kit
This set of grass brushes is available at DeviantArt. There are 3 brushes for grass seeds, 3 brushes for grass tufts and 1 butterfly brush. Mix up the different grass brushes with some color variety and you'll get a nice looking grass image that's pretty easy to create.
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