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Create a Lakeside Scene From Scratch in Photoshop

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Photoshop is a great tool for creating realistic photo manipulations or compositions but it can also be used to create scenes completely from scratch. These types of exercises can be helpful to learn how to create textures and then apply them to your artwork. In this tutorial we will demonstrate how to create realistic-looking wood and water textures, adding some nice nails to create a nearly true-to-life scene. Let's get started!

Step 1

Start by creating a New Document 1500 px by 1080 px named "Nail Scene." As you can see, I've sketched the scene I want to create.

Step 2

To create the background, create a New Group called "Water" and fill with white.

Step 3

Change the Foreground and Background colors to a Medium Blue and a Dark Blue as shown. Next, apply Fibers (Filter > Render > Fibers) with the following settings:

Step 4

Rotate the Fibers so that they run horizontally and Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the fibers into perspective.

Step 5

On a New Layer, Fill with white and adjust the Blend If sliders in the Layer Styles to give the illusion of the sun reflecting of the tips of the waves. Note: This does not need to look perfect since it will be obscured by a Lens Blur that we will apply later.

Step 6

On a New Layer, use a large brush with 0% hardness to add a soft highlight to the water. Again, adjust the Blend If sliders to give the illusion of a strong glare from the sun.

Step 7

Merge these two layers together and rename "Water."

Step 8

Now it's time to add the Lens Blur Filter. Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur and add the following settings:

Your image should resemble the following:

Step 9

To finish the illusion of the out-of-focus water, we are going to enhance the bokeh effect (the Bokeh Effect is the lens blurring created by an actual camera which Photoshop has attempted to do with the Lens Blur Filter). Create a New Layer called "Bokeh" and, varying the Hardness and Opacity, add dots all over the scene, concentrating dots around areas with brighter colors. Try to vary the brush size and overlap the dots. Adjust the Layer's Opacity to get the right balance of transparency to the bokeh effect.

Step 10

Next we are going to start the wood dock. I want to create this as large as possible in order to have a lot of texture to work with. To start, create a New Document 5000 px by 3000 px named "Dock Texture." Next, use the Polygonal Marquee Tool to draw an angled shape that mimics our initial sketch. Fill with any color. Open the Layer Styles and give this layer a dark brown Color Overlay

Step 11

Next we want to create a basic wood pattern. Create a New Document 1500 px by 1500 px and name it "Wood Texture" (Note: we should have three separate documents open now).

Step 12

With the Foreground and Background Colors set to Black and White, add the Clouds Filter (Filter > Render > Clouds). Scale 600% along the Height.

Step 13

Give this a Motion Blur (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur) of 230 px at 90 degrees. Next, go to Image > Posterize and set it to 25 Levels. Select Filter > Stylize > Find Edges and increase the Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) so the grain has more contrast.

Step 14

Add Noise at 65% (Gaussian, Monochromatic) and give the result another Motion Blur of 15px at 90 degrees. Invert the colors by pressing Command/Ctrl + I.

Step 15

Drag this texture in to our "Dock Texture" document and position the "Wood Texture" into perspective (it doesn't have to fill the entire layer) and make it a clipping layer. Now, add a Motion Blur with the angle set to 8 degrees and the distance to 75 px. The Motion Blur will help obscure the pixilation from resizing the layer.

Step 16

Set the layer's Blending Mode to Screen and the Opacity to 30%

Step 17

To add some subtle depth to the texture, make a copy of this layer and Invert (Command/Ctrl + I).

Nudge the layer down and to the right slightly using your arrow keys. Add a Gaussian Blur with a Radius of 9.9 px and a Motion Blur Filter of 75 px at 8 degrees. Lastly reduce the Opacity to 5%.

Step 18

In order to add more variation to this texture, create a new layer called "Variation" and apply the Clouds Filter while holding down ALT (make sure your Foreground and Background Colors are set to Black and White). This will add more contrast to the filter, which is exactly what we need.

Step 19

Convert this layer in to a Smart Object and transform it in to perspective (again, we don't necessarily need to cover the entire plane). The Smart Object will allow us to go back and edit the transformation if needed.

Step 20

Make this a clipping layer and set the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 15%

Step 21

Add additional Layer Styles and Filters to create the effect of some distortion. There is no correct way to do this—I just applied the settings that I felt looked good. These changes are subtle and are completely up to your preference.

Step 22

The next step is to create some fracturing in the wood. To do this, we need to create a New Document 2000 px by 2000 px named "Wood Fracture." Fill with gray.

Step 23

Add Noise at 24%

Step 24

Next go to Filter > Brush Strokes > Sumi-E and use the following settings:

Step 25

Go to Filter > Stylize > Emboss and set the amount to 500% (it should appear almost as a bark texture)

Step 26

Rotate this 45% and crop so that the texture runs horizontal.

Adjust the Levels until the texture becomes just thin streaks of black lines.

Step 27

Invert the colors (Command/Ctrl + I) and go to the Channels Panel and Command/Ctrl-Click on any of the thumbnails to select just the white areas.

Step 28

With the selection still active, create a new layer and fill with black. Now the texture is on a transparent background.

Step 29

Drag this layer to the "Dock Texture" Document. Make this a clipping layer and transform (Command/Ctrl + T) into perspective.

Step 30

Set the Blending Mode to Multiply and add a Bevel and Emboss to this layer to make this texture appear embedded into the wood.

Step 31

Make a copy of this layer and set the Opacity to 25% (make sure this is a clipping layer too). Adjust the position so that it doesn't line up with the original. Feel free to use these techniques to add additional texture as you please.

Step 32

Working in the "Dock Texture" Document, create a new layer and add the Clouds Filter (Filter > Render > Clouds)

Step 33

Use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to increase the contrast of the clouds as shown.

Step 34

Using the technique we outlined in Steps 27 and 28 use the Channels Panel to extract the clouds to a new layer so that we have a white layer with all the black clouds removed (we no longer need the original clouds layer).

Step 35

Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) the clouds layer into perspective and make this a clipping layer. I want the clouds to appear stretched, so I am only transforming it over a small area.

Set the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Fill to 16% (this will preserve the opacity of the layer styles that we'll add in the next step).

Step 36

Apply the following layer styles

The result should resemble the following:

Step 37

We are done with the "Dock Texture" Document. Save this file if you wish, then select all layers (except for the Background) and Merge (Command/Ctrl + E). Drag this to the Nail Scene and rename it "Dock." Position and resize this layer to fit your preference (I've also added Noise at 2% to make the texture grittier.

Step 38

Create a new Layer Mask for the "Dock" layer and use the mask to roughen up the edge.

Step 39

We want to add the illusion that the wood is splitting from the nails. First, let's bring back the sketch. Using the sketch as a template, use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the shapes of each nail's body (try to do an accurate job as we will use these paths later). Make sure to name the paths in the Paths Panel.

Step 40

Now that we have a good idea of the positioning to each nail, create a new layer called "Splits" directly above the "Dock" layer. Add the following Layer Styles.

Step 41

Use the Brush Tool to draw in lines running in the same direction to represent the wood splitting. It helps to use a pressure sensitive pen tablet.

Continue to add additional splintering near the base of each nail

Step 42

I want to add that extra bit of realism to the surface of our wood texture. We are going to add a layer of dust to help give some subtle depth and disruption to our surface. Begin by creating a clipping layer to the "Dock" layer named "Dust Shadows." Fill with white and Add Noise (set the Amount to 50%)

Step 43

Go to filter > Blur > Blur and then use Levels (Command/Ctrl + L) to increase the contrast so that a few small specks of black are visible.

Step 44

Go to Filter > Blur > Blur More to soften the dust. Next, set the Blending Mode to Multiply.

Step 45

Make a copy of this layer and name it "Dust." Press Command/Ctrl + I to invert the colors and set the Blending mode to Screen and the Opacity to 40%. Nudge the "Dust" layer up and to the left a few pixels.

Step 46

It's time to create the nails. Create a new group called "Tall Nail" with a new layer inside called "Nail head." Use the Ellipse Tool to create an ellipse filled with a dark blue metal color. Position this shape according to our sketch.

Step 47

Add the following layer styles:

Your result should resemble this:

Step 48

On a new layer called "Nail Texture," use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to create a square selection the covers the entire nail head..

Step 49

Fill this selection with white and Add Noise (about 200%). Go to Filter > Blur > Blur and then apply the Emboss Filter (Filter > Stylize > Emboss) with an amount of 65%.

Step 50

Skew this layer to match the perspective of the nail head and make the layer a clipping layer. Change the Blend Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 64%. This should give a rough texture to the nail head.

Step 51

Lastly, create a new clipping layer and, using a rust color, paint in some areas over the nail head. Also, you'll notice that I masked out some of the texture on the "Nail Texture" layer.

Step 52

The nail head still appears flat. To fix that, select all three layers under the "Tall Nail" group and make a copy. The original layers are now on the bottom of the stack. Select the originals and offset these layers from the copies.

Step 53

Open up the Layer Styles of the "Nail Head copy" layer and make sure "Layer Mask Hides Effects" is checked. Now, add a layer mask and use a soft brush to erase the overlapping edge as shown. This will provide a smooth transition to the underlying layer (and thus creating the illusion of a round edge).

Step 54

Next, go through the Layer Styles on the base layer of the bottom set (in this case, it's the "Nail Head" layer) and make adjustments so that the transition between the two layers appears more natural. The changes are completely up to you, there's no right way to do this.

Step 55

Using the Brush Tool, paint in some highlights and additional colors to complete the nail. Convert all the layers we used to make the nail's head to a Smart Object and apply an Unsharp Mask to sharpen up some of the details.

Step 56

Create a new group called "Nail Body" with a new layer called "Body." Go back to the Paths Panel and select the path for this nail that we created earlier. Right-click on the path layer in the Paths Panel and Fill with 50% gray.

Step 57

Create a new layer called "Texture" and use the Rectangle Tool to make a white rectangle over the entire body of the nail. Add Noise with the Amount set to 100% and go to Filter > Blur > Blur More. Next, go to Filter > Stylize Emboss and set the Angle to 130 degrees, the Height to 1px, and the Amount to 100%.

Step 58

Make this layer a clipping layer and set the Opacity to 4%.

Step 59

Create a new layer called "Color" and use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to make a selection as shown. Sampling colors from the scene, add vertical stripes of varying color to the selection.

Step 60

Convert this layer to a Smart Object and make it a clipping layer, then Warp (Edit > Transform > Warp) this layer to follow the contours of the nail body. Since the Smart Object retains the warped position, we can go back at any time and make changes to our layer. Set this layer's Blending Mode to Overlay.

Step 61

Create a new layer called "Variations" and use the Rectangle Tool to create a white box over the entire nail body (just like we did in step 57). This time, apply the Clouds Filter and the Noise Filter (set the Amount to 2%).

Step 62

Make a clipping layer and set the Blending Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 60%

Step 63

Use new clipping layers to add highlights and shadows to the nail body.

Step 64

If necessary, add a layer mask to the "Nail Body" group and mask out the base so that it appears to go into the wood. I have also gone back to the "Splits" layer in the "Dock" folder to add more splitting where the nail enters the wood.

Step 65

Use these same techniques to create the bent nail

Step 66

The fully embedded nail is just a clone of the first nail's head. Just Right-Click the "Nail Head" Smart Object from the "Tall Nail" group and select New Smart Object via Copy. This way, we can make changes to the copy without the original Smart Object updating.

Step 67

To finish up the scene, use a black brush set to 35% Opacity, and add some shading to the wood at the intersection of each nail. The idea is to make it appear as if the wood has been dented in those areas.

Also, add shadows casted by each nail


You're done! Feel free to make some final color adjustments (I have also decided to crop the image). Your final image should resemble the image below.

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