Are you confounded by impossible objects and perspectives? Here’s how to make the impossible possible!
Open a new canvas and make it 50 pixels wide by 50 pixels high. Select the Pencil tool (B) and set the Radius to 5px. Starting from the top left of the canvas, draw an ‘L’ shape in black. Select Edit>Define Pattern and save the pattern.
Open a new canvas and make it 1000 x 1000px. Create a new layer and use the Paint Bucket (G) to fill it in white. Double-click on the layer in the Layers panel and select Pattern Overlay. Use the pattern we created in step 1 and click Snap To Origin.
Move the pattern across slightly and duplicate the layer. Tile the layers together to create a larger area of pattern. Tile it as many times as you want but make sure the pattern always remains a square. Select all the pattern layers, right-click and pick Merge Layers.
Open up a new canvas (this will be your working canvas) and drag in the pattern. Rotate the pattern 45° (Edit> Transform>Rotate) and apply the transformation. Select Scale (Edit> Transform>Scale) and in the Height box type in 58% (keep the Width at 100%) to create an isometric grid.
For the text to really stand out, we are going to use whites and taupe for the letters, and make everything else fairly dark by using blues and purples for the midtones and shadow colours. Blues and cool purples tend to recede into the background, which will help to draw the letters out.
Use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) or Brush tool (B) to quickly block out the composition and where you think the text will be located. This doesn’t need to be accurate or final – it’s only a guide for creating the shapes.
Fill the entire canvas using the Gradient Fill (G) with the colours we chose in step 5. You can change the location of the fade by changing where and how far you drag the Gradient Fill tool. It’s best to keep the background mostly dark to help the letters stand out.
Using your mock-up as a basis, create the shapes with the Pen tool (P). Follow the lines of the grid to create the sides in the correct perspective. You may want to add a few vertical guides to help you keep track of the starting point of the shape.
To create curves, click and hold down the left mouse button or Alt/Opt key. If you want to edit the shapes, select the Pen tool (P), hold down Cmd/Ctrl, click on the anchor points and move them to where you want them.
Once you have your shape, double-click on the layer in the Layers palette, select Color Overlay and change the colour accordingly. For a more convincing shading style, pick Gradient Overlay and choose a dark and light colour to blend together, keeping in mind where your light source is.
Once you have created all of your letters, create the stairs using the Pen tool (P), following the grid lines to help with the perspective. As with the letters, use Color or Gradient Overlay to change the colour. You can warp the perspective by unexpectedly making the stair landings vertical.
Using the Pen tool (P), connect the letters with walkways and bridges to add complexity and to distort the outlines so that the letters aren’t so easily recognisable. However, be sure to use a different colour so that these elements do not merge with the letters, which would make them illegible.
Create the water with the Pen tool (P) and change the colour by using Color Overlay. Ctrl/right-click on the waterfall layer and select Rasterize Layer and Rasterize Layer Style. Lower the opacity setting of the layer so the waterfall becomes translucent.
Use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) to create boundaries for the reflections in the waterfall. Fill the boundaries with a lighter colour using the Paint Bucket tool (G) and lower the opacity if necessary. Creating lighter areas at the edges helps to create the illusion that the water is rippling.
Create the pool in the same way as the waterfall. You can give the effect that the waterfall is distorting the water in the pool by adding ripples using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G) – gradually lowering the opacity of each ripple.
Follow steps 13 and 14 to create the large waterfall. Try changing the blend mode of the layer to Hard Light so that it reacts with the colours underneath. Since there aren’t many elements behind the large waterfall (unlike the smaller waterfall), the colour reaction won’t be too distracting.
Even though we want the perspectives to be somewhat confusing, we still need to create a sense of depth and mass for the letters. Add shadows in strategic places (for example where elements overlap) by using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G), lowering the opacity where necessary.
Create doors with the Polygonal Lasso (L). Fill the opening of the door with a solid dark colour using the Paint Bucket tool (G). Fill the side and the threshold of the door with a Gradient Fill so that they look like they are fading into darkness.
Create small dark strips using the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G) to form the rungs of the ladders. Once you’ve made one rung, you can then copy and paste it until the whole ladder has been formed.
Create two ellipses using the Elliptical Marquee (M) and connect them using the Polygonal Lasso (L) to form the lighthouse body. Fill it in with the Paint Bucket (G). Merge the layers and use the Gradient Overlay layer style to change the colour. Use a similar technique for the lantern.
Create an ellipse that is the same proportion as the ones for the lighthouse body. Starting from the midpoint of the ellipse, create a rectangle to form the depth of the stripe. Create another ellipse with the Elliptical Marquee (M) and delete the top of the rectangle.
Use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and Paint Bucket (G) to form some triangular trees. Use a strong accent colour for the trees to lift the other colours in the image and place them strategically so that they do not compete with the text. Don’t be tempted to add too many!
Use the Rectangular Marquee (M) to create a small square shape. Fill this in with the Paint Bucket tool (G) in white. Rotate the square 45°(Edit>Transform>Rotate) and lower the opacity to form a star. Repeat a few times to fill the night sky with stars.
Zoom out using Cmd/Ctrl+0 so that the entire image fits onto your screen, and check that you are happy with the overall composition. The image should look balanced, and the elements and colours should be evenly distributed.