photoshop creative

How I Made: What Only Exists In The Mind

Posted in:
How I Made, by Mark White
September 5, 2016

Learn how Jeffrey Smith made this incredible image today!


1. Front to back


Midway through the painting, with the foreground in place, i flattened the piece and began painting the spiralling clouds. i used my own custom brushes for the entire piece.

2. Head in the clouds


I started at the horizon, painting very small distant clouds and building up layer by layer with larger clouds. I do a lot of symmetrical work in this fashion.

3. Surface details


I began to add surface details with the Pen and Gradient tools, which help to break up the blocky shapes. I’m a sucker for details so I probably go overboard with this step on most of my pieces.

4. Layering up


In this step I began painting the clouds on the top part of the canvas. Still, I made sure I was paying attention to the circular flow of the image.

5. Into the vortex


Here I do the same thing as I did with the clouds on the horizon, lighten them as they get closer to the Sun. The clouds also get smaller, creating the illusion of the sun being a vortex.

6. Adding spark


I wanted to create something quick, with a visual impact. Something with a spark. Now the piece is complete as far as painting, I had to add in details to give it a sense of movement.

7. Colouring in


Here I used a yellow colour gradient over the painting set to Color Burn at 50% Opacity. I added hints of green to the hills and set it to Multiply at 50% Opacity, and an orange radial colour gradient in the middle of the Sun that’s set to Color Dodge. My main focus was to get depth with the values, and keep the colours desaturated.

8. Finish and flatten


Finally I used Curves adjustments to bring out the deeper tones of the painting, exposing a higher contrast with the Sun. Then I flattened the piece and sharpened it with Smart Sharpen.