photoshop creative

How to create a landscape composition with shapes, part 2

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Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 22, 2013

Follow this Photoshop tutorial to learn how to reduce a landscape to its essential shapes in Photoshop


Another new layer now. We want to indicate the boats themselves as very simple shapes, so once again use the Polygon Lasso tool to outline them, simplifying everything into a series of straight sections. Once you’ve outlined each, fill the selection with a warm mid grey as your foreground colour via Edit>Fill. We’ll add more detail to these boats soon.


Once all the boat shapes are filled, click the Lock Transparent Pixels button for this layer in the Layers palette. First, change the blending mode for the boats layer to Hard Light. Now use the Polygon Lasso tool to trace around the main shapes within the boats, one by one, filling each selection with a colour.


Remember, because we’ve locked the transparent areas of the layer, you can loop your selections outside the boat’s outline to make sure the shape is filled to the edges, because only the previously filled areas of the layer will be affected by the new fill.


Take your time to pick out small, simple details within the boats, once again making a simple Polygonal selection for each and filling with a colour. Be selective here, as we’re not trying to replicate every single detail, but boil everything down to its absolute essentials.


On another new layer use the Polygon Lasso tool to draw out the shape for one of the sails. We don’t have sails on the reference, but as you’ll see from the screenshot, these are really simple shapes. Fill the complete selection with a light colour of your choice. Add the other sails using the same technique and set the blending mode for this layer to Soft Light.


Once you’ve added in all the sails, to give them more movement and solidity add another new layer, leaving its blending mode set to Normal. Draw another selection within the first sail but slightly different in shape. Fill this with a similar colour. When you complete this for all the sails, reduce the opacity of this layer a little.


To add the reflections beneath the boats, create a final new layer and drag it below your boats layer. Set the layer blending mode to Overlay. You’ll find two Ripple brushes in the supplied brush set to use for this; simply add various size ripples beneath the boats with single clicks in colours similar to the boats.


We need some textured brush strokes within the shapes, and we’ll do this via a layer style. Add a new layer at the very top of the stack and go to Layer>Layer Style>Bevel and Emboss. Choose Inner Bevel for Style and Chisel Hard for Technique. Use these slider settings: Depth 1, Direction Up, Size 5, Soften 0. Click OK to apply the layer style.


Choose the Brush tool and click in the Brush picker. Hit the small palette arrow and choose Dry Media Brushes. Choose the Pastel On Charcoal Paper brush. We want the layer style to show here, but not the painted colour, so in the Layers palette set the Fill amount to 0%.


Now use the brush with any colour, at a small size, to paint within the shapes in the image. As you paint (with just a little pressure on the stylus) your textured brush strokes will start to appear. Use your brush in lots of different directions here to create a convincing result.