photoshop creative

Make isometric compositions

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
February 15, 2017

Learn how to create an eye-catching piece using isometric projection with correction tools, adjustment layers and layer masks

1. Set the background

Go to File>New (Cmd/Ctrl+N), set the width to 230mm, height to 190mm, resolution to 300 pixels/inch and click OK. Fill the background with a blue radial gradient (#76b1d9 to #c8e6f3) to symbolise the light spot.

2. Make the base

Use the Rectangle tool (U) to create a rectangle. Repeat this, and hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform this one; Ctrl/right-click, choose Distort and create a second side to this box, before filling in the last side with another rectangle you distort. Fill them each different shades to create perspective.

3. Insert the ocean

Insert some water, duplicate the layer twice, place them one on the side of the other and delete unnecessary parts with the Eraser tool (E) to unite the layers, so you create a bigger sea. Merge the three layers (Cmd/Ctrl+E) and create a clipping mask on the top rectangle.

4. Create a mountain

Insert a mountain and place it in the left corner of the base. Use the Free Transform tool to align the end of the mountain with the base line.

5. Adjust the mountain

Create a layer mask for the mountain layer and with the Brush tool (B) hide some parts on the top, side and bottom to give it a more realistic aspect.

6. Go underwater

Insert a side view of some water, and adjust it next to the mountain, so that some of it covers the mountain underwater. It will be possible to merge them later. Select the Clone Stamp tool (S) and remove the divers.

7. Work on the side

Duplicate the underwater layer, flip horizontal and with the Free Transform tool, adjust the image like in the screenshot above. Next, create a clipping mask and clip it to the side rectangle.

8. Make adjustments underwater


With the Clone Stamp tool, make the adjustments as in the screenshot. Remove some parts of the image (such as the stones and bubbles) to make it different to the other side.

9. Merge them together

Select the mountain layer mask and with the Brush tool hide some parts, making the mountain appear to join the underwater part. Use the Burn tool (O) and darken some parts of the mountain.

10. Create the rocks

Insert some rocks, create a layer mask and remove the sky and some parts of the bottom of the sea. Add a Color Balance adjustment and create a clipping mask for the rock. Add a layer mask and hide the adjustment on the top. Then just add a photo filter.

11. Create more rocks

Place the Grand Canyon and adjust to be the same size as the rock. Add a vibrance adjustment and create a clipping mask. Group (Cmd /Ctrl+G) and duplicate the rock layer, then move to the left.

12. Add the mountain’s stones

Insert some stones and put them near the mountain, forming a kind of beach. Create a clipping mask. With the Brush tool, delete the adjustments on the water, leaving only the stones.

13. Add more stones

Place a beach, create a layer mask and hide all the unwanted parts until the image joins the composition. Go to Adjustment Layers>Vibrance and decrease the values.

14. Place the lighthouse

Insert a lighthouse, remove the background and place the layer behind the rocks. Duplicate the layer, free transform, press Cmd/ Ctrl+U and reduce Lightness to -100. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur> Radius, set it to 26 and reduce the layer opacity to 80%.

15. Create the border

Place the sea, create a layer mask, leave only the edge of the water visible, and adjust according to the upper edge of the rectangle on the front and right side. To be more accurate, use Free Transform and click on the Warp option.

16. Make a water reflection

Insert caustic water and place at the bottom of the Layers stack; adjust according to the rectangle line. Hide the unnecessary parts with a mask, remove the saturation, set to Soft Light and change the Opacity to 70%. Duplicate and mask a little more reflection in.

17. Create mountain dirt

To create the mountain dirt, insert some dirt, place at the bottom of the Layers stack again, adjust with the Free Transform tool, and alter the Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U). Change the blend mode to Darker Color and hide the unnecessary parts with a mask.

18. Make waves

Rasterise the top rectangle that you made when we created the box back in step 2. Make a selection with the Lasso tool (L) like in the example, and with the Brush tool, fill with any colour to give a rougher edge to the waves.

19. Introduce a ship

Add a ship to the image. You will need to set aside time to cut out this image. After you finish, paste into a new layer and add a Color Balance adjustment layer: Cyan: -15, Yellow: -10. Go to Layer>Adjustment Layer> Photo Filter>Cooling Filter (82), change the Opacity to 10% and create a clipping mask.

20. Give life to the sea

Place fish, dolphins, whales and a treasure chest, and remove the unnecessary parts with masks. Adjust the position, size, colour, saturation, brightness and opacity for all elements so they all match in the image.

21. Plant the palms

Add the palm trees and adjust the position, size and colour. For the shadow, duplicate the layer, adjust the position with Free Transform, open the Saturation toolbar and reduce Lightness to -100. Add a Gaussian Blur with 5px and reduce the layer opacity to 50%.

22. Create the sky

Load a cloud brush and insert some clouds on the back of the tank, right and left side. Alternatively, insert a new sky and mask.

23. Add some more elements

Insert some climbers and remove the unnecessary parts, adjust the size, position, saturation and colour. Create shadows for the people on the top of the mountain: duplicate the layer, adjust the position with Free Transform, open the Saturation toolbar and reduce the Lightness to -100. Add a Gaussian Blur with a radius of 8px and reduce the layer opacity to 60%.

24. Create shadow

Create a rectangle with the colour #0b2d44, adjust according to the perspective with the Free Transform tool. Set the blend mode to Soft Light. Add a vector mask, and with the Brush tool hide the shadow excesses. Duplicate the layer and change the Opacity to 50%.

25. Adjust the water colour

Create Hue/Saturation adjustment layers, and clip over the water (Hue: +5, Saturation: +15), the underwater (Hue: +8, Saturation: -35) and the land on the image (also Hue: +5, Saturation:+15). This will help to bring the most realistic colours out across the composition. Dodge and Burn (O) using the painting mode (shadows, midtones and highlights) make the necessary corrections to the light, paying attention to the direction of the main lighting. Create a new Cooling Filter (82) adjustment layer and change the layer opacity to 25%.

  • Carlos R Sousa Silva


  • Sam Elfer

    Great scene! Only mistake is the flag on the ship should be pointing forward (wind is from behind)