Learn the basics of 3D and make it perfect with Photoshop’s Pen tool
In Blender, switch to improved Cycles render system at the top of the screen. To rotate the point of view use the middle mouse button, to select objects use the right mouse button, to move use G (grab), to scale use S and R to rotate. Also you can use the panel below for these movements.
Delete the basic cube, then using the left tools panel go to Create>Plane. You will see a plane appear in the 3D view window. Then switch to Edit mode at the bottom, and press W>Subdivide about 5 times, to add more polygons to the plane like on the screenshot.
To add random transform for a landscape apply Displace modifier to the plane. Open a modifier list, choose Displace. Then go to Texture inset, and change Image or Movie to Clouds. After this return to Modifier Parameters, reduce its strength to 0.08, and press Apply.
To create a river on the landscape surface, switch to Edit mode as in step 2, choose Face select at the bottom, and manually select polygons to form a river curve. To make it faster you can press C to select polygons by area. After this press E to extrude polygons under the main surface.
To make some mountains you should use Proportional editing. Enable it at the bottom of the screen, switch to Vertex select on the left, and try to select and grab any point. By switching to different editing modes, like smooth and random, you will get the best result. To scale the area of the effect use your mouse wheel.
To add colour you will need to create different materials for every surface, like grass, river, mountains and so on. Go to Materials inset at the right, press New, change the colour of the material and change the name by clicking it. To add one more press ‘+’ and then New as much as you need.
Switch to Edit mode again, choose Face select, and using the method from step 6, select the polygons you want to paint with any material you created previously. When ready, press Assign. To see the changes you’ve made, switch to Material displayed at the bottom.
Open a new Blender window, copy and paste models to your scene from it. Activate the Magnet Snap button below, switch to Face Snap, Active Snap, and enable Align Rotation. Using Grab place any model at the surface. Now, use copy and paste to duplicate the model.
To form low-poly clouds, we will use Sculpt mode. Create the Ico sphere and switch to Sculpt mode at the bottom of the screen. Then select F Blob brush, enable the Dyntopo feature below, reduce details to 40 px and disable Symmetry below. After this, you can sculpt the cloud form by brushing the Ico sphere.
Light plays a huge role in low-poly modelling. To add Sun to the scene, choose Sun from the left tool panel and adjust its parameters at the right. You can make it brighter, change the colour or rotate its direction. In the next step you will be able to test the result.
Switch to Camera View at the bottom, and adjust the composition by moving and rotating the camera. When satisfied, press F12 to test the light setup. When ready, go to Render inset, change the percentage back to 100%, and Samples at least 300, press F12 to render the final result. Don’t forget to save the image when done!
Open the saved image in Photoshop, and use the Pen tool to separate and delete the grey Blender background. Carefully outline all the surfaces and clouds, and delete the selected area. You can also use any other Selection tool, like Lasso or Magic Wand, but the Pen tool will provide the best result.
Create a new layer, place it at the bottom of the existing one, and using the Gradient tool, make the sky any colour you like. Follow a few rules: the sky should be contrasting with the surface, and a bit brighter, from the light side – watch the shadows on the render.
The amount of noise in the render depends on the quantity of Samples chosen in step 11. If your PC isn’t powerful, you’ll probably make fewer samples to make the render faster. Go to Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise, and by adjusting its parameters get the best balance between reduction and details of the image.
The previous step can reduce the sharpness of the image, but even if you haven’t reduced noise, a little sharpening will still help to improve the faceted look of the image. Go to Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen. Use this carefully and don’t add too much – a little touch will be enough.
By doing a slight colour adjustment you can change and enhance the atmosphere of an image. If you want to make a bright and joyful image, make the colour a bit warmer and if you want to make a calm picture, make it a bit cooler. Go to Image> Correction>Color Balance and slide the markers to the colour you want to increase.
Although the rendered image is physically correct, you can improve an overall quality by overpainting some polygons. For example, you can add some reflections to water, or adjust the contrast of small models. Use the Pen tool to select a single polygon, and Gradient tool to paint it. Don’t forget to create a new layer for this.
To adjust the light of the image go to Image>Correction>Levels. You will get the best result when the darkest places of the image are not pure black, and the lightest are not pure white. Correct the histogram to make the darkest and the lightest parts start the histogram.
You can achieve interesting results using different blend modes. For example, create a new layer, select clouds from the main layer, add a colourful gradient, and change the blend mode to Color. Follow the basic rule – sunlight makes the bright side warmer, and the dark side colder, so use the colour accordingly.
To add additional depth, you can add a Sun flare from the light on the top right. Add a new layer, place it at the top and pick the Gradient tool. Switch to Radiant gradient and draw a medium sized circle with a bright yellow colour. Change the layer blend mode to Lighten and 20% Opacity.
Reflections are a great way to add more realism to your artwork. To make clouds reflect in the river, select both layers, clouds and colour blends, duplicate and combine them afterwards. Now go Edit>Transform>Vertical mirror and move mirrored clouds straight down, so they will be over the water.
Add a quick vector mask to the layer with reflections, and using the Pen tool carefully select all the parts of the layer you want to clear. Once you have selected the area, paint it with a pure black colour over the vector mask. Then change the layer blend mode to Lighten with 60% Opacity.
In the real world, distant landscape details are almost invisible because of air perspective. Select a large area of the horizon with the Polygon Lasso tool and duplicate it on a new layer. Move it behind the main image, make it smaller with Transform, and use the Color Overlay function.
You can simulate low-poly in Photoshop using the Pen tool without wasting time on a new render in Blender. To create a distant forest, create a new layer, pick up the Pen tool and select the whole area you want to fill with trees, paint it using the colour from real models’ shadows.
After you paint the whole area, use the Pen tool to select all light patches, and paint it with colour from the light side of real models. The key to success is to keep in mind that you are simulating real 3D objects with real volume. Don’t forget to add deeper shadows on the borders afterwards.
To add a final touch for the image, create a new layer, select with the Pen tool really thin borders of the models or surface and paint them with very light colour. Don’t forget that this trick must improve contrast greatly, and don’t use it on places with strong contrast.