photoshop creative

Top ten fantasy art tips

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 12, 2015

Imaginative fantasy art relies on a range of tools and techniques, so let’s uncover the secrets of this stunning genre!

1. Displacement maps for water ripples

Use a Displacement Map and a vector mask to create a dramatic ripple effect in your artwork. Create your displacement map with the Halftone Pattern and Gaussian Blur filters, then apply it to your image to give it the desired effect. Finish up by using a layer mask to remove the effect from parts of the image.

2. The secret to a dreamlike finish

To give your fantasy art soft, dreamlike colouring, use the Exclusion blend mode. Make a new layer and use the Paint Bucket tool (G) to fill it with a solid colour; dark shades like #002157 work best, but feel free to experiment. Set Exclusion and adjust the Opacity.

3. Adding flair with textures and brushes

Textures and brushes bring your fantasy art to life, and you can find a lot of both online for free. A cloud brush or cloudy sky texture will bring a dramatic flair to your art. Use Soft Light for subdued softness or Overlay for a harder, more dramatic result.

4. Highlight with overlay

Highlight parts of your image with the help of the Overlay blend mode. First make a new layer. Now use a soft brush and a light colour to paint over the elements you wish to bring out; you can use a simple white, for instance, or experiment with shades closer to the image. Set your layer to Overlay and adjust Opacity to achieve a natural hlow.

5. Shading with the Burn tool

The Burn tool is an easy way to create shading and add depth to your fantasy art. Use a soft brush with low Exposure to carefully go over the parts of the image you want darken. You can restrict the tool’s operation by using the Midtones, Highlights and Shadows options.

6. Transparent gradient

Make a new layer under your image and fill it with white. Now add a layer mask to your image layer. Set the Gradient tool to Linear with #000000 as the Foreground colour and Transparent as the Background colour. Select the layer mask and apply the gradient for an impressive fading effect on your image.

7. Smoothing out margins

Use a layer mask and a soft, round brush to smooth out margins and edges in a cut-out image. Add a layer mask to your image layer, then use a soft, round airbrush to paint the margins and edges. Make sure the Foreground colour is set to black before doing this, otherwise you’ll see no change.

8. The Gaussian blur

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur is used to add perspective and an understated dramatic effect. With it, you can smooth out a part of your image, like the background, which instantly brings the foreground into sharper focus.

9. Colour balance

You can use the Colour Balance adjustment layer to eliminate any colouring in your artwork that you do not like and add in any colouring that you do like. Select the top layer of your image and go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Colour Balance. Adjust the Colour and Tone Balance options until you get an effect you’re happy with.

10. Using hair brushes

When using a hair brush, use Edit>Transform>Warp to make your painted hair flow more naturally. Duplicate your layer and use Edit>Transform>Rotate to create a rich, more natural effect. To add highlights, or even apply a second hair colour, simply make another layer and then paint over a new strand of hair in your preferred colour.