Product Recipes: Create A Realistic Landscape Scene
Meet The Chef
Hello! My name is Alan. Photo manipulation is what sparked my interest in graphic design over a decade ago. The idea of creating a completely fictional scene from a handful of images was too intriguing of a concept for me to ignore.
In this product recipe, I’ll teach you a few of my techniques for creating realistic imagery that you can use for album artwork, gig posters, and countless other forms of design.
- 30 Textured Watercolor Backgrounds by Kimmy Design
- Sky Clouds Background Backdrops by Area
- Swedish Tree Tops by Nilsson Lee
- Huge Nature Photo Set by Around Seven Products
Let’s Get Cookin’!
Step 1. Open a 12 x 12 inch document in Photoshop. Set the color mode to CMYK and the resolution to 300 DPI.
Step 2. Create a new layer, and apply a linear gradient. I selected #98a1b2 for the bottom and #f4e8d9 for the top. Leave your angle at the default of 90 degrees, and set your scale to 70%.
Step 3. From the “Sky Clouds Background Backdrop” resource, open the “10.jpg” image. Once the image is open, select the Color Range tool, set your fuzziness to 200, select the darkest portions of the image and copy it. Remember to create a layer from the background first.
Step 4. Paste the image into your document, align it appropriately, select the Multiply blending mode, and name it “CLOUDS LEFT”.
Step 5. Create an adjustment layer of Hue/Saturation, set the saturation to -100, and clip the layer to your “CLOUDS LEFT” layer. This will soften the tonal intensity of the clouds, and aid the image in maintaining a realistic appearance.
Step 6. Add a layer mask to the “CLOUDS LEFT” layer, select the Gradient Tool, set your gradient to transition from black to transparent, and mask the bottom portion of the clouds. Use this technique to remove as much or as little of the layer as you’d like.
Step 7. From the “Sky Clouds Background Backdrop” resource, open the “5.jpg” image. Repeat the process from step 3 above, but this time use the Color Range tool to select the brightest portions of the image. Copy and paste your selection into your document, align it appropriately, and name it “CLOUDS RIGHT”.
Step 8. Repeat step 6 above, masking the bottom portion of the “CLOUDS RIGHT” layer, and make any necessary adjustments to the image. I duplicated the layer and applied the Gaussian Blur filter.
Step 9. From the “Huge Nature Photo Set” resource, open the “25.jpg” image. Adjust the image size to 12 inches wide, set the resolution to 300 DPI, and drag the layer to your document.
Step 10. Select the Overlay blending mode, mask the top and bottom of the image and name it “MOUNTAINS”. I chose to horizontally flip the image as well.
Step 11. Clip an adjustment layer of Hue/Saturation to the “MOUNTAINS” layer. Set the saturation to -55 and your lightness to +10.
Step 12. From the “Sky Clouds Background Backdrop” resource, open the “2.jpg” image. Use the Color Range tool once again to select and copy the brightest portions of the image. Paste them into your document and align appropriately. I chose to vertically flip the image. Finally, select the Soft Light blending mode and name the layer “CLOUDS”.
Step 13. Open the “30 Textured Watercolor Backgrounds” resource, hide the “TEXTURES” folders as well as Gradients 1-7. With only “GRADIENT 8” visible, flatten the image and adjust its size to 12 inches wide, set the resolution to 300 DPI, and drag the layer to your document.
Step 14. Select the Overlay blending mode, set your Opacity to 65%, and name the layer “BLUE GRADIENT”. Clip an adjustment layer of Hue/Saturation, set the hue to -5, and the saturation to -50.
Step 15. Open the “Swedish Tree Tops” resource and adjust the image size to between 12-20 inches wide. The size you choose will affect how present the trees are in the final image, so experiment with this part of the process. Once you’ve selected your image size, use the Color Range tool to select and copy the darkest portion of the image. Paste the image into your document, align appropriately, and name the layer “TREES”.
Step 16. Clip an adjustment layer of Brightness/Contrast to the “TRESS” layer and set the contrast to 20.
Step 17. From the “30 Textured Watercolor Backgrounds” resource, select “GRADIENT 9”, drag it to your document, clip it to your “TREES” layer, and name it “GREEN GRADIENT”. Select the Overlay blending mode, and set your Opacity to 60%.
Step 18. Now, let’s quickly blast through some additional layer adjustments. No clipping necessary for these.
Levels: Shadows – , Midtones – [0.94], Highlights – 
Hue/Saturation: Hue – [+20], Saturation – [+30], Lightness 
Brightness/Contrast: Brightness – , Contrast – 
Step 19. From the “30 Textured Watercolor Backgrounds” resource, select the “TEXTURE” layer, hide the “GRADIENTS” folder, and flatten the image. Adjust the image size to 12 inches wide and set the resolution to 300 DPI if it isn’t already. Then go to Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast and set the contrast to 100. Use the Color Range tool to select and copy the darkest portions of the layer and paste it into your document.
Step 20. Align the layer appropriately, name it “TEXTURE 1” and apply a Color Overlay. I chose #051720. Duplicate the layer, name it “TEXTURE 2” and apply a Color Overlay. I chose #00b09d. Now, mask off any portions of either layer that you’d like to, and set each Opacity at 60%.
Step 21. Lastly, create a final adjustment later of Brightness/Contrast and set the contrast to 15.
Ding! Dinner’s Done!
Pull your masterpiece out of the oven and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. If you’re currently looking at a scene from Skyrim, you did it. Congrats!
Alan Ashcraft is a charming and gentle graphic designer from The Pacific Northwest who has created artwork for clients ranging from My Morning Jacket to The Ultimate Warrior (RIP). Visit his website, follow him on Twitter and check out his recently released texture pack.