Photoshop Tutorial: Create Four Towers in a Fantasy Setting

This tutorial will go through the steps I did in creating the "four towers".

These steps include photo manipulation and painting techniques and as most of the painted parts involve using textured brushes, I also included a how-to on creating your own one.

This was done in Photoshop CS3.

Stock images/textures and brushes used:

End result:
Create Four Towers in a Fantasy Setting Final Image

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Step 1

Source photo

The idea is to create four towers from the fingers part of the glove. The body of the glove will then serve as a mountain top where the towers stand.

The setting will be a fantasy or a fairy-tale-like world so that we can dress up the towers in any way we want.

Step 2

Extracting the glove

So the first thing I needed to do was to extract the glove by making a selection of it from the photo.

Using the Pen tool (P), I created a path following the shape of the glove.

Once the path is completed/closed, it can then be converted to a selection. Hit Ctrl+Enter (or while still using the Pen tool, Right Click >> Make Selection..).

Now that we have our selection, I could just delete the background by inverting the selection, (Ctrl+Shift+I) and hitting Del. However, I prefer a different method which is using Layer Masks since it is more flexible, as you will see later on.

Using Layer Masks

After converting the path on the glove to a selection, click on the Add Layer Mask button found at the bottom of the Layers window. This will create a Layer Mask leaving our selection, the glove, visible while the rest of the unselected areas will be hidden.

Step 3

Adding a background

Now I can add a new background for the glove.

I opened a sky image in photoshop, selected it (Ctrl+A) and copied it (Ctrl+C) then pasted it (Ctrl+V) below my glove layer.

Using Adjustment Layers

My sky image appears dull. To fix this, I added several Adjustment Layers above the sky/clouds layer (Layer >> New Adjustment Layer OR by clicking on the Adjustment Layer icon found at the bottom of the Layers window).

Basically, I was just experimenting with the Adjustment Layers as to what effects they can produce on the image until I felt satisfied with the outcome. You can see the values of the adjustments I made in the image below.

To keep my layers organized, I grouped the sky background and its adjustment layers together (Ctrl+G) and named it bg. I gave the glove layer its own group too and named it base.

Step 4


Before proceeding with the details, I first made a quick sketch on a new layer so that I could get a better idea on how to lay down the elements.

For the mean time, I will keep this Sketch layer hidden.

Step 5

Changing the colors

Next thing is to change the color of the glove to a brownish one. I will again be using Adjustment Layers in this step.

When changing the colors, I usually use the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer but you may also try adjusting the Color balance or different combinations of Adjustment Layers. Just experiment with it and have fun.

Take note that adding an Adjustment Layer will affect all the layers below it (see Step 6). So to prevent it, we can create a Clipping Mask so that it will only apply on the layer beneath it.

Using Clipping Masks

To create a Clipping Mask, right click on the layer, in my case the Adjustment Layer, and select Create Clipping Mask.

Or you could use a shortcut: Move your mouse pointer between the two layers, hold down Alt until the cursor changes to something like two circles overlapping one another then Click. You can remove the Clipping Mask by using the same step.

To create an Adjustment Layer already set with a Clipping Mask, hold down Alt, click on the Adjustment Layer icon on the bottom of the Layer window (while still holding down Alt) and select the Adjustment layer to add by releasing Alt. On the dialogue box that pops up, tick on the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask then click OK.

Step 6

Adding a Clipping Mask

Step 7

Adding texture to the Glove layer

Just coloring the glove brown doesn't make it look like a mountain-top just yet. So to give it a ground-like surface, we will be adding a texture to it by using an actual photo of a ground.

Similar to the process in adding a background (Step 3), I copied (Ctrl+C) the ground image and pasted it (Ctrl+V) this time, above the glove layer (but still inside the Base group), and set its Blending mode to Multiply.

I changed the Blending Mode to Multiply just so that I could see the glove beneath it. Alternatively, you can just lower the opacity to say, 50-60% or to whatever value seems best. This is done so that we can properly wrap the texture (the ground image) around the body of the glove.

Wrapping the texture

If the surface to add the texture to is flat, like a wall directly facing you, this step may not be needed but since we have a rounded shape, this step will make the texture more realistic.

So using the Transform tool (Ctrl+T), I set it to Warp mode (found at the options bar) and adjusted its shape accordingly.

Step 8

Adding texture to the Glove layer

Removing the excess texture

After modifying the shape of the texture, the excess area needs to be removed. Since I need the texture to follow the shape of the glove, I can simply copy the Layer Mask of the glove and paste it on the ground texture.

To copy the Layer Mask, hold down Alt on the glove's Layer Mask and drag it onto the texture layer. Another way is to Alt+Click on the glove's Layer Mask to load its selection, click on the the texture layer to set it as the active layer, then click on the Add Layer Mask button, similar to Step 1.

Applying the glove's Layer Mask removes the excess around the glove but not on the towers, which we will manually erase using the texture's newly added Layer Mask.

To remove the unwanted areas, first, make sure you are on the texture's Layer Mask and not on the texture itself (just click on the Layer Mask) then you can use the Eraser tool (E), set your foreground color to white then erase away.

Rather than erasing the texture itself, using a Layer Mask enables us to 'return' areas of the texture we may need to when working on the details later on. We can simply paint it back with a Brush (B) and the foreground color set to white. And a nice thing about Layer Masks is that the amount of the image that your erase or paint back also depends on your brush opacity and softness.

Press D to reset your foreground and background colors to black and white respectively. To switch your foreground and background colors, use X.

Step 9

Adding texture to the Glove layer

Blending the texture

I tried experimenting with the blending modes and the one I used earlier, Multiply, seems best and I just lowered the opacity to 72%. Then, I added an Adjustment Layer (Hue/Saturation) and a Clipping Mask (see Steps 3, 5) to blend the texture better with the color of the ground.

Step 10

In this step, I will share with you the process I use when painting. This is just to give you an idea of how I did the painted areas.

For the brush, I usually use a rough edged kind. You can see the settings I used in the image below.

And when painting, I usually start with a base color. Followed by another color which I blend with the first one.

I blend the colors together by constantly using the Eyedropper (I or Hold down Alt) on areas where the different colors meet then paint on it. I do this several times until I think the blending is okay.

You can add your colors in separate layers if you want to though I usually do mine in one layer except when I'm unsure of adding something.

If you want to merge your layers together, just select the layers you want to merge then hit Ctrl+E.

See Step 23 on how to create your own textured brushes.

Step 11

Painting the towers

So now we can start on creating the towers. I decided to work on one tower at a time as it helps me stay focused but you can use whatever style suits you best.

First, I created a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) on top of all the layers. I will refer to this layer as the tower layer.

Then I proceeded to add the base color of the roof of the tower while using my Sketch layer (Step 4) as a reference by turning its visibility on from time to time.

After painting the base, I added another color to blend with it. I repeated this process several times then proceeded with the details. For the last panel of the image, the dirt I added on the roof was made using a textured brush (Step 23).

Because of my brush, the edges of the painting are not sharp. I fixed this by using a solid round brush for the Eraser (E) and cleaned the outline of the roof.

Step 12

Painting the towers

Next is the wall of the tower.

I'm already satisfied with the texture of the glove on the towers. So to preserve its texture when adding color to it, I created a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) just above the Base group and below the tower layers, and set its name and blending mode to Overlay. Using a textured brush (Step 23), I painted along the sides of the tower.

Step 13

Painting the towers

And here is the progress on the rest of the towers. By this time, I wasn't completely following the sketch as I made some changes to the appearance of the towers.

After completing the towers, I grouped the tower layers together (Ctrl+G) and named it as towers.

Step 14

Painting the ground

So next is the ground. I created a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) below the towers group and named it as ground. Then I used the same technique in the previous steps in painting it.

To blend the painting of the ground with rest of the Base group, I selected the colors to use from the Base group itself using the Eyedropper tool (I). For the base color, I picked on the midtones. Then I chose the light and dark areas of the Base layer for my highlights and shadows respectively.

Step 15

Painting the grass

I created a new layer and placed it just below the Ground layer.

For the grass, I used a textured brush (Step 23) in making it.

I just started with the base color and scattered it around the ground and added a second color on it to give it some depth.

Also, when painting the grass, I made sure to extend it beneath the Ground layer I painted earlier. You will see why this is needed later on.

Step 16

Here in this step, I just added some details at the foot of the first tower. The light colored square from the Base group's texture caught my fancy and I thought I'd add more to make it like a step of stones.

I just used the Eyedropper (I) to pick the color of the square and painted new squares.

To give it some texture, I used the Clone Stamp (S) on the original square and added it to some of the ones I painted.

Step 17

Adding texture to the Ground layer

Next thing to do is to add texture to the painted mounds to match it with the glove's texture (Base group).

For the Ground layer, I decided to use a different texture from the glove's. This will prevent any pattern occurring and it makes it more realistic.

Basically, we just use the same process done in Step 7. First thing is to open the texture image in photoshop. Copy (Ctrl+C) the layer and Paste (Ctrl+V) it above the Ground layer. Set the texture's Blending Mode to Overlay so that we could see through it.

At this point, it will be hard to fit the texture to the shape of the mounds as there are plenty of elements laid above and below it. To make it easier to adjust, we create a Clipping Mask (Step 5) between the texture and the Ground layer.

Now we can easily transform the texture to make it fit to the shape of the mounds. While on the texture layer, hit Ctrl+T and enable Warp mode then proceed with the transformation. Hit Enter when done.

After experimenting with the blending modes, I settled on using Multiply and lowered the Opacity to 24%.

I decided to add another texture and repeated the same process. For the second texture, I set its Blending Mode to Multiply and its Opacity to 27%.

Step 18

Upon close-up of the texture of the Ground layer, you will see that there are areas wherein the texture seems unnatural. I indicated these areas in the 2nd panel of the image below.

This was actually caused by the first texture I used. To remove these areas, I added a Layer Mask on both textures, in case I needed to alter both, and used a textured brush for the Eraser (E) (Step 2, 8) - a soft brush will also be fine to use.

I used a textured brush to erase the unwanted areas so that the blending of the two textures will not be messed up - as opposed to a solid brush in which the erased areas will look too sharp/obvious.

Step 19

Adding details to the Grass layer

I though I'd fix the Grass layer for a bit - make the grass look upright or so.

Selecting the brush I used earlier on the Grass layer, I made some modifications to it to create 'upright' grass.

Modifying brushes

To make some changes to the brush, check that your current tool is the Brush (B) to modify. Then open the brushes window (Window >> Brushes or simply F5). Go to Brush Tip Shape on the options found on the left.

Since I want to rotate my brush to make it upright, I changed the Angle value to -93°. You can either input the value manually, or rotate the circle by dragging it around.

Also, in the image below, you will see how I added overlapping grass on the Ground layer.

Unless you save your brush, the modifications you make to it will only be temporary. Once you switch to another brush, the changes you made will be gone.

Step 20

Adding more background

If you will notice in the Sketch layer (Step 4), I've added trees in it but I abandoned the idea while working on the image. Now, I have en empty space to fill on the left area. Since my background seems to be lacking, I may as well add more.

Following the same process in Step 3, I opened my new background image, selected it (Ctrl+A) for copying (Ctrl+C) then pasted it (Ctrl+V) above my first background layer (clouds-01).

Since I am using adjustment layers without a Clipping Mask on my background, my newly pasted layer is also affected by the adjustments I made earlier in Step 3 - which seems to be ok so I'll leave it as is.

Next is blending the two backgrounds together. For that, I apply a Layer Mask on my second background, then using a Soft Round Eraser (E) with an Opacity set to around 70-80%, I erased parts of the second background which overlap with the first (Step 8).

Step 21

We are almost done! Let's just add some texture and make some adjustments to the colors to set the mood.

Adding texture to the background

I added a new layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) inside the bg group.

Then using a textured brush, I painted around the edges of the background and along the outline of the towers. I did this using varying size and opacity settings of the brush.

As for the color I used, I wasn't sure just yet so it kind of appeared random but this can be easily fixed with an Adjustment Layer (Step 3).

Above the texture I just added, I created a Color Fill Adjustment Layer and after experimenting a bit, I chose a dark color (#023b47).

And as seen in previous steps, to prevent the Color Fill from affecting the layers below the texture, I created a Clipping Mask (Step 5).

Step 22

After experimenting for a bit, I did the same process in Step 21 and added some texture above all the layers this time.

Now that the image is complete, I can flatten my layers (Ctrl+Shift+E) and add some final adjustments to it.

Once again, I made use of Adjustment Layers (Step 3) and brightened up the colors to give it more life.

..And that's it!

Step 23

Creating your own Textured brush

Here in this step, I'll show you how I created my own textured brushes. All you need is an image where you think you can see some interesting textures and you are good to go.

Step 24

Customizing your brushes

Now let's try customizing the brush in the previous step.

The key here is to just try and experiment with the settings to make the most out of your brushes.

Step 25

End Result

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