Create Stylized Landscapes for Animation | Siobhan Twomey | Skillshare

Create Stylized Landscapes for Animation

Siobhan Twomey, Artist, Illustrator, Instructor

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11 Lessons (1h 9m) View My Notes
    • 1. Stylized Background Art for Animation

    • 2. What to Use for this Class

    • 3. Making the Rough Sketch

    • 4. Blocking In Colours

    • 5. Using the Lasso Tool to Create a Forest

    • 6. Using the Curves Editor to Create the Tree

    • 7. Adding Definition to the Foreground

    • 8. Adding Brush textures to the Foreground

    • 9. Painting the Mid Ground

    • 10. Painting the Background

    • 11. Final Touches

36 students are watching this class

About This Class

In this class you will learn techniques and processes for easily creating beautiful background art for TV animation, mobile games and short films.

I will walk you through the whole process from start to finish.

Throughout this class, you'll learn how to create a stylized and graphic background with simple colors and gradients. This is created with just the pen tool, the lasso and the default Photoshop brushes, with just one or two textured brushes.

Throughout each section, and in each video, I teach you new Photoshop tips and techniques; I teach you a variety of approaches to digital painting and drawing; and I also give you advice on how to work to a professional standard, how to be efficient and effective and how to support the production you're working on, through your art.

I hope you enjoy the class and the project, and if you finish your landscape, don't forget to post the image to me for review and feedback!

You'll find info about the class project as well as the brush set in the Class Project tab! :)


1. Stylized Background Art for Animation: Hi there, my name is Siobhan. I'm an art instructor, and an animation professional, and in this class I'm going to teach you how to create beautiful stylized and graphic backgrounds for animation. [MUSIC] This painting is really easy to create, and I'm going to walk you through each phase of the painting from start to finish. You'll get to sketch out your ideas in a very rough and loose way. Get really comfortable with this one important ideation phase. Then you'll learn how to start building out your composition with shapes and colors. From there, you'll go on a journey of creating details, and bringing atmosphere and mood into your painting. [MUSIC] These are techniques and processes that I've used throughout my career as a professional background artist, and I've designed backgrounds like this for studios whose clients include Disney, Sony DreamWorks, and Canada's YTV. The process for this painting is fun, it's easy, and it's something that you can accomplish in a few hours. By the end of the class, you'll have a stunning portfolio piece, and you'll also have the confidence to be able to create artwork like this for any client or studio. I'm really excited to be sharing this knowledge and skill set with you, and I hope that this class opens the door for your own journey, creating art for animation. Let's get started. [MUSIC] 2. What to Use for this Class: I'm going to be creating my background art in Photoshop. Photoshop is the industry-standard software that most artists use, it's what you'll likely be using if you do end up working in an animation studio. But if you don't have Photoshop and you don't necessarily want to buy or get a license for it just yet, that's totally fine, there are plenty of free options out there that you can go with. You could use something like Krita or something like Procreate with the iPad. You can definitely follow along with me in this course using any other digital painting software. But if you do want to follow along with me, you could consider even downloading Photoshop for a free trial for a couple of weeks and just testing it out and seeing how you like it. Once you've downloaded Photoshop or you're happy to work in your own specific software, the other thing that you'll need for this course is a drawing tablet. I'm using a Wacom tablet, the specific one that I work with is a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium. A lot of people ask me about which drawing tablet they should use or which one to get? Again, there are a lot of options, you don't have to go with a very expensive Cintiq or large Wacom tablet by any means, you can start out with a basic, cheaper alternative to Wacom. I do recommend getting Wacom if you are really keen to pursue digital art, if you know that this is something that you want to invest in because you will use it for years and years to come. But if you've got any questions about choosing a drawing tablet for you, just send me a message, feel free to ask me and I'll try and give you some advice. Once you do have your tablet and you're ready to set up, what you need to do is just install drivers, that's standard, I think most external things need a driver to work, plug it into your laptop, and then you're ready to go. Getting used to working with a drawing tablet does take a little bit of time if you haven't ever worked with one before, the main thing to note is that unlike a mouse, the cursor on your screen when it's controlled by the pen, will be mapping the corresponding area on the tablet. With an external mouse, you can keep it really in one spot, not move it about too much, and still manage to move the cursor. But with a pen, if you want to move the cursor on your screen, you have to move the pen on your tablet. That's really the biggest difference that you have to get used to. Once you get used to using that, I don't ever use the most for anything whatsoever, I use the pen and tablet for all of my navigation. I usually have my tablet right in front of my laptop like this, and I use the pen with my right hand, and I use my left hand to make any keyboard shortcuts, for example, Command or Control Z to undo, I do that a lot, so I literally keep my hand hovered over those keys while my right-hand draws. Obviously, if you're left-handed, you can just swap that around, have the pen in your left hand, you can swap the tablet around as well. To access the right-click option, just press the lower button like that and it brings up your, I don't know what this is called, but the menu that usually comes up with a right-click. That just about covers everything that you need to have for this course in order to follow along with me, and if you have any questions whatsoever, just send me a message. Up next in the next video, I'm going to go over the brush set that I've left for you because that is very specific to this course, I'll be using a lot of varying texture brushes, and I'll just explain how to import that brush set and get yourself familiarized with it. When you're ready, I'll see you in the next video. 3. Making the Rough Sketch: With this background, I'm going to start my initial concept phase with a rough sketch. The reason I'm doing this as opposed to creating a series of color concepts, color keys, or even just starting the painting in a gray-scale and working it out as I go, the reason why I'm choosing to make my initial phase as a rough sketch is because more often than not in animation, if you're creating a background for a TV show or something like that, you need to be a little bit specific and you need to work out your details from the get-go, so you don't really have that much time to experiment with composition or the layout. A rough sketch helps you to really nail down your ideas and to get everything pretty much defined in a rough way before you actually start the color phase. The sketch doesn't have to be a proper finished layout at all. It can be very rough and loose, but it really does go a really long way to helping you figure out your ideas visually. I'm just going to create a new documents and one on a new layer, going to choose a hard-edged brush from my default photoshop brushes. For this landscape, I want to create a very peaceful nature scene, looking out across some rolling hills with maybe some mountains in the background. I have in my mind this idea of beautiful landscape that has a bit of a magical quality but something very, very peaceful. I'm choosing to make it in a portrait. But in terms of animation or cartoon backgrounds, creating a landscape in this format will give the option to do a camera move going from the bottom all the way up to the top where the mountain is. The first thing I'll do is just draw out a frame and then I'm going to roughly block in my foreground elements. I'm keeping everything round and gentle like that because in shape language, round shapes often invoke or give the impression of easy peaceful scenes. Just giving some rolling hills, maybe some clouds in the background, mountain there at the very back. I'm working out my ideas as I'm drawing, but I'm also realizing that I've got to be specific before I move to the painting phase. This first path is going to be very rough, and then I'm going to come back in and paint over it and get a little bit more neater and tidier in my drawing. Again, in the foreground, I just want to have a tree that's going to help frame the area of interest, which is the mountain in the background of the viewer's eye to move through the landscape and through the picture plane all the way to the back, to the far, far background where that mountain is. The foreground has to help the viewer step into the picture plane and lead them through. I'm going to have, I think some foresty elements in the midground. I really want to give the impression that the foreground elements are on top of a ridge, looking over this valley and towards the background. In my mid ground, I'll have some more mountains and maybe hills and forests. But that's really it. It's very, very simple. I always think just in terms of three layers, foreground, midground and background, and then I just arrange my shapes and my composition to fit into those three very simplified layers, or I should say simplified zones. It can get very much more complex and much more detailed later on but when I'm starting out, I try to keep it simple like that. Great, so I'm very happy with that composition, that works. I'm going to just scale up my sketch, crop my canvas. What I'm going to do is create a new layer on top of this and then I just draw a bit more neater. Just going to draw the exact same thing. Bring the opacity of that lower layer down slightly and laqish so they don't draw on it. Now, with my brush tool, I'm just going to pick out one or two lines from my rough drawing and then start to draw in just a little bit more neater. Maybe there's steps or something carved into the hillside in the foreground here that also works to lead the viewer into the composition. I'm not 100 percent sure but we'll see how it goes. I can just draw them in now and change my mind later if I want to. The thing is I don't want to get super detailed. A lot of the times, for animation backgrounds anyway, your background has to support the characters or the action. The characters are going to be the focal point eventually so you want to keep your background as not overly detailed but quite simple if you can. The tree shape also needs to work in some way to lead the viewer's eye into the composition. That's why I'm making sure to have the tree literally pointing towards the center or pointing towards the focal point. Then in the midground, as I said, rolling hills, some forest elements, a pine forest. I'm trying to keep this very stylized. When it comes to drawing things like trees, you can simplify it. You can use symbols and shapes to indicate a forest and it's going to read very strongly for the audience. I'm not too worried about drawing a perfect tree or anything like that. Just trying to put down the basic elements. The most important thing is to create that sense of depth and a sense of scale. If I repeat the forest in the background there, it's got to be much smaller. That'll help to really get the sense that there's a lot of distance. I'm just literally drawing small triangles for trees in the far background and then continuing towards the back, introducing some hills, and then obviously, the big mountain range in the background. That looks okay. Possibly, I could think about maybe introducing a pathway or a road just to really emphasize the viewer's journey through the painting, or through the background, but we'll see. I think that looks fine. At this point, it's really good to get sucked into details, like I'm messing around with the mountains in the background here and I can tell that I'm not quite getting it right. So the minute I start to feel like I'm overworking ish, I'm going to step back and leave it for a moment and just say, "Okay, I'm going to move on to the color phase," because I don't want to get super detailed here, it'll make the next phase a little bit tricky. Great. I'm really happy with that sketch and I think it's clean enough or it's tidied up enough for me to move on to the next phase. When you're ready, join me in the next video. 4. Blocking In Colours: In this video, I'm going to show you how to block in flat colors for your composition. Before I do that, I need to tidy up my sketch a little bit. It got a bit too messy there towards the end. All I'm going to do is refine it very, very quickly. I think these steps in the front are not working for me, so I'm just going to take them out. I made some minor adjustments to these hills in the background. It is looking a little bit cleaner and nicer, and it reads a lot better than it was before. I wanted to point out that you don't have to be afraid of just selecting part of your linework and scaling it up or moving it around if you need to. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's a great way to fix your composition without having to redraw it completely. I think that's looking a lot better already, much clearer. I'm going to double-click on that layer and name it sketch. Before I move on though, I want to scale it up. I'm going to hit "Command' or "Control T" on my keyboard to select the whole thing, and then I'm just going to scale it to fit my canvas. The next step is color. The first thing that I'm going to do is create a gradient color map on my picture, on my canvas so that I've got some color reference to work from, and I'm not working like completely blind on a glaring white background. You can put a gray neutral tone down if you want. For this process, I am going to use a gradient of colors so that I've got something to reference. I want to really keep within a very limited palette, and I want to be able to work within two or three colors and not go out of that too much. Maybe I'll add some brands into the foreground. The rest of the painting, I want to keep it in purple-pink hues, and teal-green hues as well. On a new layer, when I hit G on the keyboard, that brings up the bucket tool. If you go over to that and click and hold down on there, you'll see that the first option there is the gradient tool. Click on that, and then up here in the properties for the gradient, you can click on this slider here, and the gradient editor opens up. This is where you can choose your colors. For each of these stops, I'm going to choose a different color. Let's choose a pink for this one, and teal or blue-green for this one. If you wanted to add another stop in the middle, that's easily done. Just click anywhere on that scale, and you can choose a different color. I think that looks good for me, and then I'm going to click and drag through the canvas to create that gradient. That's going to be my reference point. I'm going to keep that in the background. It's not completely going to be my sky and ground color, but it's a really good starting point. It's much better than working from white background. The next thing I want to do is start blocking in the foreground. I know that I want to have a brown color, so I'm going to just choose something from the color picker. With my pen tool, I'm going to click and drag along my line work. Now I'm clicking and dragging along these rocks to create three rocks here. If you want to change the color of your shape that you've made using the pen tool, just double-click into the icon of the layer that brings up the color, and then you can choose whatever color you want. That needed to be a bit darker than my first shape. I'm just going to group those together and name them foreground rocks, and the shape underneath will just be foreground for now. That's good. Everything is separate layers, so I can move them if I need to. That's how I will proceed throughout the rest of the composition. Underneath the foreground, I'll just make a lighter shape. Now I'll just trace out my tree using the pen tool. I'm clicking and dragging the anchor points. The way I'm going to do this is just blocking the main tree trunk first. To fix any of the anchor points, I just hold Command or Alt on my keyboard, and then click on to the anchor point that I want to move, and that allows me to move it easily. I'll block in one or two of the main branches in the same way. It's important to note that once you do switch to the pen tool after you sketched in your drawing, things become very graphic. Obviously, a lot of that lovely loose linework gets lost and you end up with really flat shapes. Don't worry too much about that at this stage. This is only going to be a basis for the final result if you like. This is just to get the basic shape down. Then I'm going to work over, refine it, and bring back in some of the texture and some of the life that we established with the sketch. The next thing I'm going to do are these rolling hills or the mid-ground plane. That can be just one shape, one big curved shape like that. Then I'll do another one over here, and double-click there and just make it a little bit lighter or different tone and make sure that it's underneath. The next thing is to do third shape back here towards the base of the mountains. Again, a little bit lighter, I want all of these colors to relate to each other. I'm not going off into different colors at all. I'm just making each one a little bit of a lighter shade. Then finally in the background will have the hills that are leading up towards the mountain. Again, for these hills, I'm keeping it very stylized, very, very cartoony and graphic. Just simple, round shapes like this is going to be fine. It's going to work okay. Again, it's looking very different to the drawing. I do realize that, but that's okay. At least the drawing was always just going to be a guide for me to be able to come in and make these nice stylized shapes on top. For the far mountains, this is my main mountain. I want this to be again, even lighter. Something like that, and then I'll make one shape behind that for the very, very far mountain range. Believe it or not, that's pretty much the whole composition blocked in. That's it. I have lost my tree. Where is it? There we go. I'm very pleased, I love the colors. I think they're all working harmoniously. I wouldn't have been able to have gotten to that point. It would have taken me much longer to get to that point if I hadn't used that gradient in the beginning to give me a starting point. I know I haven't done the leaves yet of the tree and I haven't put in any of the forests, but for a first pass block in, this is really good. If you can get this far after making your sketch, you're really well on your way to making this background finished. Join me in the next video, and we'll move into the next phase. 5. Using the Lasso Tool to Create a Forest: In this video, I'm going to switch tools and I'm going to start working with the Lasso Tool and I want to show you how easy it is to create quite complex shapes like a forest using just the Lasso Tool. Before I do that, I'm just going to fix up my sky. I want the gradient to be a little bit more pronounced back here, I want to see a little bit of the gradient behind the mountains. I'm just going to do that on a new layer with a flat tone and using a soft round brush just adding a little bit of that green. That's fine. That just gives me a sense of depth and I think that looks pretty good. The beauty of keeping everything on separate layers like this is that you can move them around as things go. But let's focus on the forest and the frontier. Switching to the Lasso Tool and literally using it like you would a pen or a pencil, I'm just drawing out the overall silhouette. The important thing to note here though is that you have to use really small incremental movements. You almost use the stylus or the pen on your tablet and draw from the very tips of your fingers to make those very small, jagged edges. It's not big sweeping motions across your tablet. The technique is that you use very small movements, almost move your pen very incrementally to get those jagged edges. If you were to use the pen from your elbow, like move your arm in wide motions, you won't get those small details. It does take a little bit of practice but you can easily achieve it if you just keep the movements very small and don't move your hand in big motions. Back here I'm just going to create another silhouette or outline. I'm doing all of these silhouettes on separate layers so that I can move them around and change them. But the idea is just to go for that basic outline shape, so I'm not drawing branches or any definition at all. Think of it almost like a stamp or a silhouette of the forest. It is important to keep colors changing through each layer so that they stand out against each other. For example, on this layer I'm going to change the color slightly, make it a little bit brighter so that we can see it. Now we zoom in and with the last row, I'm going to refine the edges here a little bit because obviously it's not all that easy to make specific edges when you're doing it from afar. Once I've got the overall shape, I can go in then and just carve out the edges of these trees to give them that jagged edge look. I'm just selecting around the edges and then hitting backspace on my keyboard to delete that selection. Then hit command D or control D to deselect. I don't want to overdo it completely. I mean these are small, tiny details and they might not be all that noticeable. I'll just leave it like that. I can command or control, click into the thumbnail of that layer to select the whole layer. Then with a soft rounded brush, I'm going to brush some tone or some color along the bottom of that selection and that will give a nice gradient throughout the layer. It's looking quite good. The bottom of those trees doesn't look great, so what I'll do is just change the shape layer underneath it to the same color and then it blends in perfectly. Now we've got this lovely sense of layers of forests moving back into the scene from the first few trees through to the far background. On top of that rolling hill in the back there, I'm going to do the same thing again. I want even smaller forests now just to really give the impression that it's far away. I'll choose this color and deselect and that's nice. That looks like it's again, layers and layers of forests moving back. That's how you could use the Lasso Tool if you want to create something that seems as complex as a pine forest. Make sure that you work with the pen on your tablet in really small incremental motions so that you can really get those details in. Up next in the next video, I'm going to work on the tree in the foreground. 6. Using the Curves Editor to Create the Tree: I'm going to be using the same process in this video that I did to make the pine forests, and I'm going to now focus on the tree in the foreground. The first thing I'm going to do though is tidy up the branches a little bit. I'm just moving the vector points or anchor points of the shape around just to get the shape with the silhouette exactly how I want it. When you're happy enough with the overall shape, then I'm going to go over to the layer, I'm going to right-click and rasterize that layer. Then with a hard-edge round brush, I'm going to decrease the size, I'm now going to add on smaller branches like this. I just want to give just a few little small branches to really get the silhouette much more interest. Then I'm going to create a new layer on top of that and switch to the Lasso tool. Again, much the same way as I did for the pine forests, I'm going to draw out an overall silhouette of the shape of the leaves. I'm trying to draw the leaves or the shape of the leaves around the edges of these branches. I want some of the branches and I want the smaller branches to be visible, but I'm going to be putting a flat tone of color on top. I'm holding down Shift so that I'm keeping the selection active as I go. Let's see what that looks like. I'm just going to choose a color from my color picker, and then hit G on my keyboard and fill that selection. That's looking okay. Now I'm going to create a new layer underneath the tree trunk by holding down Alt and hitting that layer icon. On that layer, I'll just put another shape for leaves back there just to give it a bit of depth and to give the impression that there's leaves behind the tree trunk. That looks okay. What I might do is, on the basis of dash, I'm going to add in more. You can always just with the Lasso tool draw over the selection that you've done, and when you're finally happy with your overall shape or your overall silhouette of the tree, then it's time to go in and start adding details. For this, I usually like to make a selection around what I think is the top half of the canopy or the top half of these leaves, but I'm using that small circular round selection technique to give the impression of leaves. Then I'm going to choose a lighter color. Now you can see immediately that the color is going outside of the edge. I'm going to go over to my layer stack, hold on Alt and hover over the two layers to create a clipping mask. That gives a really good impression of layers of leaves within the tree, so that's really nice. That's looking very good. Now you can actually do the same procedure again and create another selection and give the impression of some darker leaves underneath at the bottom. I'm going to go back to the Lasso tool, make sure that I'm on the tree leaves layer, and do the same thing again, this time making a selection for what I think is going to be the underneath of the leaves. This is going to be effectively the shadow shapes of leaves. What I want to do is just give the impression that within these shapes, there's a lot of layers. Making sure that I'm keeping the pen really small as I made those shapes, keeping the pens small? Keeping the movement of my pen small. Then I'm going to hit Command M or Control M on my keyboard, which brings up this Curves Editor. If I drag the graph down, you'll see that it makes it slightly darker. That has a great effect. If you wanted to, you could experiment with the Curves Editor or with painting, adding color on after you've made a selection. But it works really, really well, and once you get used to this procedure, it's so easy and simple. All you're doing is, first of all you lay down a flat color, then you curve out where you think your highlights are and you make a lighter color in that selection. Then you select where you think your shadows will be, and you make that selection darker. That's looking really good. All I want to do now is the tree trunk. With the same method, I'm going use the Lasso tool, and I'm going to curve out some tree trunky-looking shapes that I imagine would represent how the bark looks on this tree trunk, using Shift to keep the selection active as I go. It's along the right-hand side of the tree trunk where I think that the ambient light in the scene is going to be coming from. Just very loosey, something like that, just to give the tree some definition and some form and some shape. Once you're happy with the selection, make sure that you're on the tree trunk layer. I'm going to create a new layer above it, and I'll be making a clipping mask from that layer. Then I will choose a lighter color. I'm going to switch to a soft round-edge brush. For this, I'm going to hit Command or Control H on my keyboard, just to hide the active selection and then you can see how this effect really works nicely. I'm going to brush on that larger tone, and instantly it gives the tree that 3D look, like it's not so flat, it's not so graphic, it's now got what feels like a shape reform to it. Great. That's the tree done. I've obviously going to be adding texture on top of it in the next video or in subsequent videos. What I need to do now though is focus on my layer stack which is starting to get a little bit out of control. That can happen so very quickly. What you want to do is just start grouping things. I'm going to group everything into this tree group. I'm going to group the background layers up to the mountain all into one background group. Then these shapes here, the ground plane at the back and the small foothills, I'll group that and call that group, say the faraway midground, because it's my midground, but I want to break up the midground into two sections. That's just far midground. Then the nearer hills and the forests can all go into one group or one folder, and we'll call that midground or MG. Then the rest of the layers all belong in the foreground group. It's really important to keep your layer stack under control and try to name your layers as much as possible. I'm not doing that super attentively in this background, but at least if I keep things organized in foreground, midground, background folders, I'm not going to get too lost or too confused about where things are. That's the tree done. Meet me in the next video, and I'll start working on the rocks and the ground plane in the foreground. 7. Adding Definition to the Foreground: By now you really should have an understanding of the method or the approach that I'm going to be using and it is just making your flat colors, and then using the lasso tool to carve out detail a definition. That's how I'm going to proceed for the next section here to do the foreground, ground and the rocks and the frontier. What I'm going to do is, once I'm happy enough with the overall shape of my vector layer, I will rasterize it into a bitmap layer by just selecting the layer, right clicking and choosing Rasterize Layer. What that does is, it allows me to paint on it if I want to or to edit it in anyway. I usually just do that once I'm happy enough with the shape, and then I can come in and add these definition or these defining details on top. I do like to use a clipping mask just in case that the colors don't quite work out down the line, and then I can easily undo it if I want to just delete the layer of texture on top. But usually it works out okay, and then what I do is I flatten that clipping mask layer down onto the base layer. What I'm doing here is imagining or trying to visualize where the light would be. By adding light and shadow, I'm giving structure and form a definition to this area, and giving the impression that it's an organic natural shape, not just a flat graphic shape. I love using the lasso tool to draw with. It's a very intuitive tool. It's really like just sketching out shapes and then filling it in with color. You could use the pen tool, obviously, but I find that the lasso tool is quicker. It's just a quicker, easier way to do it than working with vector points, and clicking and dragging out. It's easy to edit it or to change the color or to add texture on top. Now I'm going to focus on the foreground rocks. Since these are quite an important compositional element here in the front, they're helping to frame the picture and to lead the viewer's eye in. I just want to get their shape exactly right before I rasterize them. When I'm happy, I will rasterize all those layers, and then go in one by one and start adding details. I want to give highlights and shadows to give the effect of a rocky surface, and also to give the effect of this being three-dimensional. I'm using a clipping mask layer above it, and I'm going to paint on a lighter color. Something like that. That will work, very well, I think. It's going to give it a nice cartoony feel with these bold shapes of highlights and shadows. In this third rock which is in front of them, the light's falling on the top section here, just gives it a bit of texture, a bit of definition. Now, it's still quite flat. It's still a very flat looking thing, so I will add texture on it but you can add in bits of grain if you want, and rock texture. I will come back to that again in a little bit. The next thing that I want to do is start to use some of my texture brushes. Up until this point, I've only used really the soft round edge brush or the hard-edged round brush. Now I'm going to switch over to some of these more texture brushes. I'm only using very minimal texture brushes throughout this painting. It's mostly the default Photoshop brushes. But every now and again, I'm going to go in and use a highly textured brush just to give it a very subtle layer of paint release quality to make it look like it's painted as opposed to, making it look like it's very stylized. Overall, I just want to keep the brush textures to a minimum. But in the foreground here, because it's so close to the viewer, there has to be a little bit more definition and a little bit more realistic looking texture going on, so that's why I think in the foreground it's going to be important to add in some of these texture brushes just to give the feeling of sand or dirt in the foreground. That's looking great. I'll probably do another pass over the rocks, with some of the texture brushes. But what I want to do next is add some vegetation or some plants into the left-hand corner here. I've made a new layer and with the lasso tool, I'm just drawing out a silhouette of what I would imagine are some shrubs and grasses here in the foreground. Again, this is a great compositional trick, or a technique to use in your composition. Something like this can be so simple and yet it's so effectively leads or points the viewer's eye towards the center of the picture. Because these big blades of grass or plant shapes are literally pointing where you want the viewer to look. Once I'm happy enough with the overall shape, I will choose a dark color, because it's going to be silhouetted because it's right in front. That looks okay. I'm going to make a layer underneath it, and just counterbalance it a little bit, so I'll do some more shapes. This shape I'm going to fill with a slightly lighter color. Not too light, just something like that and that looks great. That looks a big bunch of vegetation in the front there, which is very effective. It also fills up that corner or that section, creating almost a natural vignette. I might do the same in front of the rocks here. Exact same process, lasso tool to just draw out a silhouette, and then the bucket tool to finish. If you wanted to, you could even put the similar effect or the similar element B underneath the layer of the rocks. Very last thing is maybe I'll put a shrub or bush back here, just to repeat the element. In the next video, I'm going to add some more foreground textures and just finish off this section. This is taking me the longest to do because it needs to be so precise and detailed because it's so up-close and in front. Then there's a lot less detail that we need to work on as we move back towards the mountains. Believe it or not, after we finish off this foreground area, we've only got two or three more steps left, or two or three more videos in this section anyway, and then we'll be finished. Let's finish off this foreground area. In the next video, I will show you how I just add some textures to the leaves of the tree, and the rocks, and then, we'll be able to finalize this background. I'll see you in the next video. 8. Adding Brush textures to the Foreground: In this video, I'm going to finalize the foreground by just adding a few more layers of texture over the rocks, and over the tree, especially the leaves. Then that will be the foreground finished, I'm going to move through the midground, the background, and then get on to doing the final touches. What I'm going to do is just do one more pass over these rocks. I'm going to make another layer on top using the clipping mask, I'm going to select a darker color and just brush on some texture. Then I'm going to switch to a lighter color and just add in a couple of highlights. If I zoom in a little bit it's easier to see the texture brush and how it really makes a difference on top of those flat tones. It just gives a little bit of a painterly quality to it, but it also gives a bit of life, and a bit more interest, and it makes it look a lot more appealing. It's just highlights and shadows that I'm doing, I'm not doing anything beyond that really. I'm just choosing a highlight color and giving some touches to the tops of the rocks, and then choosing a shadow color, and just laying down some paint brush marks over the bottom area of the rock. That's all you need to do. You don't actually need to go in heavy-handed with this effect at all. Just keep it very, very subtle and very light, and it'll look a lot better. I don't think it's necessary really to put texture onto the foreground, plants or vegetation things in the corner there. I think they work really well as flat silhouettes, and I think if I was to really go in and paint on textures, that it would be a bit too distracting. You just want that to be a shape in the corner that fills in the [inaudible] as I said. Let's move on and do the tree. On this layer over here, I'm going to select everything. I'm going to choose a very bright color. I want the color of the top to match the sky color a little bit too, just to give the impression that it's catching the light. I'm going to match the color to the color of the sky just a little bit, not too much, and using a texture brush on some of that. Maybe it can go even lighter. What I'm doing is painting as much as I can on the very, very edge of the selection. I just want to make it look like the very tops of the leaves are catching the light in the sky. Now, the tree trunk can be tricky because you don't want to lose the lovely light and shadow there, so I'm only going to brush on the texture on the very outer edge like this. That's going to do two things, it's going to give it just the right amount of texture, but it's also going to give the hint of a highlight just catching the edge of the tree trunk. I don't want to overdo it at all, I want to just keep it like that. Maybe I'll just do counterbalance it with a very dark texture on the outer edge on the left. That's really about it. I'm not going to do anymore. I'm going to paint back in. I have lost some of the distinction there, so I'll just delete that out. There we go. That's the foreground done. I'm very pleased with how that looks. I think it's a nice, subtle use of texture over flat graphic colors. The next phase is going to be going into the midground area and just trying to pull out a little bit of detail and add some of the gradient back in. When you're ready, meet me in the next video, I'm going to move on to the final stage of this background. 9. Painting the Mid Ground: I've pretty much got everything that I need on separate layers, which is good, which means I can now manipulate them. Just going to move them around to see if I can make the composition a bit better, but I actually think that that works quite well. I'm going to change this hill to be the same color as the back mid-ground. Rasterize that layer and then choose a soft round brush and just paint on top of that. Then I want to just create a few more trees in the foreground here. All I'm going to do is duplicate the existing trees by holding down the Option or Alt key on my keyboard as I click and drag, that gives me duplicated layer and then I can use the command T, to use the control or the Free Transform tool to just rotate and skew them into place. In my mid-ground, I'm just going to experiment with the bright color just to see. I want to bring light into that area to give the effect that, that those planes are being lit by the light in the painting, but I don't think that color really works. It is jarring, and at the end of the day, I think the limited palette that I've got is working, so I'm going to stick with it. Over here, I'm using the Lasso tool to draw shadow shapes for these trees. This forest is going to be casting a shadow this way, just using the Lasso tool drawing out that shape. I'm going to select the color of the trees with the soft round edge brush, I'm going to just brush it on like that. By using the soft brush, it gives you a little bit of gradient, a little bit of opacity towards the end, and that's very nice for a shadow, gives the effect very well. That is there. I'm going to do the same on the side with these trees. Now, you could get very hyper-detailed or hyper exact and trace the exact shape of the trees that you're trying to give shadows to, but I don't think in this instance it actually is going to make any difference because they're very far away. You just want to get the idea with the impressions. Normally, I would duplicate the whole layer, flip it vertical, and do all sorts of things like that, but I don't think it's necessary. I think just this impression is going to work great. Those are the shadows done. Now back there, these hills need to be worked on. The ground plane in the fore mid-ground is next up. I'm going to do the exact same thing with a little bit of light. Now I'm going to Control or Command click into the layer of the trees at the top of the mid-ground, and just add a little bit of a hint of mist at the bottom, there by using a light color and brushing it on with a soft brush. That gives a really nice effect of mist or fog rising up. If you wanted to do that, you could also Control or Command click into your forests in the back and then use a darker color at the top of the trees, that also gives the same effect. I'm going to duplicate these middle trees over because I think I need another set of trees on the right-hand side. I've duplicated the layer and flipped them over, and I'm going to drag them up to where my hills are and scale it into place. Now, we just need to make sure that that layer comes all the way down into my folder that says, far mid-ground, there we go. With the Lasso tool, I'm going to take out those extra trees and then make the bottom of the forest a little better. That looks good, and then I just need to knock the color back to make it match into the mid-ground plane. Good. I'm pretty happy with my pine forests throughout. I think I'm not going to do any more on them actually, they're totally fine. They are all working. I might just make the opacity of the shadows come down slightly, maybe even just 90 percent. It looks okay. The next thing is to add a layer of texture onto these hills at the back. I'm going to rasterize each of them and then separately just brush on a lighter tone. Just in the exact same way that I've done for pretty much everything else in the painting. You know the drill by now. Get a little texture brush and just very subtley, very lightly, brush on a lighter color on the left-hand side and then a darker color on the right-hand side. I've grouped those hills over there, and I just might see if I can duplicate the whole group and drag it over, including the forest at the bottom of it. I'm not sure if it's going to work, but I need to fix the composition on the left slightly, just still a little bit not clear to me what's going on behind the tree there. What I'm doing is just seeing if the elements will work. What I'm going to do is create a hill shape. Then I will Control or Command click into that shape so that I have an active selection, but I'm going to hide that shape and paint on a layer above it. My selection is still active on a layer above it. Then I can paint over it and effectively I've got a layer of texture on its own. I can now move it around and see if it can fit into the composition a little bit better. I think it's actually working fine because it makes it look now that like I've got a couple of hills going backwards in the new plane so that actually looks great. Very pleased with that. I think that has solved that whole issue for me for that composition thing on the left. I still think that that big hill doesn't work. See if I move it over, or just move it so that we don't see it. I that might solve the problem. But either way, I think that's coming along great. Actually, I'm pretty pleased with the mid-ground. I don't think I want to do any more work on it. I don't want to overwork it at all. The next phase is going to be to finalize the background, the mountains, the mountain range at the back, and the sky. When you're ready, join me in the next video. 10. Painting the Background: This stage now is basically the second last phase that I'm going to do, and that is going to be to add a little bit of definition to the far mountains. Really, that's all. Then I'm ready to move into the very final stage, which is to add some atmosphere and some effects. Possibly also to do one more pass over the foreground area. At the bottom of the mountain there, I'm just going to add in a line of mist. With a soft round edge brush, I'm just brushing on a very light color. On the mountain itself, what I'm going to do is switch to the Polygonal Lasso Tool. That's going to give me very nice straight lines. I'm going to carve out some shapes that I imagine the light is falling onto. I'm holding down Shift to keep the selection active. Then when I've got some graphic shapes carved out, I'll create a new layer, make a clipping mask, get a lighter tone. I'm going to hit Command to Control M to high that selection and just brush on that light color. That looks really good. I'm going to do the exact same on the mountain range behind it. This is a really nice way to make geometric graphic shapes for a stylized mountain range. These are the plains of the mountain that the light is falling on. You don't have to be too specific but just get some nice angular shapes there. Then create a new layer with a clipping mask and brush on a lighter tone. That looks really good. Really savage. It gives the shape in the background a lot of definitions. So I'm really happy with that. Just adding on a couple of layers now for some mist to give the impression of atmospheric perspective. At the bottom of this mountain though, it's looking a little bit like the line is a bit harsh between the mountain and the ground plane. I wanted to be a bit softer. I'm going to add in just a round shape to break that up so that it's not too much of harsh line in between things. I think that will work very nicely. Then the other thing I'm noticing is that my line of texture or my layer of texture here, the trees are showing through it. Underneath that, I'm just going to paint in just some flack color to separate that out. That's looking good. You know what? Really, that's all I'm going to do. I'm not going to do too much more. Just one or two passes for mist is enough. I don't need to do too much of it. I think in this instance, less is more. I really love the simplicity of the background elements compared to the foreground textures and shapes. I really want that to remain throughout because that contrast actually is what helps this background a lot. A really want the contrast to be strong. So I think I'll just leave it exactly as it is there. That's working great for me. The next step is just really to finalize the sky. I'm going to add in some clouds. As I said, I might go back over my foreground one more time. I'm feeling that I'd love to introduce some flower shapes onto the tree in the front and maybe onto the ground underneath it. That'll give it a very nice touch. That's it. Then I'm ready to finish off this background painting completely. Meet me in the next video, and we'll take it to the final stage. 11. Final Touches: Now I'm going to do my final pass on this. The first thing that I want to do is create a nicer gradient in the sky. I'm going to make a new layer on top, choose a leisure color with a soft prime brush, and what I'm doing is just lightening it up a good bit. That already looks a bit better. Then at the top, I'm going to have a darker tone. I wanted obviously the impression to be that it's dawn. Some of the lighter color to be underneath and then a darker color on top. I can merge that down. Then on top of that layer, I'm going to now choose like almost a yellowy brush tone and just a very, very subtle hint of a light at the back there. Then maybe even bring that again in between the mountain ranges. I think that will work. I don't want to do too much, just even a little bit less then that's fine. The next thing I want to do is paint or create an impression of clouds. Now sometimes I find it difficult to use the Lasso tool and draw horizontally. What you can do if you also find that a bit tricky is you can actually rotate your canvas so that you're drawing at an angle. Just hit R on your keyboard, that brings up the rotate tool. Then you can simply rotate your canvas and get it to an angle where you're comfortable. For me, this is a lot easier to draw. If I draw from the bottom left to the top right of my tablet, I have a bit more control than if I'm just drawing straight horizontal lines. Not that these are straight lines, but horizontally it's not so easy. Anyway, then I'll just bring it back to center again and then add a couple more of these clouds in, hide the selection, and then just paint over them with a very light color. I could even bring the opacity of the layer itself down. I think that's perfect. I don't need to do anymore for the clouds or the sky. That's great. Now I'm going to look at my tree again and see can I add in these little flower shapes that I had in mind. What I'll do is on a new layer, I'm going to switch over just simply to around hard-edge brush and picking up some of the really pink color at the very top and give the impression of flowers on this tree. All I need to do really is just put in a few dots. That's going to be enough. Just like that. Every now and again, I can also pick up the green color and just add impression of leaves at the very edge of the tree shape. Just a few spots like that is enough to sell the idea of blossoms in this tree. Maybe it's like a cherry blossom tree or something. That's going to be lovely. Adding these little flecks or these little leaves at the edge also just breaks up that shape. It doesn't make it look so round, really breaks it up and makes it look good. Then on the ground, I'll make a new layer and just take some of these dots down onto the ground as well. Just adding them in so it looks like flowers, petals or blossoms are falling to the ground as well. I guess it's very nice. I think that makes a big difference. That really gives it just that final touch that this background needed and I think I am going to leave it there. I'm not going to do anything more. If you wanted to, you could add a few small dots in the sky to give the impression of stars, but as far as this goes, this is finished. I hope you enjoyed this process. Anything at all was unclear, make sure that you contact me and ask me. But I think that you should be able to forge ahead now creating a lovely stylized graphic background just like this. If you do, please send it in to me and I look forward to seeing your work and giving you feedback.