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Learn To Paint a Beautiful Fantasy Landscape in Photoshop

Do you like to paint? You don’t need a paintbrush or a canvas when you’ve got Photoshop! In this tutorial, learn how to use a photograph as the base for a beautiful fantasy landscape painting. To complete this tutorial, you will need a graphics tablet so make sure you have one handy!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC & Wacom Intuos 3 Tablet

Difficulty: Intermediate

Completion Time: 3 hours

Images Used For This Tutorial

Stock Photo - Rocky Mountains and green Field in Jammu and Kashmir

Rocky Mountains and green Field in Jammu and Kashmir: 30068104 © Ronnachai Limpakdeesavas

Step 1

Open your mountain reference in Photoshop. Go to Image > Canvas Size and change the Resolution to 300 dpi for a high quality painting. Lower the Opacity of the reference to 75%. Then use a Hard Round Pressure Opacity Brush (B) from the Photoshop CC preset brushes to sketch over the reference on a new layer.

Step 2

Hide the layer for the reference. Sketch more details including a simple swirling effect for the sky. When you’re finished, your sketch should look like this.

Paint the Grayscale Base

Step 3

Fill in the background with a light gray color. Then use a Hard Round Brush (B) with crisp edges to paint darker grays for the landscape. To show the depth of field and make it seem like the background elements are further away, make sure that the grays go from dark to light. The darkest grays represent the closest objects in the foreground.

Step 4

Create a new layer above your sketch and begin painting over it. Use the same brush from before to continue painting the landscape using a grayscale color palette. Paint squiggly lines to establish texture on the mountain tops, while painting softer smoother strokes for the foreground elements. Refer back to your original reference to help guide you.

Step 5

You don’t have to follow the lighting scheme of the reference exactly to make a beautiful painting. Paint a bright beam of light emerging from the swirl shaped clouds. This will create a focal point that will add a lot of fantasy to this painting. Continue adding more atmospheric light to the piece by brightening up the middle ground area.

Add Color

Step 6

Now let’s add some color! Add a new group and name it “Color.” Keep all your new layers that are dedicated to coloring the piece in this new group. For the first round of color, create a new adjustment layer for Curves. Adjust the curves in the RGB, Blue, and Red channels to favor a green color scheme.

Next, use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill in a new layer with a bright blue color (#002caf) and set the blend mode to Soft Light.


Step 7

Create two new layers and set the blend modes to Color. Use a bright green color to make the landscape green, and a deep blue color for the sky.

Define the Colors and Landscape

Step 8

Continue adding more color by experimenting with different blend modes. Add warmth by painting orange hues set to Overlay to make the colors look more realistic. Shape the environment by manually painting in details like a small river to lead the viewer’s eye to the focal point.

Step 9

Study the original reference to help you with each detail. Try not to worry about making the painting hyper realistic. If you keep the strokes loose you can get the general effect of natural environmental textures with just one brush. Use soft large strokes for the clouds, squiggly lines for the mountains, and layers lines for the trees. Keep building these colors and you’ll see your painting transform in no time!

Step 10

Paint more clouds and use tiny dots to represent the stars. Add a small hot air balloon into the scene to draw even more focus to the light beam and paint it at a tilt so that it looks like it’s moving.


Last but not least, punch out those colors with a new adjustment layer for Color Balance. Set the adjustments to Shadows: Red +3, Green 0, Blue 0. Midtones to Red +9, Green -12, Blue +2, and Highlights: Red 0, Green 0, Blue -7.

And that’s it! You can create beautiful landscape paintings in Photoshop by establishing the scene with the perfect landscape photo. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with this tutorial, feel free to let us know how it has helped you in the comments below!

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