In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a mysterious forest scene featuring a fantasy deer. First, we’ll build the base scene with several images of forests and trees. Later, we’ll add the deer and decorate his head with branches and leaves.
How to Create a Mysterious Forest Scene With Adobe Photoshop
After that, we’ll do some basic adjustments and paint light for the scene. We’ll use several adjustment layers to enhance the final effect.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. How to Build the Base Scene
Create a new 2000 x 1130 px document in Photoshop with the given settings.
Open the forest image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V). Use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) withWarp mode to change this image perspective by making the top narrower and the bottom larger.
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 8 px:
On this filter mask, use a soft round brush with black color (soft black
brush) to erase the background and leave the blur effect visible only on the foreground. This step is to create some depth for the scene.
We need to remove the traces and the tree on the left edge (we’re aiming to
add another tree to this edge, so this area needs to be clear to make the dark side of that tree stand out). Make a new layer above the forest layer and set it as Clipping Mask. Activate the Clone Tool (S) to erase the indicated details.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation value down to -62.
Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the effect on the following parts, mostly on the middle section.
2. How to Import the Trees
Open the tree 1 image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the tree and the area around the root, and place the selected tree on the left edge of the canvas. Flip it horizontally by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft black brush to remove the hard edges and blend the tree root with the existing ground.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set the Saturation value to -95:
Create a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, paint on the front of the tree and make the darkness visible on the other side. We’re aiming to make the main light source in the middle of the front of the tree brighter than the rest.
Make another Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness for the tree’s front. Paint on the rest to keep it still in shade.
I don’t like the texture of tree 1, so I use another tree to cover it. Open the tree 2 image. Select the lower trunk only and place it over tree 1. Use Control-T withWarp mode to tweak tree 2 to fit the form of tree 1.
Use a layer mask blend tree 2 with the existing tree and reveal the details on the root of tree 1.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and reduce the Saturation value to -67:
Create a Curves adjustment layer to brighten the front of tree 2. Use a soft black brush to paint on the rest of the tree to make it still in shade.
Add a Levels adjustment layer with the same purpose. The selected area shows where to paint on the layer mask.
Open the tree 3 image. Isolate the tree using the Polygonal Lasso Tool and add it to the right side of the canvas. Flip it horizontally.
Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the tree’s bottom with the ground.
Create a new layer and use the Clone Tool to remove the branch with leaves on the front of the root.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set the Saturation value to -69.
Create a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. Paint on the right of the tree that is hidden from the light.
3. How to Make the Basic Adjustment
Make a Curves adjustment layer on top of the layers to darken the whole scene. Use a soft black brush with a low opacity (20-25%) to slightly reduce the effect on the middle of the scene and some areas of the trees.
4. How to Add the Deer
Cut out the deer and place him in the middle section of the ground.
The deer looks too sharp against the hazy area. To fix it, create a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#857771. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 30%.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and bring the Saturation value down to -40.
Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the deer. Paint on the outer edges of the deer as it’s exposed to the light.
Use another Curves adjustment layer to change the contrast of the deer and make him a bit darker and hazier.
Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#d1d9dd to paint more highlight on the outer stroke of the deer. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%.
The edges of the deer still look too sharp. To correct it, apply a Gaussian Blur of 8 px to the deer layer. On this filter mask, use a soft black brush to make the soft effect visible only on the deer’s edges.
We’ve aimed to make the main light source in the far middle, so the deer should have a shadow on the ground. Create a new layer under deer one and load the deer’s selection by holding down Control and clicking the deer’s thumbnail layer. Fill this selection with black and flip it vertically. Use Control-T to make the shadow lie on the ground.
Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% and apply a Gaussian Blur of 4 px to this layer.
5. How to Add the Branches and Leaves
Isolate the branches from the white background and place them above the deer’s horns. Use Control-T withWarp mode to bend the branches following the horns’ form.
Use a layer mask to blend the branches with the horns.
Make a group for these branches and use a Curves adjustment layer to darken them.
Open the leaves image. Take different parts of the leaves to arrange over the branches. Duplicate, resize and rotate the leaves to make them appear different.
Make a group for the leaves. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Saturation value to -38:
Use a Curves adjustment layer to make the leaves darker.
Make shadow for the branches and leaves as we did with the deer. Place them above the deer’s horn shadow and lower their Opacity to 30% as they’re farther from the light than the horns’ shadow.
6. How to Do the Final Adjustment
Create a Color Fill layer on top of the layers and pick the color
#909090. Lower the Opacity of this layer to 20%.
Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40-45% to reduce the hazy effect on the following areas, especially the edges.
Create a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness. Erase the middle to keep the lightness on the middle.
Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color
#f2f2f2 to paint light on the far middle of the forest. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100% and use a layer mask to reduce the light on the top and the area around the feet of the deer.
Make a new layer and change the mode to Overlay 100%. Use the same brush to paint along the front of the trees on the edges.
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors
#0082fb. Set this layer mode to Soft Light 90%.
Make another Gradient Map adjustment layer and choose the colors
#c6e6d3. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer and alter the Midtones values.
Create a Color Fill layer and pick the color
#1f0107. Set this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.
Use another Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors
#62a0b5. Alter the mode of this layer to Soft Light 100%.
Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer and choose the color
Use a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the final effect.
Congratulations, You’re Done!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my tutorial and learned something new. Feel free to share your ideas or comments in the box below—I’d love to see them. Enjoy Photoshopping!