advanced photoshop

How I Made: Tree Of Life

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Tips & Tutorials, by Rebecca Greig

This talented concept artist shares with us the skills behind his atmospheric digital paintings

Tree of lifeTree Of Life is a personal piece by Ferdinand D. Ladera, who is a senior concept artist with seven years of experience in the games industry. Specialising in fantasy and sci-fi illustration, and with a background in fine art, photography and graphic design, Ladera is certainly a versatile artist.

This image was created solely in Photoshop CS5 using digital painting techniques and was inspired by scenes from the movie Avatar. “I chose this concept because I really enjoy doing landscapes and trees,” says Ladera. The concept was first created in greyscale to establish the right values and contrast. Ladera then painted over it with photos to make building up the environment easier and quicker. This also helped to make some of the elements look more realistic. He made the most of custom brushes to further speed up the painting process.

How I Made: Tree Of LifeInitial sketches I usually do different studies of landscapes before I pick the one that stands out. Here are all of the sketches that were done for this particular painting.

Final idea This is the concept that I chose to go with for this painting. On the right-hand side of this image are the brushes that I used in the creation of the landscape.How I Made: Tree Of Life

Adding key visuals I have already incorporated the tree in this concept. I also added waterfalls around the tree. The waterfalls are coming from an underground river beneath the tree, which comes from the mountains.

How I Made: Tree Of LifeCustom tree brushes This image shows all of the custom brushes that I used for branches and leaves to speed up the process of putting the tree together. As you can see, there are quite a few of them!

Putting it all together This is the complete concept on a bigger canvas. The images at the bottom are the inspirational sketches that I used as reference as I painted. The right-hand image shows the custom brushes used.How I Made: Tree Of Life

Final greyscale composition And here it is, the final painting in greyscale. I’m happy with the results and I like the composition of the entire painting. So, next up is colouring.

Curves for colouring I started colouring by using the Curves settings. I played around with the Red, Blue and Green channels until I saw the result I wanted. Next, I used Color Balance, Levels, etc, until I got the right colours.

Final touches Here, I added more details like the trees that you can see on the left side, and I also made some tweaks to the contrast and the colour.