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Designer Passport Tutorial: Goddess of the Amazon

Designer Passport is our monthly series spotlighting great designers from around the world. Each month, we bring you a new piece of art by a graphic artist we love (created from Shutterstock assets, of course), along with a step-by-step guide on how you can create it (or something equally awesome) yourself.

This month, designer Pedro Julien takes us to the tropical rainforests of Brazil with his creation, "Goddess of the Amazon." A modern-day take on Mother Nature that incorporates numerous indigenous elements, this skillful, evocative collage is a masterful exercise in composition. Follow along to see how it was done. (All images used can be found in our "Goddess of the Amazon" Lightbox.)

"The artwork was based on a surreal atmosphere, giving life to the creative possibility of a union and communion between different elements of nature," explains Julien. "To express that, I used abstract shapes, vibrant colors, and symmetrical compositions,
striving toward a collective mystical and tropical ideal."

Step 1: Background and light/shade  

Create a new Photoshop document sized for the dimensions of your final product. This artwork was created at 842 x 1191px. With a gradient tool, start the background by mixing three hues of green/blue. I used hex codes 40767f, 4bb4ae, and 8bdcbe. Use a soft round brush at 800 px for the total width (ffffff) and a light background. 

2. Creating symmetry

Take away the background of the first photo of the woman. With the Magic Wand tool, click on the white background and delete it, or extract the image by right-clicking and choosing Select Inverse (to invert the selection).

To take away the background in the other photo, see the next photo example. Cut this image with the pen tool and add some black in the border  with the soft rounded black brush. Another way to do this is by creating a new layer and using a clipping mask. Paint the borders of the image with a rounded soft brush to remove imperfections along with some of the white details. The central image and two side images are the same, but horizontally flipped. 

3. Beetle hands and arms

To create the beetle hand, parts of the following image will be used to compose a new appendage, combined with the existing ones. For the extra arms, copy the arm from the second image (below), flip it horizontally, and add it to the main shape at the bottom of the composition. 

4. Beetle body

Create the beetle body behind the arms and faces of the composition. Using the right proportions and alignment, create a new mask in this body layer and paint the top of the image, leaving the hull. Paint the borders of the image, using a soft rounded black brush, to get the right mix and a more realistic shape.

In overlay mode, create a new shape around the hull (like the following image) with the pen tool. Use a clipping mask in this layer and create some colored triangles. The colors I used are red (e65959), yellow (c6e659), blue (59ace6), and green (66e659).

5. Details of the main composition

Crop the green/orange flower, like in the following image, duplicate the layer, and bring it behind the main composition. Add some details to the bottom of the hull, heads, and arms of the main shape. Find the beetle vector and place it at the bottom of the main composition, between the flower and the main shape. Make sure only parts of the beetle's body are showing.

For the plant with shade details, crop the image, use a clipping mask with colored lines, and paint some soft, dark details between the colors and in the edge of the forms. This should be made symmetrical by duplicating the layers.

6. Crowns and ornaments

Use an orchid for the crown of the main composition and small circles for the forehead ornament. When put together, you'll have a decoration for each head, as seen below.

Select the right side of the orchid (like below) and crop symmetrically (on both sides), which will create a crown affect. To create the forehead ornament, use three little white circular balls, the center ball bigger than the others. Create them using the ellipse tool, or with a rounded hard-corner brush.

7. Big yellow circle

Behind the heads, there is a yellow gradient circle. It was created with the gradient tool, using these three colors: 996c19 (dark), c7ad33 (medium), and ecef5d (light).

8. Green gradient leaf

Erase the white parts in the background and the inside of the leaf. With a blending option, select the gradient, and fill the leaf with three colored gradients: 539500, 82c528, and baeb43. Duplicate this layer, do another symmetric composition with these two layers, and put the leaf behind the central head of the main composition.

9. Green leaves

Remove the leaves from their backgrounds, adjust the sizes, and include them in the main composition.

10. Spheres, cubes, and shades

The burn tool is used to paint the bottom of the spheres, and also creates a balance between light and shade. For the colored spheres, use this technique on a photo filter layer, choosing the colors, applying them to the spheres layer, then multiplying.

11. White circular stripes

In Illustrator, create a new 1000px x 1000px document. Draw two simple lines and link them with the blend options tool. Use 22 for spacing, then click OK. With this shape selected, create a new pattern brush. Draw a new circular shape and apply this brush. Copy the shape from Illustrator and paste it into Photoshop. Paint it in Photoshop with color overlay in the bleed options. Put this shape behind the central one with the sphere.

12. Mystical objects

With the pen tool, draw the shapes seen below. The first one is a square with one of its corners proportionally stretched, appearing as a flat, sharp diamond. The other is a circular shape, drawn with a custom shape tool. This time, we'll use some textures to fill the objects with the images below. For the shading, create a little ball with a soft rounded brush and set it to multiply, with 90% opacity.

Object shapes

Object shapes, filled with textures

13. Final adjustments

Create a new level-adjustment layer and give the above values to it. You can also create lights over all of the layers, which adds brightness to the whole artwork. There are many ways to do this, but in this case, you can use a big black brush with soft rounded borders. Finally, just paint over the artwork and set it as a screen in layer mode with an opacity of 50%.

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