In this series, we take an opportunity to spotlight great designers from around the world. Each month, Designer Passport brings you new 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.

Originally from Osaka, Japan, graphic designer Kaya Ono earned her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC and currently resides in Brooklyn. For her Designer Passport tutorial, she created a blend of photography and illustration that explores the relationship between people and nature in her nature Photoshop tutorials.

“This piece is inspired by Japanese culture that perceives humans as a part of nature,” explains Ono. “Ruten (流転) is a Buddhist word that means ‘continual changes in an unremitting cycle of death and rebirth.’ This concept reflects in various ways throughout my life, including creativity, philosophy, and simply who I am.”

Kaya Ono Nature Photoshop

Step 1

Make a new document: 14.5 in x 20.25 in, 300 dpi. Cut out an image of a hand and color correct. Group all your layers, select the group and right click, then convert it to a smart layer. Open the smart layer by double clicking. I prefer to make the background a solid color to make it easier to see the edges of the assets.

Close Up of Hand Imagery in Photoshop

Step 2

Create a new layer under the hand and draw out the depth using the brush tool. The lines can be imperfect and organic. Double click the Layer and Open Layer Style menus. Turn on “Pattern Overlay” (Blend Mode: Multiply; Opacity: 49%). Create a new layer and set it as a clipping mask, then paint shadows. Place a cut-out wood image behind the hand and depth layers.

Cut Out Wood Image in the Layers

Step 3

Color correct and place an image of moss in the composition, then make a layer mask filled in black. Draw on the mask with your brush tool to reveal the image. Make sure that the foreground color is white and the background color is black.

Foreground and Background Colors

Place a metal image under the moss and repeat the same steps above. Make a group, command click Hand Layer and make a selection. Then create a mask on the group from the selection. Duplicate the moss layer and make a clipping mask of the metal layer. Offset the position and lower the opacity to create a reflection of moss on the metal surface. Then paint in the shadows. Double click the metal layer and add Bevel & Emboss.

Metal Layer - Add Bevel and Emboss

Step 4

Before you begin adding texture details on the hand, paint out the surface of the palm with the brush, matching the color using the eyedropper tool. Bring the image of the shattered mirror into the composition. Set the Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and place it on the palm.

Layer Blend Mode

For smaller texture details, I created a custom brush from an image. First, adjust the level to make the image higher contrast, then make a selection. Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Select the custom brush and stamp the texture on the edge of the hand.

Editing - Define Brush Preset

Step 5

Make a group, then make a group mask from the path. Add a solid black layer and set the Blend Mode to Overlay. Bring in a cut-out moss layer and color correct to purple. Create a finger bone using the metal texture, then paint shadow on the broken finger and bone. Select the hand image and blur the edge of the finger using the smudge tool.

Using the Smudge Tool

Step 6

Draw a path using the pen tool. Then set a brush setting (turn on Shape Dynamics / Pen Pressure). Set the front color to the color of the vine, make a new layer, and select it. Go to Paths and right click the path. Click “Stroke Path,” select Brush for the tool, and click “Simulate

Stroke Path and Brush Tool

Create blood vessels through the same process as the vines, but this time, uncheck “Simulate Pressure” in the Stroke Path menu. Add details by painting shadows and using layer effects (Bevel & Emboss, Pattern Overlay).

Vine Pattern Overlay

Once the vines are created through the process above, erase the unnecessary parts of the lines. Double click the layer/group of vines and turn on Bevel & Emboss. Cut out and color correct the leaves and add on vines.

Adding Leaves and Vines

Step 7

Cut out and color correct additional assets and place them in the composition. I also drew some of the simple assets myself, like the white mushrooms. Save the assets as a Smart Object.

Assets and Smart Objects

Step 8

Make a base of a floating island. Make a new layer on top of the rock layer and retouch some parts using the stamp tool. The sampling option should be set as “Current & Below.”

Creating the Floating Island

Group all the Roots layers. Create adjustment layers using Hue/ Saturation and make a clipping mask over the group. Draw cracks on the rock and apply subtle Drop Shadow and Bevel & Emboss. Paint shadows and highlight, set the shadow layer in Multiply mode, and the highlight layer in Overlay.

Highlight Layer in Overlay

Group all the rock layers and make clipping masks for color correction.

Clipping Masks and Color Correction

Make a new group and create a mask from the path (the same process as step 5). Place an image of a watch into the composition, then paint the shadow.

Adding in Watch Imagery

Step 9

Add texture details on the hand through the same process as Step 3.

Adding Texture Details in Photoshop

Step 10

Create additional assets and place them into the composition.

Create a solid color shape and cover over the image of a plant. Set the color layer to Overlay and make a clipping mask. For additional color correction, make a new layer and paint color over it. Set the layer blending mode to Color.

Blending Color Mode

Cut out an image of a mushroom and color correct. Make a new layer and paint light
in white using a soft brush. Then set the layer blending mode to Overlay. Make another layer and paint lights with a brush (spacing: 264%). Group all layers and make a Smart Object.

Mushroom Imagery in Photoshop

Step 11

Place a mushroom Smart Object in the main composition. Make a new layer and paint in light, then set the layer blending mode to Overlay.

Layer Blending Mode

Draw fruits and apply Bevel & Emboss.

Fruits - Bevel and Emboss

Draw flowers using the brush (spacing: 264%), then draw vines wrapping around a branch. Apply subtle Bevel & Emboss as in step 6.

Adding Flowers with Brush Tool

Bring in an image of a cloud and set the blending mode to Screen.

Adding in the Cloud

Step 12

Cut out and color correct other elements.,Then place them in the composition.

Color Correcting Elements

Step 13

Place your type, Then press Shift+R and rotate the canvas 45 degrees. Erase some parts of the type.

Adding in an Angle

Make a new layer and apply a white gradient.

New Layer and White Gradient

And you’re done! Play around with any of the processes used here to customize these techniques for your own work and see what you can create!

Download all the images used in this tutorial to try it out for yourself »

Image Tutorial

Explore more international art and inspiration in our Designer Passport series »

Photoshop Designer Passport Series