In this monthly series, we take the opportunity to spotlight great designers from around the world. Each month, Designer Passport brings 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 to how you can create it (or something equally awesome) yourself.
Fabian de Lange is a 27 year old self-taught Dutch freelance designer and illustrator, specializing in custom typography and lettering. He currently resides and works in Heerlen, The Netherlands. His inspiration for this Photoshop flower tutorial comes from a wide range of sources, including music, typography, photography, and traditional art, and he is always exploring new techniques and ways to expand his horizons.
The idea for this artwork came from a Mark Twain quote about exploring life and making the most of it before it’s too late: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Watch a timelapse video of Fabian’s process above, then read on for an in-depth tutorial covering all the techniques used to create this piece.
Open a new Photoshop document. The size I used here is 6554 x 4710 pixels at 300dpi. Open the main image for the artwork — in this tutorial I used an image of a pink/orange flower — cut out the background by using the pen tool or the magic wand, extract the image and place it in the center of the canvas. If there are still white lines around your image, go to Layer > Matting > Defringe or use the pen tool.
To get the flower more in one color tone, go to Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer. After that, Image > Adjustments > Black And White to get everything in one black tone. Play with the color bars until you have the perfect balance between the Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows of the image.
Create a new Color Balance adjustment layer and place it above your image. Move your cursor in between the layers and hold Alt; the cursor will change and you can now set the above layer as a Clipping Mask. Play with the cyan, magenta and yellows in the Color Balance menu to get almost the same color as the background. To give the elements some more depth, we’ll brush some highlights and shadows. Create a new empty layer for the shadow and one for the highlights, place them above the flower image, and set the blending mode to Overlay, Multiply, or Screen. Use a soft brush to paint the shadows and highlights, and repeat this later on all elements.
Create some lighting above the background layer with a big soft brush from the top left. Set the layer to Overlay and tweak the opacity until the contrast with the background is perfect.
Duplicate the main flower image. Go to Color Overlay in the Blending Option menu, set the color to Black, and tone down the opacity of the layer to about 30%. Next, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to create a nice shadow, then put the layer right under the flower layer.
Now it’s time for the composition of different elements and images. First, we need to cut out all the other elements — in this case, the “Abstract Pieces of Blue Fabric Flying.” Select the Channels panel (Windows > Channels). You’ll need to determine which channel has the greatest differences between subject and background. Because you want mask the background, look for the contrast between the foreground and background. The red channel should stand out.
Next, we’ll want to touch up this channel into a clean black-and-white mask. This will be done with a Levels adjustment at first. Choose Image > Adjust > Levels or press Command+L (Ctrl+L). Move the White Input Levels slider to the left to lighten the gray areas to white. Move the Black and Gray Input Levels sliders to refine the matte and improve contrast between foreground and background. With the Magic Wand tool, select the white background and go to menu Select > Inverse. The object is now selected; before you copy it, you need to go back to the channel menu and turn the RGB back on.
To create a more realistic feeling, we’ll add some clouds on the top left. Open the cloud images and set the Blending mode to Divide, then lower the opacity. On the bottom right, we’ll brush some darker shadows to create more depth in the composition.
To give the piece more of an atmosphere, we’ll add a few white elements. Open the “Pink Hibiscus Flower” and go to Image > Adjustments > Black And White. Move the channels until you have a nice white flower, then add a new layer and brush on some highlights and shadows like we did in step 3. Repeat this step on all the white and black elements you use. Once you have a main element that you’re happy with, you can start duplicating it. Continue to build across the canvas to make the composition more interesting.
Open the “hand” picture and cut out the background. Give it a black color like we did before. Select the elliptical marquee tool to create some more depth on the arm and erase everything on the right side of the selection. After that, go to Select > Inverse, take a soft black brush, and paint around the edges of the selection. Copy the image and place it in the main document.
It’s time to add the typography in the composition. For this theme, we’ll use the word “Explore.” You can use a grid system for this, but here I just went by feeling. Make sure you have basic knowledge of kerning and how to use typography correctly.
Add a layer mask to the typography folder and use the pen tool to cut out some parts of the letters so that they’re in between the other objects. In this case, the flower leaf is above the middle line of the “E” and the “X” is between the fingers of the hand. Make a selection of the typography and use a soft brush to paint some shadows on the letters to create a more realistic feeling
Cut out the “Petals of Pink Lilies” and make them white like we did in step 8. When you have all your petals cut out, place them in the document and play around with composition. There will be a lot of transforming and scaling, so a good idea is to make each element a Smart Object. To create more depth you can add a blur on a few petals by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
It’s time to make the final adjustments. Grade the final image using Brightness/Contrast, Color Balance, and Curves to create a strong contrast and a nice colorful feeling. And that’s it! Of course, feel free to continue to tweak your creation as you see fit until you’re completely satisfied with it.