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Web Design Mountain : designers : photoshop : tutorial-mountain-brushes

Tutorial: Mountain Brushes and Painting in Photoshop

This article will go step by step on how you can create a Painting in Photoshop from scratch using the Mountain Brushes.
I'm using Photoshop CS3 so anything past that will definitely work and I think CS2 and CS1 still had all the tools needed to do this)

It will create a simple sky background, feel free to use your own creative techniques to improve upon this to make a more compelling sky.

It will stop before finishing the foreground, like close-up trees, flowers, shrubs, etc.  These things are beyond the scope of the usefullness of the Mountain Brushes.  I may create a set of brushes for that in the future to expand upon this set of tools.

Here we go:



  1. Create Photoshop Canvas: I think a good start is 4000pixels wide by 3000 pixels high.  This is equivalent to about a 14 Megapixel photo and will be high enough resolution for many needs: Large Prints.
  2. Create Sky. There are many ways to acheive a Painterly Sky. For Speed, start with a Gradient Fill. 2 Colors: #7ADEED to White #FFFFFF. Drag the Gradient tool about 2/3rds of the way down the canvas. Should look like:
  3. Create Clouds. I'd love to go into a more advanced version of this, but that's not the point of this tutorial.  For a quick method: Use Brush tool, a standard Photoshop brush: Soft Round 300px but increase the size to 800px. Turn the opacity down to about 37%. Quickly Create about 8 basic ovals in the sky, naturally spaced, like:
    Then use the Smudge tool with its brush set to Soft Round 150px give or take, with strength of 20%, and WORK THE EDGES of those ovals until they are shaped more like Happy Little Clouds.  You can also experiment with turning on and off the Finger Painting setting which applies color before smudging (have your primary color set to white).  It's kind of like working with oil paint! 
    (Another method is using the Liquify Tool with the Forward Warp tool to work the edges. Brush size 241, Brush density start coarse with 66 and move down to 29 as you go for the wispy stuff, Brush Pressure 66 and move down to 46.  Combine this with Smudge to really get good results)
  4. Highlight and Darken Clouds. Pick direction of light source. I'm going with Top Left.  Use Dodge and Burn to Highlight the top left of clouds and Darken the lower right of clouds.  Also add dimension to clouds by defining light and dark areas. Again use Soft Round brush for Dodge and Burn and vary the brush size between 50px and 80px depending on the level of detail desired per area. Use Range: Midtones and Exposure: 31% or so.  I Highlight/Dodge first and Burn second.  Because the Burnt areas have a tendency to stick out more like a soar thumb, run the Smudge tool over those areas when you're done to smooth out the shadows.
  5. Create a New Layer. Use the Brush tool Set to Mountain Brush: MountainRange. Set Opacity to 100%. Set Color to #BEEFF6 which is basically one shade of the sky color.  Put the mountains where you want them, maybe a little above half the canvas. Click twice and you have mountains! Once on the left side, line up the mountains to the right, click again.  Instant Mountains!  But create a little fill by dragging downwards with the mountain brush to make the mountain area thicker so we can stack mountains on top of that later.  Change the Layer Opacity to 84% to give it a far off distant look.
  6. Create Mist: Use a large Eraser to softly erase the mountain bottom fill.  This will give it a nice mist effect towards the bottom when we stack layers on top of it.  Use a 300px Soft Round Eraser.
  7. 2nd Mountain Range.  Create New Layer.  Choose a slightly darker and more purple color for the 2nd range of mountains: #83b8ee or make your own. Use brush Mountain3 Underpaint increased to size 2500px.  You only need to use it twice: once to the left and once to the right, but place the mountain ranges edge to edge.  After you get the mountains layed in, fill in below with the same brush to bulk up the area.  Then erase some with a 700px Soft Round for more mist.
  8. Overlay Mountain Details: Create New Layer.  We're going to give these mountains some details. Use brush: mountain3 overlay expanded to 2500px and set to white.  Carefully Line it up to the underpaint of mountains and click it in. 2 times plus one in the middle of the 2 where there's a little valley.  Then erase some of the bottom of this to match the fade from the underpaint.
  9. You can create more layers of mountains, experimenting with some of the other Mountain Brushes, but for now, we'll move on to...
  10. Foresty Hills 1: Create New Layer. With color #03240c, use brush: hill Foresty1 Underlayer flip to lay in the first layer of hills and trees.
  11. Foresty Hills 2: As Above, with color #05190a and expand brush to 1900px.  When done with this layer, go back to the last layer and erase out some mist where it will show an effect
  12. Foresty Hills 3: As Above, with color #041108 and expand brush to 2500px. Same mist thing.
    Congratulations! You've completed a Photoshop Painting from scratch.  Because you've done everything with layers you can easily continue onto a closer Foreground area by squishing all the original layers upwards and leaving you room to add your own Foreground.

IDEAS for continuation:

  • I'm sure there are lots of other great photoshop brushes out there that you could use for foreground elements.  Use those to build this further. I'd love to create more in the future for this purpose but it will take some time.
  • OR use more standard "Painting" techniques in Photoshop to create the Foreground.
  • Photoshop has nice Grass Brushes to add Big or Small Grass in the front.
  • Since you've done everything in separate layers, you can add Layer FX to the Foresty Hills to add texture.  Use Patern Overlay with Blend Mode: Overlay, opacity 80% and try various textures.

AGAIN REMEMBER: You can use these brushes for personal or business use just NO REDISTRIBUTION on your own site. Also, give credit for this nice resource by putting a link on your site to this site: http://www.webdesignmountain.com or http://mountainmultimedia.biz   Thank you!