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Still_Pond
07-22-2009, 02:00 PM
This isn't a formal entry, but it is inspired by this contest so I'm not sure if I should post it here or not. It would be formal entry if I had more time, but I'll never finish it by the deadline.

My idea was to make a cartoony style 'Enchanted Forest' map. It would be a map of a region of forest packed with enchanted places. I only managed the unicorn glade so far. I wanted to draw mountain cliffs and have a griffon nest, dragon caves, elder tree forests, druid grove, minotaur hedge maze, spider chasm, and maybe a giant mushroom forest with pixies. All of those individual places then blended together to make one large enchanted forest map.

I like the idea, but I just don't have time to see it through. The reason I'm posting it is I rather like my technique for my trees and I thought I'd share. I'm using Photoshop CS3. Most of the work is done with layer effects. I hand draw the trees, but because of the layer effects it doesn't take much work or skill. Just blobbing on with a round brush really.

So, I set up three groups for three layers of trees; front, middle and rear. This way I can draw trees overlapping each other and give a little depth. Each of the groups have three layers, a tree foliage layer, a trunk layer and an outline or extra detail layer. I wanted to add a shadow layer but didn't get to it. Now, the detail layer is optional, the trees look pretty good without it. What I used the detail layer for is to draw outlines one each side of the trunks but leave the roots at the base without this outline. I also used it to draw branches and dead trees.

The magic is in the layer effects. Sure one can do it differently using filters and such, and have far more control and a better result. But layer effects are easy once they are set up. Easy, quick, and 'good enough' are why I like them. So I wanted to go over the specific layer settings for each part of the tree.
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Bottom layer:
The bottom layer is the trunk layer. The thing I wanted with the trunk was a dark outline around all but the bottom. I couldn't do this very well using layer effects as they want to outline the entire shape. I got 'good enough' using a drop shadow with the following settings: black set to multiply, opacity at 100%, angle at -95, distance at 2px, spread at 18%, size at 2px. As always, I just played around until it looked good to me.

Then I added an inner shadow to add some depth and shading. The settings are: black set to multiply, opacity 75%, angle 24, distance 2px, choke 0%, size 3px, noise 10%.
Next I used bevel and emboss to add more shading, mostly a highlight and it is optional. The settings are: style= iner bevel, technique=smooth, depth=93%, direction-up, size=4, soften=0, angle 120, altitude 30, highlight mode screen with a color hex code of fff0c9 set to 69% opacity, shadow is black multiply at 34% opacity.

Then to make it easier to keep the color consistent, I used color overly for all of these layers. That way I can keep the color set to black and the effects do the rest for me. For this color I have it set to normal at 100%. The color's hex code in this case is af9e1d.

I have this as the rear most layer so the trunk doesn't go over the leaves of the trees, but I draw the trunk last.

Main tree body/leaves
Similar to the trunk layer with a few key differences. Going down the list of layer effects the first is inner shadow. The settings I used are multiply black at 20%, angle -20, distance 2px, choke 76%, size at 3px.

Then an outer glow. I used this to draw the outline around the shape, rather than having to draw it layer myself. The settings are Blend Mode= normal at 100% black, softer, spread=37%, size=1px, range=30. When I draw the tree blob, this puts a nice outline around it. To make the lines inside the tree blob, I use an eraser brush set to 1px and draw the black lines by erasing. This also effects the layer effects to help produce a nice shading effect where the lines are, rather than just painting black lines over it on another layer. I think it works rather well.

Next is Bevel and Emboss and here is where some of the magic happens. The settings are: style=inner bevel, technique= smooth, depth=83%, direction=up, size=21%, soften=0. Shading angle=145, altitude =26, gloss contour... This is a key part. I use a custom shape similar to the "rounded steps" preset. My steps have more pronounced humps to give a bit more of a cut out or posterized look. Highlight Mode = screen at 44% HEX color = b6ffa5, Shadow Mode = multiply at 100% HEX color=05543b.

Top outline/detail layer:
And last is the color overly set to 100% opacity, HEX color = 0f8c0f. I change this color to lighter or darker depending on the layer of trees I'm working on. I like the lighter color on the rear trees, it helped them to stand up as they get covered up by the trees in the foreground.

The top layer doesn't have layer effects. I just use it to paint outlines where I need them, (trunks and branches), using a 1px black brush.

So that is what I wanted to share. I hope someone out there tries it and likes it.

EDIT I attached a copy of the PSD file for you to see what I'm trying to describe above for those who might want it.