Abstract Design Composition tutorial

Abstract art tutorial
In this tutorial we will be making a beautiful abstract composition, starting with a woman with some sort of paint on her face, and using some stock photos to add an abstract feel to it. We will be teaching you an awesome coloring technique with the gradient tool to achieve a unique abstract outcome.
This awesome design was created by an awesome artist called Neuron. You can check out all of his work on his DeviantArt, be sure to have a look!
Abstract art tutorial
Before we start, I will first explain the gradient tool. We will be using this excessively to achieve a good looking abstract effect. We’re using a special good looking gradient, which is in fact an edited version of the default gradient that comes with Photoshop. If you select the Gradient Tool:
Gradient Tool
And click the preferences, you should see the gradient highlighted below (if you don’t, press the arrow and select Reset Gradients. Make sure you save your older ones first if you want to keep them). We’ve edited the colors slightly, with the hex codes shown below. Optionally, you candownload this gradient here.
Gradient settings
Now that we have that covered, let’s get started with the tutorial. Open a new file with whichever size you prefer, our size was set to 215 by 525 pixels.
Create a new file
We’re going to use this abstract stock photo of a woman covered with some sort of paint. Put her somewhere on the canvas:
paste an abstract stock
We’re going to add some sort of warp lines behind this character. You can do this by selecting a premade shape that comes with Photoshop. Select the shapetool (press U), and if you don’t see the shape appear, load all shapes by pressing the arrow button shown below, and load “All” shapes:
load preset shapes
If you scroll down, you should see this icon appear. Select it:
abstract pattern
And use this shape to cover your canvas
apply the pattern
Reduce the opacity of this layer. The opacity was set to 11% (the blending mode was kept on normal):
reduce the opacity
We’re going to create a layer mask to hide the Warp beams covering the woman. Do this by creating a Layer Mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All):
Add a layer mask
Then brush with a dark brush on the Layer Mask. This should hide the warp beam layer. Optionally, you can outline her with the pentool to get a more exact result. Here’s a selection showing which area we’ve kept brushed white, the other selection was brushed black on the layer mask:
Selection layer mask
We’re going to add a grunge material on top to texture the background a little. Add a grunge material on top, and create another layer mask:
Add a material
Select your brush tool, and brush with a black color on the layer mask over the female character. This should hide the texture:
Layer mask result
As you can see in this screenshot of the layer panel, this is what the Layer Mask looks like. Brushed black on top of the female character, and white on the background to blend the warped beams:
Apply a layer mask
Create a new layer, and select your brush tool. Reduce the opacity of your brush tool a little on the Brush Toolbar:
Brush toolbar
And start brushing some dark colors on top to create some depth and shades:
apply shading
We reduced the opacity of this brushing down to about 20%:
reduce the opacity
Grab an abstract stock image, and add it on the canvas. Our result has some twigs and branches carefully placed behind the character. This stock could be anything, just use something nice that adds some detail and texture into the background:
Add a flower abstract stock
Set this layers blending mode to Soft Light, and reduce the opacity (ours was set on 16%):
Set the blending mode to soft light
Pick the gradient tool and select the gradient I’ve shown you at the beginning of the tutorial. Drag a horizontal line from right to left covering the canvas:
Select the gradient
The gradient tool used horizontally:
Gradient on the canvas
Use the eraser tool to erase around and above the female character (or do this with a layer mask, up to you):
Erase the gradient
Set the layers blending mode to Soft Light, and reduce the opacity down to about 10-20%. This shold add a little color:
Reduce the opacity
Notice that we still had a white section on top of the stock photo, so fill this with a color from your canvas using the eyedropper tool. Don’t worry about the bland colors, we will fill and texture this section later:
Fill the top section
Add some depth with a few Curves Adjustment Layers. These are some example settings that we’ve used to add depth, however make sure you experiment with the settings and use your own to achieve the outcome you like. To create a curve Adjustment Layer, select Layer > New Adjustment Layer >Curves…
Curves adjustment layer
Another set of settings:
Second curves adjustment layer
Though you can’t see the difference between this image and the previous image due to the quality of the .gif files, the lighting has changed a little and has added some darkness around the female character.
Lighting correction
We’re going to add the rainbow colors to her skin. Hopefully, the stock image you selected has some unique abstract areas that you can use to color, be it the body, arms, areas around the character, etcetera. Use the pentool to outline the areas:
Pen tool
Make sure you’ve set the correct settings in your toolbar:
Pen tool settings
Zoom in, and start outlining the areas that you want to add the effect to (and put a little more effort into it than I did *wink*):
Zoom in
Zoomed out, this is what it looks like after pen tooling the areas:
Use the pen tool to cover the sections
On your layer panel, click on Paths. If you’ve selected the right settings at the start, you should now see your Work Path or Path 1 available. Right Click it, and select “Make Selection”.
Create a selection
Now grab the Gradient tool, and use the gradient settings that I have explained at the start:
select the gradient ool
The gradient settings:
pick the gradient
Use the gradient tool inside these selections several times, just keep going untill you get a result you like. If it doesn’t look good, use the smudge or eraser tool to edit the result:
abstract art tutorial
Add an inner shadow by going to Layer > Layer Style > Inner Shadow, and change the angle to match your lighting and reduce the opacity slightly.
Apply inner shadow
We’ve set this layers blending mode to Overlay, and reduced the opacity slightly:
Abstract art tutorial
We’ve used a stock photo of an eye to add some “life” to her eyes, as hers are kind of dark. You can use your own favourite method to change the colors of an eye since there are so many ways to do it. The method I am explaining requires a stock photo of an eye. Place it on the canvas, and resuze it properly:
Paste eye stock
To blend it a little, we’ve added a Photo Filter (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter) and added a Clipping Mask afterwards. The density was set to 25%:
Create a Photo Filter
Add a clipping mask by pressing CTRL + ALT + G , or selecting Layer > Create Clipping mask. We then set the blending mode to color dodge and reduced the opacity slightly.
If you’ve done the clipping mask part correctly, it should only color the eye. Your layer panel should look like this:
Layer Palette
Let’s continue with the left eye. Duplicate the layer, and move it to the left.
Abstract tag
Add a Photo Filter, and this time set the density to a 100% to give the eye a different color.
Photo Filter adjustment layer
Outcome (remember to change the Photo Filter into a clipping mask by pressing CTRL + ALT + G):
abstract tag eye retouching
We’re going to add a paint drip in the corner of her eye. We will do this one, and continue with the final effects of the paint dribs in the end.
Zoom into your character, and grab a small brush. Draw two lines down from the corner of her eye, and tap it once or twice here and there:
Brush settings
Brushing the paint drip:
Drip near the eye
Zoomed out, this is what it looks like:
Abstract drip
Time to fix her hair, we’re going to plant a tree on top of her head, but we need her head to be a little more flat. So create a new layer, and either brush with a color used picking the eyedropper tool, or apply the image (Image > Apply Image) and use the CloneStamp tool. Here’s an animation to illustrate the hair change:
Fixing the hair
We will be using stock to create an effect on top of her head. You can find many stockphotos on sxc.hu or similar stock photo websites. Try not to copy this effect, instead, think of something creative of your own. The following steps will all be about adding stock onto the canvas. The stockphoto was added on top of the womans head in this design:
Adding an abstract stock
A different type of tree stock added onto the canvas:
tree texture
We’ve added a waterfall coming out of the tree. You don’t need a stock for this type of additions, you can zoom in and manually create it with your brush tool. Experiment with all kinds of techniques:
Add a waterfall
A second waterfall added on top of the tree, try to maintain harmony and flow when you add stock photos:
Add another abstract texture
Keep adding some good looking stock. We’ve placed a house into the tree. Remember that when resizing, the stock could lose its sharpness, or become too sharp. Use the sharpen or blur tool to fix this:
Adding a small chinese house
We’ve added these twirl effects behind the trees:
Abstract twirl stock
If your stock has a black background, you can change the blending mode to screen, this will blend the signature into the background:
Twirl effect
Adding a rainbow on top of the tree:
Rainbow stock
Adding clouds out of which the rainbow appears:
The final addition to the tree collage, an Elephant standing nearby the waterfall:
Elephant stock
We’re going to start with adding the proper lighting into the composition. Create a new gradient map (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map), and select a good color from the canvas. We’ve used a red, orange, yellow to white gradient map. Set the blending mode to Multiply, and reduce the opacity to about 30%-40%:
Gradient map settings
We’ve made a selective color adjustment layer to enhance the red colors. To create a Selective Color layer, select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color. Here are the settings we’ve used. Set the opacity down to about 20%:
Selective Color
The outcome after fixing the colors:
Abstract design
We’re going to start darkening the top area. First, grab a dark color from your canvas with the eyedropper tool. We’ve brushed on a new layer. Afterwards, change the blending mode to Multiply, and reduce the opacity if needed:
Brown Brushing and shading
After changing the blending mode to Multiply:
Set the blending mode to multiply
Find a nice starry sky stock photo. We’re going to use a sky stock photo to add some detail. Here’s a photo of a starry sky you can use:
Space stock photo
Paste the sky layer on top of the canvas. We’re going to blend this in using a layer mask.
Add a layer mask
Now select the gradient tool, and select the Foreground to Transparant gradient. Make sure your foreground color is white:
Transparant Gradient
Now use the gradient tool from bottom to top, this will blend the starry sky. If it doesn’t do the job, set the blending mode to Screen as well:
Add a space stock
We can detail the starry sky by adding stock photos of planets, shiny stars, and so forth (and if you’re feeling creative, you can create your own planets like Neuron does to his work!):
Add planets with detail
Time to finnish up the paint drips. Select a small brush size 2 or 3, and use the eyedropper tool to select a color.
Brush settings
Now paint a few drips down from her chin,
Paint drip
Adding drips to her eyes,
Zoom in
And perhaps her left cheek and mouth:
Paint drip
Result of the paint drips zoomed out:
Abstract art result
We want to enhance her eye color a little, it’s not light enough. Select a bright pink and blue color from the canvas (we’ve used: #CC0161 for pink and #029FD0 for the blue):
Bright pink and blue dots
Set this layer to Overlay, and reduce the opacity a little:
blending mode on overlay
Time to finnish up the lighting. Create a curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves), and experiment with the settings (you want to try to use this layer to create some more depth). Reduce the opacity if necessary (ours was set on 90%):
Curves adjustment layer
A gradient map adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map). The black to white should be the default settings. The blending mode was set to Multiply with the opacity down to 15%:
Gradient map adjustment layer
Outcome after fixing the lighting:
Lighting fixed
Apply the Image on a new layer (Image > Apply Image). We’re going to sharpen the canvas a little. You can do this by either going to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen, or using the sharpen tool to manually sharpen areas:
Sharpen the art
Add in some text or text effects, This is some chinese font added on the left side that we’re going to apply a gradient onto:
Add text
Select Layer > Layer Style > Gradient Overlay, and select the gradient that I’ve explained in the beginning of the tutorial. Make sure you set the angle to 90 degrees:
Gradient effect
Gradient text
Add some more text with perhaps some effects like transparant blocks. Set these blocks to Overlay or reduce the opacity, whichever looks best:
Text Decoration
At this point you are basicly done. Optionally, you can use the Burn and Dodge tool to finnish up the lighting.
Burn and Dodge tool
Which brings us to our final result:
Abstract art tutorial


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