How to Create a Cool Concept-Based Poster in Photoshop

7 mins read

As designers, we’ll never stop learning. There will always be a new version of Photoshop, some new trends or some complicated designs that will be pretty difficult to make without a tutorial.

That’s why we thought of posting some useful tutorials once in a while. And today we will create a cool composition using a few stock photos and our imagination. The tutorial covers not only the techniques used in Photoshop, but also a few composition tips you will surely find very useful.

Along with creating this, you will learn how to:
– cut out objects with a complex contour
– use layer masks
– use adjustment layers
– make clipping masks
– blend images to fit the same scenario
– exploit brushes to a maximum efficiency
– retouch images
– arrange basic text to create reading paths

Difficulty: Intermediate – Advanced
Completion time: 1 hour
Tools: Adobe Photoshop CS3

– road
– mountain
– sky 
– paper
– pine cone


Create a document of 1600 x 2700 px in RGB color mode.


Open the “mountain”, select the entire artwork (CTRL+A), copy it (CTRL+C), go back to our document and paste it (CTRL+V). Resize it to fit the width, like below (hit CTRL+T to enter Free Transform mode, hold the SHIFT key and click-drag one of the corners). Grab the Crop Tool (C) and crop the entire image without modifying its dimensions.


Grab the Path Tool (P), set it on Paths and trace the mountains. Then right-click > Make Selection and click the “Add Vector Mask” button in the Layers palette (F7). Rename this layer to “mountain”.



Open the “road” image, copy it and paste it into our document and resize it, like in STEP 2. Rename the layer to “road”.


With the layer still selected, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Now grab the Brush Tool (B), set it to a hard brush with 100% Opacity and paint over everything but the road.


Open the “sky” picture, copy it, paste it into our document and resize it. Place the picture with the sun near the road. Name it “sky”. Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer (CTRL+J) and place the copy as below. Turn off the visibility of the layers, for now.



Open the “paper texture”, copy it, paste it into our document and place it like below. Place this layer below the other layers (CTRL+SHIFT+[ ).


With the “paper” layer still selected, hit CTRL+SHIFT+U, then hit CTRL+L (Image > Adjustments > Levels). Use the settings below.


Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (CTRL+M). Use the settings below.


Select the “road” layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and use the settings below.


Grab the Burn Tool (O), set it to “Shadows” with 38% exposure and darken the road, but try not to overdo it.


Grab the Path Tool (P), set it on Paths and draw a contour like below. When you’re done, right-click > Make Selection. Grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), right-click > Layer Via Copy.


Make this piece smaller, rotate it and reflect it. Go to Edit > Transform > Warp. Bulge it a bit from the center area. Hit Enter and duplicate it (CTRL+J).


Repeat until you create a path similar to mine. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just “close enough”. Use the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to clean up the white stripe and the Eraser Tool (E) to make a smoother edge transition.


Select the “road” layer mask and paint with white over the areas where the mountain connects with the road. We need a smooth blending between them, at the moment it just looks like a collage.


CTRL+click the mountain. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select the mask and clean up the right area that goes over the road. Also clean up the road edge, make it a bit more refined (use the same technique).


Grab the Move Tool (V) and CTRL+click on the mountain to set it as the current layer. The CTRL key toggles temporarily the “Auto-Select” feature of the tool. Duplicate the layer (CTRL+J) and set the Blending mode to “Screen”. Select the original layer.


Grab the Burn Tool (O) and darken the shadows on the mountain, just a bit. Hold the SHIFT key, select the “mountain copy” layer and go to Layer > Group Layers (CTRL+G). Name this group “mountain”.


Select the “road” layer mask. Grab the Brush Tool (B), hit D, set it to a round, soft brush and paint the rough edges over the road side.


Select the “sky” and “sky copy” layers and go to Layer > Merge Layers (CTRL+E). Add a vector mask, grab the Brush Tool (B), load the “watercolor brushes”, grab one brush and paint over the top right corner, as below. Use various brushes with different opacities to make it seamless.


Repeat STEP 21 for the other layers: mountain, road and road curve.


Go to Layer > New > Layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and place it above the “paper” layer. Now grab the Brush Tool (B), select a watercolor brush, hit D, then X and draw some “spots”. Adjust the angle from the Brushes palette (F5) to use all the brush’s edges.



Open the “pine cone” picture. Now grab the Path Tool (P) and trace the cone. Close the contour, right-click > Make Selection and hit OK. Copy it and paste it into our document. Place it like below.


Create a new layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and place it below the “cone” layer. Set its Blending mode to “Multiply”.


Grab the Brush Tool (B), set the shape to a “watercolor” brush and check the “Shape Dynamics” and set the “Angle Jilter” to about 60%. Draw a small shadow for the cone, as below. Hit “[“ to reduce the brush size and add a few more small strokes.


Create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer). With the Brush Tool (B) still selected, set it to 2 px hard brush, round. Hit D, then X and draw in some doodles. Increase the brush size a bit ( to about 8 px), hit X, grab the Path Tool (P), draw a path as below and right-click > Stroke Path. Check “Simulate Pressure”.


Create a new layer (CTRL+SHIFT+N) and draw some white dots. In the Layers palette (F7), click the “fx” icon and select “Blending Options”. Use the settings below.


Grab the Move Tool (V)  and CTRL+click the mountain, then go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance. Use the settings below or approximate. Also ALT+click between “mountain copy” and “Color Balance 1” to apply it only to the mountain.


Hold CTRL and click the “sky” and “sky copy” layer thumbs, then go to Layer > Merge Layers (CTRL+E). Repeat STEP 28, but with the settings below.


Grab the Horizontal Type Tool (T) and draw a type box. Input “Owl Creek” with “Copperplate Gothic Bold” font at 36 pt size. Duplicate it (CTRL+J) and replace the text with “the road to” at 14 pt size. Duplicate this one too and change it to “mountain”. Place the text as below.


Select the top-most layer and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Set the gradient like below and hit OK. Set Blending mode to “Soft Light” and Opacity to 85%.


Select all artwork (CTRL+A), copy merged (CTRL+SHIFT+C) and paste it (CTRL+V). Duplicate it (CTRL+J) and go to Filter > Other > High Pass. Use a 1 px setting and hit OK. Set Blending mode to Overlay.



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