This tutorial will explain the step by step process of how I made my image, Tree of Life. The process is easy to follow; even beginners can easily pick it up. Not all of the things you see in the painting are painted. I used photos to make the process easier and faster, and at the same time, making the elements in the painting look somewhat realistic.
The giant tree in the movie Avatar served as an inspiration for me. I made it seem as if this tree is the source of life.
I usually do different studies of landscapes before I pick the one that stands out.
I have already established a background in my chosen concept. My original plan was to start off with a square canvas illustration. On the right side of this image are the brushes that I used.
I have already incorporated the tree into this concept. I also added waterfalls around the tree. The waterfalls are coming from an underground river beneath the tree that comes from the mountains.
I used reference images for the different parts of the tree to speed up the process. And on the right are the custom brushes I used to paint the branches.
In this image, I decided to make the canvas bigger because I thought of a better design and a more balanced composition than the one I originally had.
Putting it all together
I completed the concept by putting all the elements together. I used an image of a waterfall for reference, which I then made by cutting and pasting different pictures and painting over them. The image in the middle is the inspirational sketch that I painted; I used that as the background for this piece. And on the right are the custom brushes that I used. I got the birds from a photo and made them into a brush.
I’m happy with the results; I like the composition of the entire painting. So, next up is to color the image.
I usually start coloring by using the Curves settings. I usually play around with the red, blue, and green channels until I see the result I want. And then after using Curves, I use Color Balance, Levels etc, until I get the colors that I want.
At this point I added more details, like the trees that you can see on the left side and I also did some tweaking on the contrast and the color.
The final image
I added more details such as the clouds in the background, and the birds so that there would be depth and sense of scale of the elements. Overall, I’m really happy with how this painting turned out.
Of all the landscape illustrations that I’ve done so far, this is the most successful one for me because this is the easiest painting that I did and at the same time, it comes out really strong. I also love the colors. Using textures from different photos played a huge part, because it sped up the process and it made the painting look somewhat realistic.
The advice that I can give to the artists that are interested in using this process is that all you need is patience and perseverance because landscape illustrations are kind of difficult to do. You should have a wide understanding of values and atmospheric perspective, and you should also have plenty of references as a base. Of course, nothing beats having your own unique idea, as it will really make your painting stand out!
About the Author
Ferdinand Dumago Ladera is a well acclaimed artist born in Iligan, the city of waterfalls, situated in the southeastern part of the Philippines. He has captured the attention of art enthusiasts with his signature style of “dream brought to life” digital painting.
Ferdinand was trained and received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at FEATI University in Manila, Philippines. He has a diverse background as a fine artist, graphic designer, and photographer.
He specializes in fantasy and sci-fi illustration.