Painting “The Nightmare” in Photoshop

Painting “The Nightmare” in Photoshop
Painting “The Nightmare” in Photoshop

Learn how Hatice Bayramoglu created this beautiful painting in Photoshop. She will show you her process from sketching to shading using her own technique.

Preview of Final Results

Painting “The Nightmare” Photoshop Tutorial


  • Program: Photoshop CS2
  • Digital Painting-Photoshop Tutorials

Step 1 - Concept and arranging the main sketch

I draw a lot of simple sketches on a computer or maybe sometimes on paper. I am going to use an old sketch work of mine. Here is the main sketch work which I draw. If you want, you can use this sketch too.


Step 2 – The sketch

Let me show you a screenshot from the main sketch. The first character was a simple sketch for a storybook illustration. I often draw a lot of simple sketches to represent the story, but when I go back to look at it, I realize that I would only use one of the sketches. The sketch used for this tutorial is one that I didn’t use on my other projects.


Step 3 - Setting the Canvas

For the final sketch work, Photoshop File size is 900x2158.

Here are the canvas settings:

  • Width: 900 pixels
  • Height: 2158 pixels
  • Resolution: 72 dpi

Start by creating a new document in Photoshop. The resolution can be 72 for now. Of course, later, I need to make it bigger to add painting details. But not now. And of course, any part of this sketch will be in the final image. You need this sketch entirely for reference. So you can delete or hide the sketch layer later.


Step 4 - How to choose a brush

I usually start off with a smaller image size then increase it as I add more details. For this illustration, I’m only going to use standard brushes with different pen pressure settings. My brush settings are shown in the image below. There’s a lot of settings you can adjust for your brush in the Brushes palette (Window > Brushes). In the Other Dynamic Settings, I set the control to Pen Pressure. If you are using a pen tablet such as the Wacom, this setting will allow your tablet to be pressure sensitive. Some pen tablets also let you adjust the angle of your stroke.


Step 5 – Color palette

The second thing you want to choose is the color scheme. Here are the colors I used for this artwork. You can use the same colors and load them into your Swatches palette (Window > Swatches). If you don’t like the color scheme, you can always change it later. I want my painting to look like a nightmare scene with strange-looking clouds, so I chose dark blue, brown mixed with green, and some lighter shades of blue and purple. The background will be a cold navy blue.


Step 6 - Creating the Layers

When I feel that the results of my sketch are okay, I put them into layers. The sketch is on its own layer named “sketch.” In the image below, you can see that I have six layers. Naming these layers will make my work easier and faster. Painting on different layers lets you make corrections a lot easier.


Step 7 - Arranging the Background

This is the color used for my background.


I start off using the Gradient tool to create the background. Here are the colors used for my gradient.


Step 8 – Working on the Background Color

In this step, I will work out the general look that I’m going for. I’m now adding colors to the sketch. At this stage, I’m just coloring and giving the basic background colors to the sketch. For the background, select the Gradient tool (G) and create a gradient like shown in the screenshot below.


Step 10 - Background Painting

Before we continue the painting, let me show you the layer order again. I made some changes to the layer order because the sketch layer must be on top of all layers with the blending mode set to Multiply. You also want to lock the layer so that you don’t paint on it accidentally. At this point, we can start coloring the sketch and paint the main shapes. Don’t focus too much on one area; just start applying some shading. When painting, make sure that your brush has a hardness of 100%. Using a brush with a soft edge will produce blurry results.


Now here as you see I have just locked the sketch. You must do same.


Step 11 - Changing the Canvas Size

Now I’ll change the image size of my painting so that I can add more details. Using Image > Image Size, I set the new canvas setting to:

  • Width: 1200 pixels
  • Height: 3010 pixels
  • Resolution:300 dpi

Step 12 - Quick Detailing

With the bigger image size, I can paint more details. I set the opacity of the sketch layer to 42% because I don’t need to see that much.


Step 13 - Background Detailing

Now I’m going to hide some layers for you to see all the background details. Look at the shape of the clouds. In the next step, I am going to add more detail to the clouds.


Step 14 - Adding Light on the Clouds

At this stage, I decided to add some details to the clouds. I selected the “cloud color” layer and after that, I began to add some light colors outline of the clouds. And here as you see I painted some rough shapes for the cloud and yet I’m not sure these are the main cloud shapes. Yet I'm not focusing on any one area, I just start throwing down some shading to bring the volumes out.


Step 15 - Working on Clouds

At this point, I realized that my painting needs some clouds. So I make a new layer and paint as you see. The Cloud layer is over the sky color. I continue adding more details. I also would like to add some more details on the top of the cloud layer too. And also I do add some strokes with the Dodge tool I use this because I want to add some slight light areas on the clouds.


Step 16 - Adding Details to Clouds

Now pay attention to the details which I just make with the color dodge option. I opened the “sky” layer for you to see more clearly the details of the clouds.


Step 17

And also I do add some strokes with the Dodge tool too. I use this because I want to add some slight light areas on the clouds.


Step 18

Now pay attention to the details which I just make with the color dodge option. I closed some layers for you to see more clearly the details of the big rock. And I continue to add details on the rock too.


Step 19 - Detailed Colouring for the Illustration

Once I’m satisfied with detailing the clouds I began detailing for the other stuff on the illustration. I added some red and yellow colors on the bottom of the image.


Step 20 - Continue to adding more Details

I continue to add more details for the clouds and here a screenshot for the main details. Now I’m executing on the high contrast for the clouds and the rocks by adding some bright tones to the side, darkening the back, and putting in some highlights to its outline.


Step 21 - Adding Shadows on the Rock

And here I decided to make some new changes to the illustration. Here as you see the position of the rock must be like this now. Now I’m going to add color to the character. By the way, don’t forget at this step you don’t have to detail everything.


Step 22

At this point, I kept working on the main details and lights, until I got a nice and contrast. Sometimes I have to change some colors on the rock and delete some details of it.


Step 23

Now we can start out detailing rock. I also used the Color Dodge tool for the bright areas. This is how it looks once all the adjustments are done with the Colour Dodge and Burn tool.


Step 24

I do want some difference at the bottom of our rock. First, choose the rock layer and after that choose Edit/Transform/Warp.


Step 25

And make some changes with that. Next, from the same panel select the Warp option and some changes as I did.


Step 26

Here as you see the position of the big rock must be like this.


Step 27 - Detailing Character

Now that after finished working on the rock and the clouds I have decided to add more details to my little cartoon girl character. Here let me show you my basic coloring for my character. I have just closed the sketch layer for the see how is looking at my character painting. I can start to add details. In this step, I started with detailing clothes of my character.


Step 28

I can start to add more details. Here I have opened and pulled the basic sketch for you to see how it is looking. As you see there is no much difference in the color work. Now we can again close the character sketch layer.


Final Results

And here’s the final image. I hope you found this tutorial interesting.

Authors Comment

profileI hope you found this tutorial informative, hopefully, you can use some of the techniques here for your own painting. Practice and have fun!


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4 comments on “Painting “The Nightmare” in Photoshop”

  1. The skies are just wicked right now. I've been glued to my winodw. It's amazing. Yesterday morning, we were graced with clear blue skies and an amazing rainbow which dissapated as soon as I found my camera. Within minutes, the entire cityscape was shrouded in mist. Even when it's ugly out, Taiwan is still so beautiful! I hope you're able to get some good pictures. Stay safe this weekend!

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