snowflake

While I was creating the snowflakes for my Snow Fae painting I thought it would be neat to do a tutorial on how to create them digitally. Just thought it might interest someone :)

For this tutorial I used photoshop CS and a graphics tablet. I used a plain round brush with 100% hardness, 20% opacity, and 75% flow. I also used the eraser tool for semi-transparent parts.

1 + Ok, start with a square canvas set to whatever background colour you want - I chose the same colour that I was using in my Snow Fae painting. You will need more room than I show here just in case your design ends up being bigger than you expect in the end. Create a new layer called "snowflake". It is helpful to have the design on a new layer.

Make some doodles in the same area of the canvas as I have. Use your imagination with the design. The more snowflakes you make, the easier it will be to envision how it will look in the end. Try adding random dots and semi transparent parts by erasing over spots.

2 + Now duplicate the snowflake layer and flip it horizontally. Select the free transform tool (ctrl-t) and use the right arrow key to move it to the right. Line it up with the edge of the original, some overlapping is ok. Now you get to play the ink blot game, haha. *ahem* Anyway, if you like the design you've created so far, merge the two layers.

Tip: It is really helpful to have your history set to go back about ten or twenty steps. I know this makes the program run a bit slower. But if you get to the last step and things don't line up right, this is probably the step you will have to come back to. So make sure you can get to it.

3 + Duplicate the merged snowflake layer again, and flip it vertically. Select free transform again, and use the down arrow to move it so that it is just touching the bottom tip - or you can leave some room so it makes a hole in the center. I will explain later why the spot in the middle doesn't line up in my design. Once you are done with this step you can merge the two layers.

4 + This part is a little trickier. Duplicate the snowflake layer, and select free transform. You will want to rotate the design this time. Rotate it till the tips are touching at the bottom left and top right. Don't merge this layer yet as you may need to adjust it slightly.

5 + Now duplicate either layer and rotate the new layer till it lines up with the corners in the top left and bottom right. If the corners don't quite line up just rotate this layer and the layer from the last step very slightly till they line up symmetrically.

If they still don't match up (as mine did not) you can use the history tab to go back to step three (before merging the layers) and move the lower half farther down - which explains why the dots on mine don't match up in that step. This worked out fine as you can see in the final result. Just keep going back and adjusting things till it works in the end.

Well, I hope this was helpful, please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Custom Brushes - If you want to make a custom brush with your new snowflake, just make sure that your snowflake is black (can be done by locking the transparent pixels and colouring over it with black), and that the background is white (flood with white). Under the edit menu select "define brush preset". Then you can edit the brush settings. I set my snowflake brushes to shape dynamics, scattering, colour dynamics, other dynamics, and smoothing. Just play around with the brush and see what settings you like best. I used these brushes on the trim of the Snow Fae's dress.