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Skyrim Inspired Fantasy Glowing Mushrooms

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Saturday April 7th, 2012 in Photoshop Tutorials

In this Photoshop Tutorial we're going to learn how to create a fantasy glowing mushroom. The result can be used in a fantasy wallpaper, painting or any abstract works that need some added drama. The effect is simple enough to make but is guaranteed to look great! By substituting colours we can also create different mushrooms every time. The inspiration for this tutorial was drawn from the glowing mushrooms found inside Blackreach in the game Skyrim; viewers who have played the game will know exactly what effect we're going for!
Fantasy Glowing Mushrooms
Preview the Final Result

Mushroom Head

Create a new document around 1000x1000 and fill the background with black. First we are going to create the helm of the mushroom so select the elliptical marquee tool and draw a 'squashed' circle near the top of the canvas. Fill this selection with a really vibrant light blue; I'm using #00e2f0:

Filled Selection

Make another selection so that the bottom half of the previous shape is entirely selected but leaving plenty of the top half unselected. Using the canvas edges as a guide produce more or less the sort of cut we are looking for:

Cutting our Shape

PressCTRL + J to duplicate the selection. This will make a new layer with the contents of our selection. So we can see what we're working with press CTRL + I to invert the colours of our new layer:

Inverting the Colour

This next bit is a little fiddly so make sure you get it right! Hold down CTRL and click on the thumbnail of our new layer to select it. Left click on the first layer, the layer with our blue shape on, and delete the contents of the selection. Press CTRL + D to deselect. You should notice, if you zoom in, that there's a very thin black line between the two shapes. This is normal:

A Very Thin Black Line

Now click back onto the second layer and make a selection along the point that the corners of the circle meet. Make the selection big enough to select every part of the shape beneath these corners. Delete this selection:

Another selection...

You may notice the faint outline of the blue shape. Before deselecting, click on the first layer with our blue shape and delete to remove this faint outline. Then click back on the red layer for the next step.

With the selection deleted, still on the red layer, deselect and then duplicate this layer, CTRL + D then CTRL + J. Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical and then align the two straight edges together:

Lining two shapes up

Now merge the two red shape layers together by pressing CTRL + E. Looking a little more like a mushroom but the colours are weird. Invert the red layer again to make it the same blue. Don't merge these two layers. Instead let's name them to make life a bit easier. Make the first layer 'Light' and the second layer 'Dark'. Now we should have a rough mushroom head shape:

Our shape is taking shape!

Open the Light layer's blending options. First we're going to apply a gradient. Untick the box that says 'Align with Layer' and choose Radial. Lower the Scale to 0 and then drag the centre of the gradient (it should be a white or black ball) to the top of our mushroom, roughly in the middle.

Change the first colour to #1e5d61. Click to the right of the first colour to insert a new colour. Change this second colour to #06292b with a Location of 20. Change the third colour to #4fbac1:

Gradient Settings

If your gradient looks different you've probably got reverse ticked. Now gradually increase the scale of the gradient until the colours fill the majority of our mushroom. Try and make the corners either side to appear slightly brighter than the middle dark area but not too brighter:

Our glowing mushroom is taking shape

Next apply an inner glow:

Inner Glow Settings

Now open up the Dark layer's blending options and apply the following linear gradient:

Gradient Settings

And then an inner glow:

Inner Glow Settings

Finish it off by applying a colour overlay of black with an opacity of 40%:

Our mushroom so far

We're now going to add a bit of texture and detail to our mushroom to make it look a bit more natural. Create a new layer above both our layers. Reset your colours by pressing D. Go to Filer > Render > Clouds and then Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. Press CTRL + F to repeat the last filter:

Difference Clouds

Go to Edit > Transform > Scale and drag your clouds so they line up with the mushroom. Here I have lowered the opacity of the clouds so you can see them lining up; you should not do this:

Lining up the clouds

Holding Shift drag the bottom right corner of the clouds so that the right hand side lines up with the edge of the mushroom, then click accept:

Lining up the clouds some more

Now draw a selection from the corners similar to how we did before only this time with the top half... You will need to either lower the opacity temporarily on the clouds or hide them to get this selection:

Lining up the clouds some more and more...

Press CTRL + J to duplicate this selection onto a new layer. Shift and click on the thumbnail of the duplicated layer to reobtain the selection, then click back on the clouds layer and DEL the selection. Now your clouds should be divided into two layers.

Click on the thumbnail of the light layer to get the selection then press Shift + CTRL + I to inverse the selection. Go to Select > Modify > Feather and enter anything between 20-30. With the 'light' selection half of the clouds selected delete the selection:

Getting the outline of our detail.

Deselect and click to get the selection of the light layer again. Inverse the selection again but this time delete without feathering to tidy up the edges:

Cleaning up the feathered edges

Click on the bottom half layer of the clouds and move it up so that the edges of the 'dark' layer are completely invisible:

Move your clouds

Now repeat the above few steps only on the bottom half of our mushroom but use a much lower feather on the bottom half. Anything beween 5-10 should work. This should leave you with something like this:

Now we have two layers with clouds

On the 'Light' clouds layer set the blending mode to Overlay and lower the opacity to 30%. On the 'dark' clouds layer set the blending mode to Multiply and leave the opacity at 100%:

Now we're really looking good

On both layers go to Filter > Add Noise and use an amount of 5%, uniform and make sure monochromatic is ticked. No preview here as it looks the same in small size!

Now we're going to use a paint brush to add random patches of light and dark colour to our mushroom. Use a soft brush about 60 in size with opacity lowered to 70% and on a new layer randomly paint blotches of black and white. Use different sizes for a more random and varied effect:

Paint various sized black and white blobs

Go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and press CTRL + F five times:

Sharpen the Blobs

Go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and use Spin, best quality with an amount of 10-15:

Spin those blobs!

Now change the overlay mode to Overlay:

Overlay the swirly bits

Let's clean the layer up by getting the selection of our original 'light' layer, inversing and then deleting on the new layer.

Now we're going to give a bit of shadow to the mushroom to make it seem more three dimensional. Create a new layer above the swirly layer and draw a squashed circle like this:

Draw a Circle

Fill this circle with black #000000 and deselect by pressing CTRL + D. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use an amount of 25-30. Lower the opacity of this layer to 60% and change the blending mode to Overlay:

Shade in black circle, then blur and lower opacity

Now CTRL and left click on the thumbnail of the 'light' layer to obtaint he selection. Press CTRL + Shift + I to inverse and go to Select > Modify > Feather and choose 10 as the amount. Delete the selection:

Our mushroom so far

At this point it's worth spending a bit of time applying the same effects to the bottom half of our mushroom. Add some clouds, dots like in the previous steps but make sure the overall tone of the bottom half is darker and less vivid then the upper half. We'll leave this part up to your creativity as we'll just be rewriting the same steps as before. Here's what ours is looking like once we've played with the bottom half of the mushroom, the 'dark' layer:

Progress So Far

Now we're going to make the stalk!

Stalk

Create a new layer above the 'dark' layer but below the 'light' layer. On this layer draw a long but thin square line this one and fill it white. Make sure the top of the shape overlaps the top half of our mushroom by some way as we're going to need some room to fiddle with it:

Draw a long, thin white box...

Deselect by pressing CTRL + D and then go to Filter > Distort > Shear. We want our stalk to look solid and firm at the top, nearer to the head of the mushroom, and weaker and wavey towards the ground. By dragging the middle dot in the shear window towards the top of the box and slightly left or right we can achieve this effect:

Shear Filter Settings

Make sure to choose 'repeat edge pixels' for a smooth finish and your stalk should look like this:

The wavey stalk.

Use the move tool to drag the stalk roughly to the centre of our mushroom. Then move the stalk down enough so there's a gap between the top of this shape and the lighter half of our mushroom about half the size of the darker half of our mushroom:

Align the stalk to the centre.

Select the Smudge tool and choose a solid brush approximately five pixels in size. Set the strength to 50% and, on the layer of our stalk, drag sharp lines out in small curves away from the sides and top of the shape to make it appear like the stalk is connecting to the mushroom:

Gently 'slash' at the shape with the Smudge tool

Lower the strength to about 30% and go down the entire length of the stalk sharply slashing into the shape. This involves choosing a spot, holding the left mouse button down and sharply moving the mouse into the stalk. It will 'slash away' parts of our shape. Move the mouse but keep it within the shape so that the edges don't come out on the other side:

Try not to overdo it!

It's important you take the time to add enough variation and slashes to your stalk to make it seem like natural erosion. If you use a uniform style of slashing into the shape it will look very unrealistic and not very inspiring. In the likely event (I did it about ten times!) you do slash a little too hard just use the smudge tool on the other side to slash back into the shape. I won't tell anyone if you don't!

So here's how it looks now:

Overall View

Open the blending options of the stalk layer and apply the following blends:

Inner Glow Settings
Gradient Overlay Settings

With the gradient overlay when you untick 'Align with Layer' it's helpful to lower the scale to 1, then line the gradient up with the stalk. This will produce a more natural effect. The colours are located, left to right, at 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%.

The Stalk now...

On the stalk go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and repeat once (CTRL + F).

Duplicate the stalk layer and create a new layer below the duplicated layer but above the original layer. On the duplicated layer press CTRL + E to merge this layer to the new layer, removing the blending options but maintaining the visual results. On this new layer go to Filter > Distort > Ripple, use medium with an amount of roughly 100. Repeat this three times:

The ripple adds some textural variation

Set the blending mode to Screen and lower the opacity to 70%. The edge of your stalk should look rough and hairy when you look closely:

Rough Edges

Now repeat the shading we performed on both parts of the mushroom head earlier in the tutorial by creating clouds and dots and applying the same effects as before. When painting the dots for the stalk try to keep the middle brighter than the edges with a few spots and patches of black, and vice versa for the edges:

Painting dots for the stalk

Set the opacity of the clouds to about 20% and set to Overlay.

Make sure you paint white dots as well:

Paint white dots too!

Remember to apply a sharpen a few times and Radial Blur like before! You will be left with something like this:

Once blurred it looks like this!

Set the opacity of the dots to 80% and the blending mode to overlay so that the stalk outline is bright enough to see. Tidy up the edges of this layer by selecting the selection of the original stalk base layer and inversing and deleting the selection, like before.

Now our stalk should look like the mushroom head:

Now the stalk looks the same

The last modification to our stalk is to blend the top in with the mushroom a little more. The best way of doing this is using the illusion of light to our advantage. Consider the light source is coming from the mushroom, how can we best do this? We're going to assume that under the mushroom is very dark, like the mushrooms we're basing this on from Skyrim. Therefore we're going to paint the top of our stalk and around black on a new layer and then blend this in with the mushroom head and stalk.

Create a new layer above the dots layer and grab a hard brush of about 5-6 in size. Make the opacity 70%. This part's fun - literally zig zag around the top in a messy fashion. Use white #ffffff. Try not to make the strokes too straight:

Make the strokes look hard and vivid and overlap them!

Now go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur and use Spin, Best and an amount of 15%:

Blur the brush strokes!

Now change the blending mode to Overlay and invert the colour - CTRL + I

Now the stalk looks part of the mushroom.

Depending on how jagged you made your smudges back on the tip of the stalk they should still be slightly visible through the shadow.

Tendrils

When I first saw these mushrooms playing Skyrim one of the first things I said to myself was "they look like jellyfish" - furthered reinforced by the fact the mushrooms have tendrils. That's what we're going to create now!

Select the Pen Tool and make sure it's on Paths mode. Draw three to four dots from the bottom of the 'light' half of the mushroom to roughly three quarters of the way down the canvas. Make sure the first point starts just by the head of the mushroom and make your way down:

Draw lines with the pen tool

Then, with each point, hold down Alt and the left mouse and drag gently to make the line gently curved:

Make the lines slightly curved

Repeat this for each point until you're left with a curved line. Make sure it's not too curved else it might end up looking slightly unrealistic. Now we're going to add a brush stroke to this line to form the base of our tendril. Create a new layer just above the stalk layers. Go to your brushes window by pressing F5 and apply the following settings. Depending on the size of your canvas you might need to fiddle with these a little, but if you're using our size of 1000 x 1000 they should be suitable:

Brush Settings

Click on the pen tool again and right click on our path. Choose Stroke Path and then choose Brush and tick simulate pressure. This should produce something like this. If yours is too thick or too short you'll need to fiddle with the brush settings. Try raising the fade control if it's too thin and lower the diameter if it's too thick:

You should have a wavy thinning line...

Repeat this and create another four or five tendrils. Put them on seperate layers so we can modify each one individually later on. Space them out randomly and set them at random heights to add variation:

Try and make the tendrils vary in length and position

Now apply the following gradient overlay to every tendril layer:

Gradient overlay settings

On the gradient move the light green stop to 99%, and then add a new one at 100% with the colour #033237. This will help the tendril to fade into the mushroom head. Apply the gradient to each tendril. You can do this quickly by right clicking the first tendril's layer and clicking Copy Layer Style, then right clicking every other tendril and clicking Paste Layer Style:

The tendrils should all be coloured!

Now we're going to add some texture to these tendrils. Select every layer by first CTRL and clicking the first layer. Then, holding down CTRL + Shift, proceed to click on every other tendril layer. You should have a selection of every tendril then:

Every tendril should be selected

Create a new layer above all the tendril layers. Keep the selection! Fill this selection with white. Keep the selection! Go to Filter > Render > Difference Clouds and press repeat, CTRL + F, about fifty times:

The many difference clouds should make a very wavey texture

Deselect by pressing CTRL + D. Then press CTRL + J to duplicate this layer. Hide this new layer and then click on the original layer and obtain it's selection. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and repeat once. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter an amount of 0.5:

The texture should look sharp but have smooth edges

Change the blending mode of this layer to Overlay and lower the opacity to 50%:

They should look smooth

The tendtrils should now have a smooth, milky texture.

Now we're going to add some light blobs around the tendrils. This will be a glowing mushroom remember! To do this we're going to do two things. Firstly, remember the layer we duplicated a minute ago? Click on that now and unhide it. Get the selection and then go to Select > Modify > Expand and enter an amount of 10:

The selections should be bigger

Now go to Filter > Distort > Wave and enter the following settings:

Wave Settings

You should be left with a lot of dots everywhere within your selection:

Lots of dots made by the Waves Filter

Go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness / Contrast and lower the contrast to 0 and the brightness to 100% to turn all these dots into white dots. Finally lower their opacity to around 50-60%:

The final dots

Now make a new layer and reobtain the selection of every tendril as before. So that we can see what we're doing change this layer's blending mode to Screen. This time expand the selection (Select > Modify > Expand) by 25. Go to Filter > Render > Clouds and then Deselect, CTRL + D, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a blur of 10:

A blurry mess...

Go to Filter > Distort > Ripple and choose Large with an amount of 300%:

A ripply blurry mess...

Go to Filter > Distort > Ripple and choose Small with an amount of 999%:

An even more ripply blurry mess...

Now go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise using an amount of 25%, uniform with monochromatic ticked. Then go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen and repeat once, CTRL + F:

Very noisy mess!

Now comes the cool stuff! Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur by 0.5. Then go to Filter > Brush Strokes > Cross Hatch and use the cross hatch stroke and move all three sliders to the far right. Confirm and you are left with this:

The cross hatch should be very defined

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur again by 0.5. Now press CTRL + L to open the levels window. Drag the first slider to 200 and then move the final slider to 220 and click confirm:

The level adjustment should remove most of the dots

If yours still looks too strong and defined you probably missed the second blur.

Lower the opacity of this layer to 15%, reapply a 0.5 Gaussian Blur and then Sharpen, Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen, twice. Change the blending mode of this layer to Color Dodge and we're done with this layer! Now right click on the previous dots layer we made using the wave filter and go to blending options. Apply a color overlay using #11b6bf:

The dots should be green, the noise should be very faint white

Now let's make our mushroom glow.

Click on the background layer and apply a linear gradient from top to bottom using #01191a and #000000. Make the gentle green tint appear at the top of the canvas, the black at the bottom. Then create a new layer just above the background and below all other layers. Work your way through your layers getting the selection of the base layers of the mushroomhead, the stalk and all the tendrils:

Select every base layer

Go to Select > Modify > Expand and choose 15. Fill this selection with #25e9fe. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and blur by 25. Then lower the opacity of this layer to 25%:

Make a faint glowing background

Reobtain the selection of every base layer once more, but this time simply fill the selection with #4df0ff on a new layer. With this new layer go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and use an angle of 90 and a distance of 340. Repeat this two to three times and then lower the opacity to 50%.

And we're done!

You may notice the cross stitch dots we made are a little too obvious depending on how large your canvas is. Simply go back to that layer and lower the opacity until it looks about right in the event this is the case. Below is my final image (click for a full resolution version):

Fantasy Glowing Mushrooms
View the 1000x1000 Final PNG high resolution file

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3 responses to Skyrim Inspired Fantasy Glowing Mushrooms

  1. Really nice tutorial, nice to see a very detailed tutorial for a change... But I am stuck. When making the tendrils part the path I make is only partially visible. I have checked the layer is in the right place but it's still only showing up as half visible?

    • Hi Selene, welcome to the site!

      I’m glad you like the tutorial. All I can think of is perhaps you’ve still got your brush opacity lowered from painting the details into the stalk earlier. I made the same mistake earlier on as well and had to re-do a few of the steps because I hadn’t noticed. If this isn’t the case then double check you’ve got the pen mode set to paths. :-)

    • That fixed it... The opacity was still low on the brush. Thanks!

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