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Made With Envato: How to Use Photoshop to Create Award-Winning Digital Art with Zacktic

Want to know how to use Photoshop to create digital art? Made With Envato competition winner Zacktic shows us how he created his winning entry using Envato Elements...

Posted 22 Feb 2022
Made With Envato Competition Winner Zacktic

Digital artist and Instagram creator Zacktic has a talent for transporting his viewers to another world with his bewitching, mystical artworks. His incredible photo manipulations often feature surreal concepts and vibrant colours, while weaving together the threads of reality and imagination to create something truly out of this world.

Since first experimenting with photo manipulation during the global pandemic, the 22-year-old self-taught artist from India has already grown into a Photoshop expert – winning Envato’s first Made With Envato competition and reaching millions of people via Instagram with his magical creations. We had a chat with Zacktic to find out what makes him tick, and learn how he created this incredible artwork, “Portal to the Other World”, using Envato Elements… 

What’s your artistic background? How did you get into digital art?

I started photo editing as a hobby; I never imagined I would get this far. During the pandemic when we were all locked up in our houses, I started watching tutorials on YouTube about photo manipulation. There I found BennyProductions and PhaseRunner, who both use Photoshop to create some amazing concept art. I was so inspired by them but also wanted to do something unique, so I started creating religious concept art and posting it on Instagram – and people loved it. I get a lot of DMs on Instagram from people who like what I do and are inspired by my work, which, I believe, is the biggest achievement you can accomplish as an artist. 

How did you come up with the idea for this Made With Envato piece? 

I made this piece, “Portal to the Other World”, for the Photoshop contest conducted by Envato and Aron Visuals on Instagram. I love sci-fi movies and already had a sci-fi concept in mind, so I came up with this idea to create a portal connecting two distant locations separated by space-time.

What specific Elements items did you use? 

First, I chose the picture ‘Aerial view of the city’ to create the background for my composition. I then placed the picture of the misty mountain and added some haze in the background to create atmospheric depth. I used the same picture of the mountain to create the portal by taking parts of it and placing them one on top of the other. Then, I followed the rule of thirds to place the Elements items, keeping the portal at the centre, filling it with magical colors using the picture of ‘space starscape background’. Finally, I added little details like birds and trees, and color graded my scene using the 3D LUT files at the end, which really brought the artwork to life. 

What tools and programs did you use?

I used Adobe Photoshop to create my composition. I’ve been using it for quite some time so I’m very familiar with the interface and shortcuts, which helps me to work faster. I only use high-quality stock images, which I find either on Envato Elements or on other stock websites

As for Photoshop brushes, I use the soft round brush to create highlights and shadows, as well as some custom brush presets packs to add extra effects which I find on Elements

How did you create it? What was your process from start to finish?

Made With Envato Zacktic - Before vs. After

Step 1: Idea Generation 

Firstly, I came up with a concept and visualized how my composition was going to look. I think it’s better to sketch on paper – I find that it’s more direct and spontaneous, and the physical connection between my pencil and paper fires up my imagination. After deciding how my composition is going to look, I digitally select my subjects using the pen tool and place them on the canvas in Photoshop.

Step 2: Creation

Blending is quite an important part of creating an artwork as it takes a lot of time to master. After masking out the subjects, I blend each and every element by matching the luminosity and colors, and finally adding highlights and shadows. I use the curves adjustment layer to match the brightness values of the subject, and use the soft round brush to paint on the inverted mask. To create the portal, I made a pattern on the mountain using the hard round brush, and used the clipping mask tool on the ‘star scape’ stock image. Then I added some haze using the smoke brush tool from Elements to add atmospheric depth.

Step 3: Final

Made With Envato - Zacktic - Process

Finally, it’s time to add some color. Once I’m satisfied with the blending, I merge all the layers into one and use the camera raw filter and color lookup adjustment layer to color-grade my overall composition. I then add in the small details, such as some birds along with trees and bushes. What I end up with is a calm, magical landscape with epic, mysterious architecture as the focal point.

I  wanted to keep the artwork simple, as too much clutter can distract the viewer and make it difficult to identify the subject. I really like the combination of colors that I used in this piece – I’m happy with the outcome.

What were the main skills and techniques involved in creating this piece? 

The main skill involved in this piece was color-grading. I use vibrant colors in my artworks, which attracts a lot of viewers, so color-grading is an important step. I learnt this skill by watching Photoshop tutorials on Youtube, which definitely took some time to master, and then I started creating photo manipulations every day to improve my skills. 

Do you have any advice for achieving this style of art?

  1. Always have a concept in mind before you begin.
  2. Understand the color wheel.
  3. Always follow perspective and alignment.
  4. Always use high-quality stock images.
  5. Dedication, determination and a desire to improve are key to success.
  6. Never hesitate to try something new and get inspired from other creators.

How does Envato Elements help you create your work?

Elements inspires me to create better work. The high-quality stock images help me to create high-quality content. One of my favorite add-ons from Envato is ‘aurora lights’, which adds a touch of magic to my artworks, and I frequently use Elements Photoshop brushes in my compositions. 

What are your top tips for creating high-quality digital art? 

1. Use the right tools

When beginning your artistic journey, I highly recommend having Photoshop as a part of your toolkit. Photoshop gives the user complete control over all kinds of image manipulation.

2. Use high-quality stock assets

Great stock images will increase the quality of your artwork and make it much more likely to be noticed. Finding the right stock photos for your art can take some time, so be patient and search thoroughly.

3. Stay motivated

When you set a goal, you make a decision to achieve what you want. Goals give you a focus that’s measurable and has an endpoint. This can help you to stay motivated.

4. Learn new things

Get out of your comfort zone and learn new things. The only way to learn new skills and discover new interests is to give them a chance.

How has Instagram benefited your art?

I started my Instagram journey as a sketch artist. At first I was confused about what content I wanted to create, but when I started posting surreal concept art it generated a lot of attention – my posts reached millions of people and I gained 10K followers within 6 months. Instagram helped me reach a global audience,  find recognition as a digital artist, and connect with a supportive community of fellow artists. People from every corner of the world have the opportunity to see your work and appreciate what you do, which keeps me motivated.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming a digital artist? Any words of wisdom? 

The biggest learning I’ve had from becoming a digital artist is to be patient. Patience helps us to deal with the frustrations or roadblocks that come with being an artist. My advice for up-and-coming artists is to find what you love and do it! You are the artist of your own imagination.

Feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from! Whether you want to learn How to Create a Composite in Photoshop, or read up on the digital trend of Photo Manipulation, you can find tons of creative content here on the Envato Blog. For more interviews, check out How to Make Anime Art in Photoshop with Farelyph, How to Create Sci-Fi Photoshop Edits with BeVisualz, and How to Become a Self-Taught Photoshop Artist with sb. editing__.

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