By Kirk Nelson
What You’ll Be Creating
A child’s imagination is a precious thing of wonder. I believe it should be nurtured and encouraged whenever possible. One of the most common forms children use to express their imagination is drawing their fantasies. What better way to encourage it than by placing them within their very own imaginary world!
This project is intended to be a collaboration between a parent and child. Start by working together to plan it out. The parent’s portion is to take photos of the child and set up the files in Photoshop. The kid’s portion includes the original drawing and then placing the scanned layer into the scene, and even some lightweight digital painting and illustration.
This is a very fun project than can be easily repeated any number of times. It’s likely that once your child sees just how they look in their drawings, they will want to explore different ideas too! Use this time to bond with your child and most of all, have fun!
1. Work Together
Begin with a plan! Discuss the idea with your child. They may not fully understand exactly what you are trying to do, but explain that you want to put a picture of them into their drawing, so it looks like they are a part of the drawing! Encourage them to be creative. I told my daughter she could be anything she wanted to be: a scientist, a princess, an astronaut, a brave explorer, whatever…
She said, “Daddy, I want to be a princess that fights dragons!”
I do so love that girl! So be it! So we discussed how she would fight them (with a sword and a force field of course!).
Once the plan is in place, encourage your child to draw out the scene. Explain that it’s most helpful to draw the different elements separately. In our project my daughter drew the dragon on one sheet of paper, then the castle top and her weapons on another.
Then it’s time for the photo shoot! Encourage the use of any children’s dress-up clothes that fit the theme of the project. The hardest part is visualizing the correct pose for photos. Try to imagine how they will fit in with the drawings. Be patient and keep the energy up. Even if your child wants to be silly, take those shots too! They make for fun photos to look at later!
2. Parent’s Portion
Before handing the reigns over to the little artist, there’s some prep work that needs to be done by the parent. This will help get everything set up for the child’s portion of the project. I fully encourage you to use your own child’s drawings, but if you need something to get started, I’ve included my daughter’s drawings in the attachment for this tutorial.
Begin by scanning in the drawings. Use a full color scan at good resolution, at least 150 dpi. If you don’t have any drawings to scan, feel free to use ours from the downloadable attachment for this tutorial called
Unzip the attached
FantasyElements.zip file and open the images in Photoshop. There is one background image, FantasyBackground.jpg, and two scanned images of the drawings, DragonDrawing.jpg and DrawnObjects.jpg.
Open your best photo from the photo shoot earlier. Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to paint in a selection of the child. Hold down the Alt key to deselect areas that get selected inadvertently.
Press the Refine Edge button and increase the Radius of the selection to make sure the selection captures some of the child’s hair. I used a setting of 4.0 px. Also increase the Smooth and Feather slightly to make sure the edge appears realistic. Finally, set the Output to New Layer.
Drag the newly created layer onto the FantasyBackground.jpg file. Go to Edit > Transform (Control-T) to scale the layer to fit onto the canvas.
It’s important that certain tools are set up properly so that the instructions for your child will not be confusing. The first of these is to make sure the Show Transform Control option is checked while the Move Tool (V) is active.
Grab the Brush Tool (B) and open the Brush Presets panel. Choose the Hard Round preset and set the Size to 50 px.
At this point, everything should be set up, so it’s time to call in the real creative force behind this project!
3. Child’s Play
Hi Kids! I hope you are having as much fun with this project as my daughter did. Are you excited to see yourself in one of your drawings? This is going to be so cool!
OK, you should see a program open. It’s called Photoshop, and it has your picture over a background. This is our main project. But we’ve got your drawings open too, and we are going to use those to build up an awesome fantasy picture.
Near the top of the screen there are different tabs with words in them. These are the different pictures you can see. Click on the one called DrawnObjects.jpg and you should see a castle top and several weapons and other things.
Look at the Tool Bar on the left for a little square made of dotted lines. This is called the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Click on it or just press the M key. Then start at one corner and draw a box all the way around the tower.
Using the menus at the top of the screen go to Edit > Copy. Then use the tabs again to go back to the picture of you and the background. Use the menu for Edit > Paste to put a copy of the tower in your picture!
Right now there’s a big white square around the castle. That doesn’t look so great, does it? To fix this we will use something called a Blending Mode to make all the white area disappear. Over near the right side of the screen is the Layers panel, and near the top of that is the setting you need to change from Normal to Multiply.
The castle tower looks as if it’s in front of the princess here. To fix that, drag that layer down beneath the Dragon Slayer photo layer. This moves it behind her.
Notice the box around the tower with little squares on it? These are the Transform Control Handles and they let you change the size of the tower. If you drag a corner of the box, you can make the castle bigger and smaller. You can do the same thing for the Dragon Slayer too. Just be sure you click on her layer first. Move both of them around until they look like this.
Some parts of the castle should be in front of the princess so it looks as if she is standing inside it. First hide the warrior by clicking on the little eye next to her layer. Then use the funny looking lasso tool, called the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to draw an outline around the front parts of the castle.
Click on the little eye icon next to the Dragon Slayer layer again to show it. Then click on the layer to make sure it is the active one. Look for the menus at the top of the screen and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection. This will create a mask that hides that part of the warrior and makes her look as if she’s inside the tower.
Use the same steps to add in the dragon and other parts from the drawings too. Make a
selection box and copy that part, then go to the main project and paste
that part in. Use the Transform Controls to move, turn and size each
part into place. Here’s how ours looked!
Use the Eraser Tool (E) to remove parts of each piece that overlap with something else and should not be seen. Remember to pick the right layer first!
Pick the bottom layer, the background picture, and press the New Layer button (it looks like a little folded piece of paper) at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a new layer. This layer will be the coloring layer!
Now comes the really fun part! You get to color with the computer! Find the tool that looks like a paintbrush. This is the Brush Tool (B) and you can color with it! Click on the little black square in the Tool Bar to get the Color Picker and choose a color. Start with a light gray.
Then carefully color in the tower. Be sure to stay in the lines! If you mess up, you can always use the Eraser (E) tool to fix the mistake.
Here’s a good trick for changing colors the easy way! While coloring with the brush, hold down the Alt key to get the Eyedropper Tool (I). This lets you click on any color on the screen and pick that as your color!
Go through the rest of the objects and color them in too. Take as much time as you need, and use as many colors as you want! Isn’t it great to have so many colors to choose from? Much more than your box of crayons!
4. Work Together
In this section, parent and child should work together to finish off the rest of the piece. These techniques are little more complicated, but are still easy enough for your child to do with your help.
Add in a New Layer for additional coloring, and add in some variations of the base colors already established. For example, the dragon’s underbelly should be a different color than the rest of its scales, and the castle tower should have some variation in brick color.
The larger solid objects need to have some additional shading to give them more depth. Add another New Layer and switch to the Soft Round brush preset. Reduce the Brush Opacity to around 20% and set the color to default black. Then slowly build up the shadow areas of the tower and the dragon. Switch to white paint and do the same for the highlights.
The brave warrior princess needs something to protect her from being burned by the dragon fire. An impenetrable force field should do the trick! Add another New Layer just over the background and create a round selection immediately around her wand.
Fill the selection with a brilliant, magical blue color,
#009cfe. Then go to Select > Deselect (Control-D) and set the layer’s blending mode to Vivid Light.
Soften the edge of the blue bubble by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a Radius of 3 Pixels.
Add another New Layer for the force field. Create a larger round selection right up against the dragon’s fire. Use the Gradient Tool (G) as a Linear Gradient with the Foreground to Transparent preset. Draw out a gradient starting from the fire area down towards the warrior.
Press Control-D to Deselect and open the Layer Styles dialogue box for this layer.
Add a Satin layer style with these settings:
- Blend Mode: Color Burn
- Color: a bright electric blue
- Opacity: 34%
- Angle: 19 degrees
- Distance: 11 px
- Size: 14 px
- Check the Invert option.
Add an Outer Glow layer style with these settings:
- Opacity: 100%
- Color: Bright pastel blue color
- Size: 5 px
The resulting force field should look something like this.
If needed, add in another New Layer under the main force field layer and use the Soft Round brush again to carefully add depth to the force field. This is a subtle effect and it’s easy to overdo it, so work gently.
And You Are Done!
Behold! The brave Dragon Slayer! Princess and protector of the realm! Let all foul, fire-breathing lizards be warned…
Her Will is Strong.
Her Sword is Sharp.
And her Fight is Fierce!
I hope you and your child had as much fun with this project as my daughter and I did! I’ve got more Photoshop for Kids! tutorials along with some photo manipulation projects, custom brushes, and even more Photoshop fun. Check out my profile here at Tuts+ for my other tutorials, quick tips, and courses.
Read more here:: Adobe Photoshop For Kids! Fantasy Me!