What You’ll Be Creating
If you’ve ever wanted to set off to see the Wizard, you’ll need to follow the Yellow Brick Road. And if you can’t find one nearby, you can always make one of your very own. Follow this tutorial to make a seamless Yellow Brick Road and Poppy Field pattern, to help you channel your inner Dorothy. You get bonus points for wearing sparkly shoes while you draw.
1. Set Up the Road
Let’s get some curvy lines going to represent the base of our road. Technically the Yellow Brick Road has only one swirly beginning, but the shape was too fun not to use, so I decided to include it into the pattern.
Draw some nice flowing freehand swirls to serve as the base for your road. If you can’t achieve the line smoothness you want when you’re drawing freehand, zoom in and smooth out the line bit by bit, using the Hard Round Brush Tool and the Eraser Tool in turn.
Drawing nice curves isn’t easy, but I urge you to practice it whenever you can—you will get better with effort.
Make a copy of your swirls by pressing Control-J, and slide them to the right in a straight line by holding down the Shift key while you drag. Change the color of the copied layer by clicking on the Fx button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Overlay from the drop-down menu. This will help you see how the edges of the two copies fit together, and which parts you need to redraw in order to make them seamlessly flow together.
Once the two sets of swirls flow together neatly, delete the copy layer and select a section from the left side of your main swirl layer. We want to fold the swirls in on themselves to create our starting pattern tile.
Holding down the Shift key, drag the selection in a straight line until it reaches the correct position, i.e. until it matches up with the right side of your swirls. You now have a horizontally repeating design with perfectly straight edges, and you can place Guides at the sides of your design.
To place Guides, make sure your Rulers are visible. If they’re not, you can make them appear by selecting View > Rulers from the Menu Bar. Then you can simply click on the ruler and drag to pull out a Guide.
When you’re setting your Guides, they will often snap to the edge of your artwork on their own. However, this snap is not always accurate, so it will save you a lot of grief later on if you take the time to zoom down as much as possible with the Zoom Tool and make sure the Guide is set to perfectly align with the edge of your lines.
If the Guide is even just a third of a pixel’s width off, it can mess up your repeat later on.
Once you have moved the left edge of your line work over to the right side, it’s possible that some fragment of the lines will still be sticking out beyond the right Guide. Use the same method to move it over to the left side—select it with the Rectangle Selection Tool, and Shift-drag it until it touches the inner side of your left Guide.
You’ve effectively folded in the sides of the tile, and now you have a finished horizontal repeat. Remember this set of steps, because you will be using it a few more times during the tutorial.
To work out the vertical repeat, we’ll do the same thing we did with the horizontal—click Control-J to make a copy of our line work, Shift-drag up or down until they rest comfortably against each other, and then adjust the original line work to flow more smoothly into the copy.
Always make your adjustments on the original tile, because you will discard the copy when this step is done.
Once the lines are looking good, we’ll use the Rectangle Selection Tool to grab the bottom part of the line work and Shift-drag it upwards until it lies smoothly against the top part of the design.
Set a pair of horizontal Guides against the top and bottom of the line work, and your tile is officially completed.
2. Define the Bricks
Ok, so we have a road map for laying down our Yellow Brick Road. Let’s try to bring it to life.
Using the Overlay function from the Fx menu on the bottom part of the Layers panel, set the colors of the background and the lines to something more fitting for our theme. Setting colors through the Overlay function means that you will always be able to adjust them with a single click, so you don’t need to worry too much about the exact tones.
Use a Hard Round Brush Tool set to a relatively small size to close off your swirl shapes, so you can fill them in more easily. Your Guides will get in the way, so hide them (uncheck Menu Bar > View > Show > Guides). You can also use the shortcut Control-; to hide the guides.
Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the spaces inside your now closed lines. Then go to Menu Bar > Select > Modify > Expand and set it to expand your selection by two or three pixels.
Click Alt-Delete to fill the selection. Now you have a base for your road. Because you expanded your selection, you won’t get any ugly pixel-thin gaps between your line and your fill.
Turn on your Guides again (Menu Bar > View > Show > Guides) and use them to help you neatly cut away the excess road base.
Once you’re done removing the excess from the outside of the Guides, use the Zoom Tool to check once again that the guides are positioned correctly. The easiest way is to check in just two places—the top right corner and the bottom left corner. That way you check all four guides with just two zooms.
As you can see, I had removed one pixel too many from the right side of my road base, so I needed to pull my right Guide one pixel inwards.
Using Control-J, make eight copies of your road base layer and slot them in place around your main tile. This will help give you a framework when you’re laying in the details on your road, and it will also show you if you have any errors in your tile repeat.
Merge all of these into a single layer (hold down the Shift key while selecting to select multiple layers at once, and then click Control-E to merge) and set its color to something similar to your background color, so it’s not distracting.
On a new Layer, draw rough lines to indicate how your bricks will flow. This will help guide you when you’re zoomed in close and drawing the individual bricks.
Use the Zoom Tool to zoom down and start drawing in bricks on a new Layer, following the guiding lines you drew. Once all the bricks are drawn, you can discard the layer with the guiding lines.
There are many different versions of the Yellow Brick Road, some with a more neat and uniform look and some with more random and fun bricks. I chose a more flexible brick layout to make it easier to fit the curves and swirls of my road.
Once all the bricks are drawn, adjust the colors of the road base layer and the brick face layer to whatever looks best to you. The base should be dark, and the brick faces should be a medium tone that will let us add both shadows and highlights on top.
Make a copy of the brick face layer and give it a darker color. Move it 10 to 30 pixels below the brick face layer, to create some thickness for your bricks. Choose a thickness that looks best to you.
Since it now looks as if the brick face layer is floating above its own shadow, let’s close up that gap between them. Make a copy of the bottom brick layer, and move it two or three pixels up. Then make another copy, and move it up. Keep doing this until it looks as if the brick sides are solid.
Merge all the copied layers into one, and play with their color once again to see what suits them best.
Now let’s add some sparkle to our road! Select the brick face layer (Control-click on the Layer Thumbnail on the Layer panel) and then hide the selection so it doesn’t get in your way (Control-H). Now you can paint on the brick faces without affecting the rest of your piece.
Pick any spatter brush, texture brush, or soft brush you like, and choose a color slightly warmer and lighter than your brick face color. Lightly go over the edge of the brick road that is closer to you.
I won’t keep repeating ‘make a new layer, make a new layer’, and you don’t strictly have to, but making a new layer for every new color you use is the best way to ensure that you can always go back and change things easily. It could save you a lot of heartache down the line.
Now let’s do the reverse—pick a slightly darker color and go over the other side of the road. This will give the road a bit of dimension.
Now make a new layer and set its Blending Mode to Soft Light (Layer panel > Blending Modes > Soft Light). Set your Foreground Color to white (you can’t do it through Overlay this time, because Blending Modes don’t work on layers with a Color Overlay).
Pick up the Hard Round Brush Tool and start drawing in highlights on individual bricks. It does take a while, but they will look so pretty afterwards! Because your layer is set to blend with the colors below, the highlight will look slightly different on each brick depending on its color.
Once all this is done, you have a super pretty Yellow Brick Road!
3. Add Some Grass
Now let’s give it some nice surroundings.
Pick a shade of green slightly darker than your background, and with the Hard Round Brush Tool start drawing in some grass. You don’t have to be particularly meticulous about this, so feel free to go fast and don’t strive to make it too even. It’s grass! It should be messy!
Make sure some blades reach up above the bricks on the near side of your road, but none should be reaching over the far side of the road.
Pick a new shade of green, this time a little lighter than your background color. Add more grass.
Finally pick a third, darkest shade of green. Use it more sparingly and randomly than the first two, and draw shorter blades of grass. It adds a nice bit of depth.
To give the road some extra weight, let’s make a copy of our brick face layer, move it below all the brick layers, and change its color to that last, darkest green we used on the grass.
Move the layer a few pixels up and to the left, and lower its Opacity to around 65%. This will give you a nice shadow on the ground.
Since you’re moving this layer, a part of it will now be sticking outside your guides. Any time some of your drawing sticks outside the guides, remember to fold it back in just like we did in the first section.
4. Add the Poppies
And finally it’s time to add some pretty flowers!
First let’s draw the outer petals—pick a nice bright red and draw some petal shapes. A poppy usually has four petals, but some of them will be facing towards us and some of them will be facing away from us. At this stage draw only the petals that are facing away from us.
Now let’s pick a slightly different shade of red and draw the petals that are facing towards us. You can choose to make the inner side of the poppies lighter or darker than the outer side—either can work. I’ve made mine lighter on the inside.
Now add some black around the center of each flower, and on the base of each petal. Pure black looks a bit harsh, so I chose a nice chocolate brown instead.
Pick a new shade of green and draw in the characteristic poppy pistils. The way I drew mine was to first paint them in solid, and then use a Hard Eraser Tool to chisel out their details.
The flowers are still looking a bit flat, so let’s give them some more details. I picked a somewhat darker tone of red to draw fine veins on the inner petals, and to add some shadows on the outer petals.
5. Multiply the Poppies and Finish Up
Now we’ve drawn one nice batch of poppies, but we don’t necessarily want to draw a hundred more. Let’s spread them around a bit more effectively.
Use Control-J to make a copy of each of your poppy layers, and then group them all together and use Control-E to merge them into one. Now you have a little bunch of poppies you can copy and use Edit > Transform > Flip or Rotate to put them in a few different places without having them appear samey.
Make a new bunch of poppies, and use the same technique as above to move them to a few different places.
Once it becomes difficult to fit in new bunches of poppies, take single flowers and spread them around to fill in any remaining gaps. You can choose how busy you want to make your poppy field, but I’d suggest leaving some parts sparser than others, to give it a nicer flow.
Once all your poppies are in place, zoom in close and use the darkest shade of green you used on the grass to draw the poppy stems and leaves. Their bottom parts will stand out awkwardly from the surrounding grass, so use a Hard Eraser Tool set to a small size to eat away at the bottom parts of the stems, making it seem as if other blades of grass are in front of them.
Your poppy field is looking really sweet! Make a new layer, set its Blending Mode to Overlay and set your Foreground Color to pale yellow. Pick a Soft Round Brush with a feathered edge and randomly paint in some large spots. If the effect is too stark, bring the layer opacity down to whatever feels nicer.
This effect seems so subtle it can almost be hard to spot, but if you try turning it on and off you’ll see the subtle, rich texture it’s adding to the piece.
Finally if you feel like it, you can add another layer with its Blending Mode set to Overlay and add one final highlight to your road, making it seem sunnier. Paint in crescent shapes along the curves of the road with a Hard Round Brush and then eat away their edges using a Soft Round Brush with its Opacity lowered to around 30%.
And There It Is!
You’ve made a seamless Yellow Brick Road with Poppy Field pattern. You can use it as a digital wallpaper, you can print it out and use it for scrapbooking, or you could have it printed on fabric or wrapping paper and make a special surprise for that special Wizard of Oz fan in your life.
Hope you had fun making it! Here’s the final image once more:
And here is a zoomed out version showing more of the repeat. Fun, right?