How to Create a 2D Landscape Scene
2D Landscape – The simplest technique in the Photoshop handbook!
This is the ideal tutorial for those of you who just love creating something from nothing. For this brand-new, step-by-step guide you will require nothing but Photoshop (ideally the CC version but we’ll give you a few pointers for earlier editions) and your imagination to create a 2-dimensional landscape.
You won’t need any photographs or resource images for this one, it’s all made in the software.
Once you’ve mastered this lesson, you’ll be able to transfer these newly learned skills into all manners of designs, so don’t think it’s just a landscape that you can create – the possibilities are endless with 2D designs.
So, let’s get started…
2D Landscape: Step 1
Open a new horizontal (landscape) document and fill the background with a fairly pale-orange colour. This is going to be the sky in our version, but you can choose a blue or yellow if you want to set your landscape in a different time of day.
2D Landscape: Step 2
To start your 2D landscape, create a new layer by choosing Layer> New > Layer from the top menu bar. Pick out your Lasso tool and draw a jagged outline around the bottom of your document, this is going to be our foreground.
Make sure you draw a complete line conjoining both ends by drawing along the bottom of the document too (see the video further down).
2D Landscape: Step 3
Pick a dark colour and fill it into the area you’ve just made, something like a dark purple could be nice but the choice is yours.
2D Landscape: Step 4
The next step in our 2D landscape is essentially repeating steps 2 and 3 a few times over. Each time draw a jagged line different from the last and make the colour you fill it with a little lighter than the one before.
If your new layers appear over the top of the previous, change their position in your layers panel to create the sense of depth that we’re looking for.
2D Landscape: Step 5
The last jagged area you draw would look more dramatic with a nice mountain shape in the background to give your design a main subject matter. You could do one main mountain and a couple of smaller ones either side of it perhaps.
2D Landscape: Step 6
Now that our landscape layers have been created, you can see the effect taking place and it’s up to you what you want to add in next. We’re going to show you a neat little trick about how to add more shape and dimension to this flat lay.
2D Landscape: Step 7
Select your mountain layer (the last one you made) and use the Lasso tool to draw small jagged areas on one side of your mountains. Select a slightly lighter colour than the mountain and paint that area in.
When you deselect the area (CTRL+D or CMD+D) you can see it looks like there’s light shining on that side which adds the extra dimension! You could do this on the smaller mountains too if you made a few – just make sure you do it on the same side each time for realism to our 2D landscape.
2D Landscape: Step 8
Feel free to do the same little trick to the background layer of your 2D landscape (the first one you created) and make the new areas white to appear like clouds behind the mountains.
2D Landscape: Step 9
Next you can either leave your design there and say ‘I’m all done’ or press on to the next step and we’ll add in some 2D landscape foliage. This is where different versions of Photoshop may require a different approach.
Step 10 (Pre CC Versions)
Pre CC versions will require a new blank layer above the background. You can find the option to add trees by selecting Edit > Fill > Pattern, at the bottom of this panel, under Scripted Patterns, pick trees.
Pick a tree you like and change the colour, using the sliders to match your foreground layer. Place your tree wherever you want and repeat this process with different sizes across your foreground.
Step 10 (CC Versions)
For new CC versions of Photoshop then create a new layer, again place it above the background layer and choose Filter > Render > Tree.
Choose from the list the type of tree you want to add to your 2D Landscape scene then change the leaf and branch colour (in the Advanced Tab) to match your dark purple foreground, or whichever colour you chose in the earlier steps.
Top Tip – If you find the ‘Trees’ option greyed out on CC versions, go to Edit > Preferences > Performance and turn on Use Graphics Processor. If it was already on, then turn it off, restart Photoshop and turn it back on, and then restart it again. REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR WORK FIRST!
Continue to fill your 2D Landscape with trees of different heights and shapes to give a realistic environment. You can copy and paste the first tree you made if you find it easier.
Swap to different layers of your landscape and add more trees in the distance, just remember to change the colours as you go. Eventually, you’ll have added enough foliage to create a beautiful 2D Landscape scene. If you want to go further feel free to add in some birds or planes in the sky. You can find custom brushes like these online, and a lot of them are free!
But if you’re the kind of person who prefers to see our tutorials in live mode then click below to watch our tutorial video creating a 2D Landscape in real time;
Top Tip – If you have enjoyed this easy-to-follow guide then you will find lots more Photoshop tutorials on our iPhotography blog page, filled with fantastic lessons to improve your editing skills.