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Design Cuts

Create A Sweet, Illustrated Holiday Postcard in Photoshop


WHAT WE’RE CREATING:

Hey there Design Cutters! Renee here with a tutorial for an illustrated holiday postcard. We’ll create our layout in Photoshop using hand drawn elements and textures, then use layer masks and basic Photoshop techniques to create reflections.

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Here’s a look at what we’ll be creating:

Starry Holiday PC

Follow along with this tutorial: Download the freebie files

The freebie pack includes lovingly hand-crafted illustrations and textures from Annie Sauvage, Julia Dreams, Peace ART and Zeppelin Graphics.

This freebie pack is only a small sample of the resources available in The Creator’s Artistic Supply Box for just $29 (that’s 99% off). This collection is packed full with the best artistic tools, and equips you with everything you need to produce stunning creative work.

Starry Holiday PC

Step 1: Background

Open Photoshop and go to File > New. In the New Document dialog box, enter a width of 6 inches and a height of 9 inches. Set your Resolution to 300 ppi and your Color Mode to RGB.

Click OK to create the document.

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Save your file.

We’re going to create a nighttime water scene with a penguin on a piece of ice looking at the stars.

We’ll start by filling the background with a solid color. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color.

In the first pop-up, name your file Blue Background and press OK.

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In the second pop-up, enter CMYK values of 95/76/51/59 and press OK.

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Next, we’ll create a horizon line. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (m). Drag across the entire bottom of the artboard, up to about 3 inches from the bottom edge, to create a selection.

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In the Layers palette (Window > Layers), click the Create A New Layer icon. Double click the name, Layer 1, and rename it Horizon Line.

At the top of the Layers palette, change the Blend Mode from Normal to Multiply.

Select your Gradient tool (g). At the top left of the program, click the down-facing arrow to the right of the gradient. In the gradient picker pop-up box, select the second icon from the left, Foreground to Transparent.

On the artboard, hold down Shift and draw from the top of the selection to the bottom of the selection.

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We’ll save our current selection to use for masking out areas above and below the horizon line. Go to Select > Save Selection. In the popup dialog box, leave the Document as the current document we’re in, leave Channel as New and enter Horizon Line for the Name. Press OK.

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Press Cmd + d to Deselect. At the top of the Layers palette, change the Opacity to 85%.

Go to File > Place Linked. In the Zeppelin Graphics freebies folder, select Nova and press Place.

Move the image up so it touches the top of the layout and press Enter to complete the placement.

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In your Channels palette (Window > Channels), hold Cmd and click on the thumbnail to the left of the Horizon Line channel.

Go to Select > Inverse.

At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Add Layer Mask icon.

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At the top of the Layers palette, change the Blend Mode to Soft Light, then drag the Nova layer below the Horizon Line layer.

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Still in the Layers palette, drag the Nova layer down to the Create A New Layer icon to duplicate it.

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.

On the artboard, use your Move tool (v) to drag the copy down until the top of it is on the horizon line – giving us a reflection of the first image.

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In the Layers palette, select the top layer, Horizon Line, then hold Shift and select the Blue Background layer. At the bottom of the layers palette, select the Create A New Group icon. Double click the name, Group 1, and rename it Background.

Step 2: Penguin

Now we’ll add a little penguin character and give him a reflection in the water.

Go to File > Place Linked and navigate to Penguin-2 in the Peace ART freebies folder. Press Place.

Press enter and position toward the bottom right of the artboard.

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In the Layers palette, drag the Penguin-2 layer down to the Create A New Layer icon to duplicate it. Double click the name of the duplicate, Penguin-2 copy, and rename it Ice.

Drag the Ice layer below the first penguin layer.

On the artboard, hold Shift and use your Move tool to drag the copy straight down until you can see the duplicate ice below the original.

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At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Add Layer Mask icon.

Select your Brush tool (b). At the top left of the artboard, click on the arrow next to the Brush thumbnail image and choose the Hard Round brush.

Note: To easily see brush names, click the Settings icon at the top right of the Brush Preset Picker palette. In the flyout menu, choose Large List.

Increase the size of the brush to 250 px or so by pressing the right bracket key on your keyboard several times (]).

Start brushing the areas of the penguin above the visible ice section. As you paint, they will be masked out.

Here’s how it looks with the original penguin layer turned off so you can see just the masked out ice layer:

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Select your Gradient tool. Drag from the bottom of the artboard to the top of the penguin. This will give the ice a fade and make it look like a reflection.

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In the real world, we’d be able to see just the top of the penguin reflected in the water under the ice.

In the Layers palette, select the original Penguin-2 layer and drag it to the Create A New Layer icon to duplicate it. Double click the name of the duplicate, Penguin-2 copy, and rename it Penguin Reflection, then drag it below the Ice layer.

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.

On the artboard, drag the flipped penguin down until it’s head is about the same distance from the bottom of the original ice as the original head is.

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Now we’ll mask this layer to create the illusion of a reflection AND to keep from interfering with the ice layer we’ve already made.

In the Layers palette, hold Cmd and click on the image thumbnail (not the layer mask) for the Ice layer. Go to Select > Inverse.

With the Penguin Reflection layer still active, click the Create A Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

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This looks a little confusing at the moment, but it will make sense when we’re done.

To make things easier to see, turn off the Penguin-2 and Ice layers in the Layers palette by clicking the eye icon to the left of the layer name.

Select your Brush tool. Brush over the remaining sections of ice

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At the top of the Layers palette, reduce the Opacity to 40%.

Turn the Penguin-2 and Ice layers back on (the same way you turned them off).

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Now we’ll create the fade that really sells the reflection.

In the Layers palette, click once on the layer mask thumbnail on the Penguin Reflection layer to make sure it’s active.

Select your Gradient tool. On the artboard, hold Shift, then click and drag starting at the bottom of the artboard and ending around the bottom edge of the penguin’s scarf.

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In the Layers palette, select the Penguin-2 layer, then hold Shift and select the Penguin Reflection layer. With all 3 penguin layers selected, click the Create A New Group icon at the bottom of the palette. Double-click the group name, Group 1, and rename it Penguin.

Step 3: Text

At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Create a New Group icon. Double click the name and rename it Text.

We’re going to use 3 fonts that are part of the pack – Nicky Laatz’s Little Anchor, La Fiesta and Lemonshine. If you haven’t yet purchased the pack, you can substitute using any variety of hand drawn fonts.

Select your Type Tool (t). Click once at the top left of the artboard and type: Peace.

In your toolbar, select your Move Tool.

Open your Character palette (Window > Character) and change the font to FC Little Anchor Regular at 96 pt. Click the Color thumbnail to bring up the Color Picker and enter RGB values of 211/189/42.

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Select your Type Tool again. Click once below the e in “Peace” and type: on.

In your toolbar, select your Move Tool.

In your Character palette, change the font to FC La Fiesta Regular at 64 pt.

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Select your Type Tool again. Click once below “on” and type: Earth.

In your toolbar, select your Move Tool.

In your Character palette, change the font to FC Lemonshine Regular at 96 pt.

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Go to Type > Warp Text. In the popup box, choose a Style of Arch. Make sure Horizontal is selected and enter a -20% bend. Press OK.

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Go to Edit > Transform > Rotate. Use the corner handles to rotate about -8 degrees (rotate to the left).

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Select your Type Tool again. Click once below “Earth” and type: goodwill.

In your toolbar, select your Move Tool.

In your Character palette, change the font to FC Little Anchor Regular at 72 pt.

Go to Type > Warp Text. In the popup box, choose a Style of Arch. Make sure Horizontal is selected and enter a -10% bend. Press OK.

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With your type tool, click once below the first o in “goodwill” and type: to.

In your toolbar, select your Move Tool.

In your Character palette, change the font to FC La Fiesta Regular at 48 pt.

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For the last piece of text, click to the right and just below “to” with your Type Tool and type: Men.

Select your Move Tool.

In your Character palette, change the font to FC Lemonshine Regular at 82 pt.

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Here’s a look at everything together:

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Let’s add a few embellishments. Go to File > Place Linked and select Floral_Line_60 in the Julia Dreams freebie folder. Press Place.

Hold Shift and use the corner handles to reduce the size to about 1.25 inches wide. Next, hover over the corner handle until you see the rotation arrow. Rotate to the right about 95 degrees. Position at the right side of Earth.

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At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the FX icon and select Color Overlay. In the popup dialog box, keep the Blend Mode as Normal. Click on the color swatch. When the Color Picker opens, use the eyedropper to sample the yellow of the text. Click OK on the Color Picker, then OK on the Layer Style dialog box.

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In the Layers palette, drag the Floral Line 60 layer to the Create A New Layer icon to duplicate it.

On the artboard, use your Move tool to move the duplicated lines below “to”.

Go to Edit > Free Transform. Use the corner handles to rotate the lines until the look like they’re bursting from the word “to”.

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Hold Shift and use the corner handles to reduce the size to about .7 inches wide. Press Enter when you’re done.

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At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Add Layer Mask icon. Switch to your Brush tool (b). Drag over the edges of the lines that are closest to the letters so they better follow the shape of the words.

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Lastly for the text, we’ll add texture. Go to File > Place Linked. Navigate to GLITTER_TEXTURE_5 file in the Julia Dreams freebie folder. Press Place.

If needed, use the Move tool to make sure all of the text is covered by the glitter, then press Enter.

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In the Layers palette, hold down Cmd and click on the T to the left of the layer name of the Peace layer. This will create a selection around the word.

Continue to hold Cmd, but now also hold Shift. Select the T on each of the text layers, then select the image thumbnails on each of the Floral Line 60 layers.

With a selection around all of the text and lines, make sure the Glitter Texture layer is active (release Cmd and Shift and click once on the layer name in the Layers palette). At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Add Layer Mask icon.

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At the top of the Layers palette, change the Blend Mode to Soft Light.

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Step 4: Stars

Create a new Group and name it Stars.

Go to File > Place Linked and navigate to large-border03 in the Annie Sauvage freebies folder. Press Place. Position at the top of the artboard and press Enter.

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In the Layers palette, drag the stars layer down to the Create A New Layer icon to duplicate it.

On the artboard, use the Move tool to drag the copy below the original and to the right of the text block.

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Duplicate the stars layer one more time. Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal (to keep it from looking too repeated), then position it below the first copy.

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Go to File > Place Linked and select Annie Sauvage’s stars06. Press Place.

At the top of the artboard, click the link icon between Width and Height, then enter a Width of 15% and press Enter.

Position just above the “c” in “Peace” on the artboard.

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Go to File > Place Linked and select stars09. Press Place.

At the top of the artboard, click the link icon between Width and Height, then enter a Width of 18% and press Enter.

Position to the left of the “e” in “Earth”.

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A few of our stars are interfering with the text, so we’ll mask those out.

In the Layers palette, click on the Add Layer Mask icon to add a layer mask to stars09.

Switch to the Brush Tool (b) and brush over any of the stars that are on top of the text – I had a big round star over “on”.

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Our last step for the front of this postcard will be to create a reflection for our stars.

In the Stars group, create a duplicate of the original large-border03 by dragging it to the Create A New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Drag the duplicate layer into the Background group, below the Horizon Line layer and above the Nova layers.

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical, then position it at the very bottom of the artboard.

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Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the dialog box, enter a radius of 2 pixels and press OK.

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At the top of the Layers palette, change the Opacity to 20%.

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The reflection of the penguin and ice would obscure part of the stars in real life, so we’ll mask those out.

In the Penguin group in the Layers palette, hold Cmd and click the image thumbnail on the Ice layer. Hold Cmd + Shift and click the image thumbnail on the Penguin Reflection layer.

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Go to Select > Inverse.

Go back to the blurry stars in the Background group. At the bottom of the layers palette, click the Add Layer Mask icon.

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That takes care of the front of our postcard!

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Now we’ll create the mailing side.

Step 5: Postcard Back

Open Photoshop and go to File > New. In the New Document dialog box, enter a width of 9 inches and a height of 6 inches. Set your Resolution to 300 ppi and your Color Mode to RGB.

Click OK to create the document.

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Save your file.

Go to File > Place Linked. Navigate to the large-border03 file in the Annie Sauvage freebies folder. Press Place.

Position so it bleeds off the top of the artboard, then press Enter.

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Go to File > Place Linked. Navigate to Penguin 2 in the Peace ART freebies folder. Press Place.

Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

At the top of the artboard next to Width, enter -56% and click the link icon between Width and Height.

Position the penguin in the bottom left corner of the artboard and press Enter.

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Select your Type tool (t). Click once to the right of the penguin and type: Happy.

In the Character palette, change the font to FC Lemonshine at 33 pt. Click on the color swatch and enter RGB values of 168/192/218. Position to the right of the penguin.

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Select your Type tool again and click under “Happy” and type: Holidays!

Change the font to FC Little Anchor.

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Go to Type > Warp Text. In the popup box, choose a Style of Rise and set the Bend to 15%. Click OK.

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We’ll ground our penguin by giving him a little background. At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Create A New Layer icon. Double click the layer name and change it to Blue Background. Drag this layer below the large-border03 layer.

Select your Brush Tool. In the Brush Preset Picker, choose the Watercolor Build Up brush. At the top of the artboard and to the right of the Brush icon, change the Opacity to 20%.

At the bottom of the toolbar, click on the Foreground Color swatch. When the Color Picker opens, use the Eyedropper to sample the light blue of the text.

Press the right bracket key (]) several times to increase the size of the brush to 300 px. Start brushing in the bottom left corner behind the penguin. Lift your brush and click again several times to create layers of color, keeping it darkest in the corner and lighter as you move out.

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Next, we’ll create a dividing line for the left section where you write your message and the right section where you add the mailing address and stamp.

Create a new layer and name it Divider. Select your Brush Tool. Press the left bracket key ([) several times until the brush size has reduced to 40 px. Increase the Opacity of the brush to 40%.

Hold Shift (to maintain a straight line) and click once at the top middle of the postcard, then pull down until you reach the bottom middle and release.

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Go to File > Place Linked and navigate to the Annie Sauvage freebies folder. Select stars06 file and press Place.

At the top of the artboard, enter a Width of 15%, then click the link icon between Width and Height.

Center the largest star below the light blue line.

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In the Layers palette, duplicate the Divider layer by dragging it to the Create A New Layer icon.

Go to Edit > Transform > Rotate 90 Degrees Clockwise. Position on the right side, equidistant from the divider line and the right edge. This will be the first line of our address section.

Double click the layer name and rename it Address Line.

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Select your Move Tool (v). Hold Opt + Shift, click on the Address Line and drag down about .3 inches, then release.

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Repeat two more times to create a total of 4 lines for addressing.

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And we’re done here! We have a whimsical holiday postcard with personality that’s also easy to mail.

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Remember that whether it’s your outcome for this tutorial or something new you’ve made, we’d love to see your designs on our Facebook page.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. I always look forward to hearing from you!

There’s still time to check out The Creator’s Artistic Supply Box to fill your library with an astounding variety of high-quality, artistic resources for only $29.

29 Lovely Comments from our Community:

  1. Andrea says:

    This is just too cute! One of my favorites!

  2. Janus says:

    Cute little thing.

    Why is the dark blue background colour on the front in CMYK when everything else is RGB, though?

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Janus,

      Thank you for your kind words about this tutorial! We’re so pleased you enjoyed it 🙂

      I apologise for any confusion caused! The CMYK values are provided just to create the correct colour for the blue background but rest assured, the entire piece is still in RGB 🙂

      I hope this helps, Janus, and please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any other questions. I’m here to help!

  3. snoke1337 says:

    One more thing I would like to add, I don’t have the professional version of photoshop so some of the steps you said to take I couldn’t do, for example, there is no channels area, I had to fudge several steps. It didn’t turn out quite the same but I did learn a few things. Thanks!

    • SJ Duff says:

      Hey Sara,

      Thank you so much for your feedback!

      I am so sorry that this tutorial isn’t more specific with regards to which version of Photoshop this will work with! It is absolutely great news that you were still able to learn some new tips and tricks though.

      Rest assured, if you are ever stuck with any of our tutorials, you can just let us know- we are always here to help 🙂

  4. Vynette says:

    Thanks so much for the freebies & the tutorial! I was able to re-create the card using Elements. My dimensions were a little different because I want to print this as a 5×7 folded card. So pleased with how it turned out!

    • SJ Duff says:

      Hey Vynette,

      Thank you so much for your comment- this is awesome!

      Oh I am so pleased that this has worked well for you and that you were even able to adjust it to suit your needs 🙂

  5. Rachel says:

    Thanks a lot! it’s great- i love it

  6. claudia says:

    I made this design and love it! Can you help me find an online printer for postcards? Thanks!

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Claudia,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment 🙂 We’re so pleased you enjoyed this tutorial!

      I’m really sorry but I’m afraid we do not work with any online printers so I won’t be able to offer any recommendations on this one unfortunatley! I apologise for any inconvenience caused but I would definitely recommend checking out some local printers in your area that would be able to offer more guidance on this.

      Thanks again for your comment, Claudia! If you have any other queries please do let me know, I’m here to help!

    • Yan says:

      If you live in the US, I have used Shutterfly for postcards, calendars, Photobooks, greeting cards, cushion covers and even magnets with our own photos on them. They ship internationally too, but I imagine it would be expensive. They have great customer service. CVS, Walgreens, Costco and Sam’s Club do them too, and I’ve used them before, but I always go back to Shutterfly.

      • Ben Neeves says:

        Hey Yan,

        Thank you so much for assisting Claudia with this one 🙂 We really appreciate you taking the time!

  7. Chase Carlson says:

    Thank you for the tutorial, question though, why are my penguin and ice layers linked so I can’t press shift and move the ice layer down without moving the penguin layer with it?

    Thanks!
    CC

    • Chase Carlson says:

      NVM, it was a different button on the Mac

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Chase,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I apologise for any confusion caused when following this tutorial but I’m so pleased to hear that you were able to find a workaround on your mac 🙂 If you have any other queries please do let me know, I’m always happy to help!

  8. Amoy says:

    This was fun to make. Thank you.

    • SJ Duff says:

      Hey Amoy,

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      I am really glad that you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and we hope that you get loads of use out of the freebie 🙂

  9. midolu says:

    Bonne année à vous tous, à l’équipe, aux visiteurs !

    http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/640x480q90/921/bmvYNw.jpg

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Midolu,

      Thank you so much for sharing this with us! We absolutely love it and we really appreciate you taking the time 🙂

      Thanks again, Midolu, and a very Happy New Year to you too from the whole team!

  10. david.hosang says:

    Who doesn’t love penguins? 🙂

    Really enjoyed this tutorial. I had difficulty during the fade out portions on the ice berg and penguins because I had my gradient mode set to screen and not normal. Maybe it was just me who had the problem? Thankfully there’s google 🙂

    • SJ Duff says:

      Hey David,

      Thanks so much for your comment- exactly who doesn’t love Penguins 😀

      I am so glad that you enjoyed this one and my sincerest apologies that you were having difficulty! Rest assured if you ever get stuck in future, you can always pop us over an email and we would be more than happy to help!

  11. Yan says:

    I saw this on YouTube and was so thrilled by it. I wonder if you might consider making a Chinese New Year card where there are similar cute pictures like on this card and also a photo mask where we can include a photo of ourselves? Thank you!

    I also viewed the tutorial on the Treasures of the Americas and I want to make something like that for the cover of a Photobook I plan to make of our trip to Beijing. Would you know where I can get maps like that showing China? They don’t have to be antique-looking since I now know how to “age” something following your tutorials with textures! Thank you for your generosity!

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Yan,

      Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words about our tutorial! It’s great to hear you enjoyed it 🙂 Thank you for your suggestion as well! We will certainly take a look at putting together a Chinese New Year themed tutorial.

      I’m really sorry but I’m afraid I’m not 100% sure where to find a map of China but rest assured, I shall pass this query on to our product curators who will keep a sharp eye out for you and if we do come across something, we will let you know 🙂

      Thanks again for your lovely comment, Yan! If there is ever anything else I could assist you with please do get in touch. I’m always happy to help!

  12. Debie says:

    That was sooo fun. Just learning PS and this was great. Thank you!

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Debie,

      Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words! It’s fantastic to hear that you enjoyed this tutorial and picked up some awesome new tips and tricks in Photoshop 🙂

      Thanks again Debie and if there’s every anything I can help you with, please do let me know. I’m here to help!

  13. Sara says:

    Loved this tutorial and the images. I created an a2 sized Christmas card with this. Thank You;)

    • Ben Neeves says:

      Hey Sara,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment! It’s great to hear these images made an awesome addition to your card design 🙂 We would love to take a look if you ever wanted to share your work?

      Thanks again, Sara! We really appreciate your support 🙂

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