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Distant Tree line


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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it

I made an image today that had a distant tree line in it, and I thought the process I used was kinda nifty, so I thought I'd share it. At the very least it will provide another way to look at creating things.

So this will make a tree line at a far off distance. Judging by my picture, I'd say that this is really best left to smaller sized images. Mine was 1360x768, and at full size the trees don't look great (maybe with some more tweaking they would though), however when I zoom out it becomes better.

Here's my image 765x432, a size I feel demonstrates how well it can look.


I know what you're thinking

"What the hell, that's totally dark and I barely know what I'm looking at"

It's a bit of a forest fire theme, and it's the only example I have currently :P

There are also a few features (mistakes) in there that I'm choosing to leave out this time, because well, they were sucky decisions.

So here we go! I'll walk you through my image, but I'd really like to see if someone can pull this off in a daytime/not pitch black dark image haha. I'll give it my best as well.

List of needed effects:




Optional effects:





Gaussian Blur

More listed at bottom

1. I started by making a hill side that slopes so it isn't so linear and plain. You can make a black background as well, put make it invisible so you can see your hill side. Or if you want to go with a flat horizon, do just that. It won't really affect later steps too much honestly.


2. Add a circular gradient on a layer below your hill-side/horizon. Adjust the transparency or darken it, so that it's dim. This is a far off forest fire after all.


3. If you haven't already, create a black background and place the layer at the very bottom. Then, create a new layer above the gradient layer. Set the mask to "Overlay". With black and white colors selected as primary and secondary, use Render some clouds. Adjust until you are satisfied. I suggest rather large clouds though.

If you desire, you can adjust with the contrast and brightness as I did. This will give your clouds a bit more kick, contrast and sharpness. It's subtle and yet apparent.


I started labeling my layers for convenience


An example of extra contrast

4. Tree time! Make a new layer, choose black as your primary, and set your secondary to pure, 0% alpha.

Whip out the "Bars" effect under Render. Set the Secondary Length to 0, the width to 1 (or higher if you want thicker trees) and adjust the Primary Length to line up with your horizon/hill-side. Make them stick above the horizon as tall as you want them, I heavily suggest keeping the bars close to the horizon line though, or at least a good mix of tall and low. Don't worry about a scarce forest as we'll be making several layers of these to liven things up.

It doesn't truly matter where the layer is, but I guess to be entirely accurate it should go behind the hill-side/horizon.


I didn't exactly adjust the length properly, but it's not terrible.

5. Repeat that a few times until you get a forest thick enough to your liking. But not too thick! We aren't done, and soon those trees will have some branches that will fill in some of the space between it's neighbors. For my image I repeated this 3 times. I changed the height each time for added variety. You could change the thickness to a bit. I never thought of that.

6. Crystalize! On each layer crystalize those bars with "Cell Size" set at 2, the lowest setting. You can repeat this a few times if you want, but I don't think it's really necessary.


Doesn't look like much more than random thingies right now


Looking a bit better, I see the potential, but not quite there. Probly could use another layer to thicken the forest.

7. Check it over. Do you see the potential? In my last pic I said it could probably use another layer to thicken the forest. If you think it needs another layer, go ahead and do just that. Purty it up before moving on. It's easier to do it now than later in the sense that you know everything is where you want it to be, and there's no back trekking, trying to remember what you were supposed to do.


An easier thing to do is to duplicate a layer, then simply offset it slightly. That's exactly what I did here.

8. Now all that's left is a few touch ups on those last layers. The sky is the limit honestly. Here are some things I did, and a few others you might want to try.

Small blur on a lower layer + another crystalize

"Dents" with a low "Scale"

"Unfocus" blur

"Fragment" blur - I actually heavily suggest this. It seems to work the best, especially when applied on multiple layers. Fragment count of 2-4 and a slightly lowered distance works very very well.

"Jitter" - untested

"Frosted Glass" with low "Max Scatter Radius" - untested

"Motion Blur" - Making the blur travel upwards might work with the forest fire theme in this case.

"Glass Blocks" - With the little I played with it, there actually do seem to be some settings that work add to the picture O.o who woulda thunk haha

Basically anything that distorts, and spreads out the trees a bit to act like limbs.


Seems like smaller, lower trees would have been better. Also some look mighty thick. Things to avoid.

9. Final adjustments, in this case, could be some smoke. Also, in my original image I used the "Bulge" effect to push some trees to be lower and taller than others. It's a good final "I need more smaller/taller trees" trick. You can also use it to help follow your hillside which I totally failed to do here lol.

You could also add a very slight gradient across your hill to give it some depth.

Heck, you could even add some farmland :lol:


This version I mixed in some of my original, lower standing trees which I think really help make it look like a forest of trees and not high standing lumpy telephone poles.

Tell me what I'm missing, this is my first tutorial. I considered putting those "hide" tags around each step considering there are so many pictures, but I haven't seen anyone else do that in the tutorials I've read. Let me know and I'll make it happen.

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IMAGE SIZE! C'mon W@@dy, you've been here long enough to know this stuff (tut guidelines 1a & 1b).

Once you've fixed that, links to the plugins used would be nice ;). Then you will have my stamp of approval...,

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IMAGE SIZE! C'mon W@@dy, you've been here long enough to know this stuff (tut guidelines 1a & 1b).

Once you've fixed that, links to the plugins used would be nice ;). Then you will have my stamp of approval...,


I know my account is old, but I hardly ever go to these forums, and when I do, it's usually to download a plugin :(

I'll fix dem sizes sorry!

Edit: Readjusted all the sizes on photobucket, so that the max width is 800pixels. Are there any I missed?

Edited by W@@dy
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Wow! That is just awesome! It looks kinda mysterious too! :black: lol

I tried this out and I am feeling pretty satisfied with my work. My forest could be a little thicker but eh, whatever...

Anyway here is my result! :mrred:

I also added a little UFO in there to make it look more mysterious, or cool.


Edited by Alex979
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Wow, this is great. Here's my go:


There's a noticeable line through the midsections of the trees on the left, I've no idea how that got there. I'll fix it next time I use this technique (which I definitely will be xP)

"Sir, we're surrounded!" "Excellent, we can attack from any direction."

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  • 11 months later...

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