How To Make Trees In Photoshop

Here's how to make realistic looking trees in Photoshop

Two trees, one green and one orange.

How To Make Trees In Photoshop

Trees in photoshop screengrab

If there is one thing that we just love about Photoshop is that it is so rich and feature-laden that you miss stuff. Did you know that in Photoshop CC introduced a Tree filter to the Filter menu? You didn’t? Let's explore this handy filter in Photoshop.

In this tutorial, we are going to look at using the Tree Filter in Photoshop and some of the really neat stuff you can do with it. Let’s get started.

How To Create A Tree In Photoshop

  1. The first thing you need to do is to create a new Photoshop document and add a Layer named Tree. This ensures you can further manipulate your tree once it is created.

    Creating a tree filter layer in Photoshop.
  2. With the Tree layer selected, choose Filters > Render >Tree to open the Tree Filter Dialog box.

    Selecting the Render option in Photoshop.
  3. When it opens, the Tree filter dialog box can be a bit intimidating. Let’s go through the dialog box:

    • Base Tree Type: This pop-down lists 34 tree types you can choose from. Each item contains a small image of the tree. If you want to see a larger version of the trees, Julianne Kost has made a pdf of the trees available to you. Let's choose Oak Tree
    • Light Direction: This slider sets the direction- in degrees, of the light hitting the tree.
    • Leaves Amount: You can go for a winter look- 0 leaves- to full bushiness by setting the value to 100. The default is 70.
    • Leaves Size: This slider lets you go from buds – 0 – to full summer foliage – 200 – by moving the slider or entering a value. In this tutorial we're using 100.
    • Branches Height: This slider determines how far up the tree trunk that the branches start. A value of 70 starts the branches close to the ground and a maximum of 300 puts them at the crown of the tree. In this tutorial we're using the value of 124.
    • Branches Thickness: This slider lets you have some fun. A value of 0 results in a tree with no trunk and the maximum value of 200 results in a rather stately old oak. In this tutorial we're using, a value of 150.
    • Default Leaves: Deselect this and you can create a custom tree using one of the 16 Leaf Types in the pop down that lights up.
    The basic tree filter options in Photoshop.
  4. When you are happy, select OK.

How To Manipulate Your Photoshop Tree

Now that you have a tree, what next? If your plan is to create a grove or even forest of trees, your next step is to convert your tree to a Smart Object.

Smart Objects allow for non-destructive editing in Photoshop. For example, if you were to scale your tree down, accept the change and then scale the object up to a slightly larger size, your tree will sprout jagged pixels and turn fuzzy because all you did was to make the pixels larger. Here’s how to turn the tree into a Smart Object:

  1. Open the Layers panel and right click on your Tree layer. and select Convert To Smart Object in the resulting context menu.

    When you do that your layer now sports a small Smart Object icon in the thumbnail. If you double click on that icon your Tree opens in a separate document with the .psb extension. This is the Smart Object.

    Selecting to convert to a smart object in Photoshop.
  2. If you opened the Smart Object, close the .psb file to return to the main .psd file. Now you can scale, duplicate, and even move your tree(s) around.

    A duplicated tree smart object in Photoshop.

How To Create Autumn Foliage Using The Photoshop Tree Filter

When you really think about it, creating autumn foliage is much like autumn itself, the leaves change color. In this example, we'll create a maple tree and select Use Custom Color for Leaves.

  1. First, let's create a new tree filter by going to Filters > Render >Tree to open the Tree Filter Dialog box.

    Selecting the Render option in Photoshop.
  2. Under the Basic tab, select your desired settings for the base tree.

    The basic tree filter options in Photoshop.
  3. Select the Advanced tab to change color settings, etc.

    The advanced tree tab in Photoshop.
  4. Select Use Custom Color for Leaves.

    Selecting the use custom color for leaves in Photoshop.
  5. Under Use Custom Color for Leaves, select the colored box next to Custom Color for Leaves to activate the color palette.

    The color pallette in Photoshop.
  6. Select a fall foliage color such as orange and select OK.

    If you are an absolute purist , open an image containing trees sporting their Fall foliage, sample a color that catches your attention and use it instead.

    Selecting orange for the tree color in Photoshop.
  7. Select OK to add your Fall-colored tree.

    Changing the tree color to orange in Photoshop.