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Create a Psychedelic Alternate Reality Using Photoshop Actions

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Open up a new document (600X600px) and then download this great watercolor brush set:

WaterColor Brush Set.

Apply various brush strokes on a new layer:

Step 2

Now we want to apply a gradient overlay to our brush strokes layer. In your gradient overlay settings apply a ‘radial’ gradient, and range your gradient from green (97b021) to brown (b09021) to white (ffffff). This should give your brush strokes autumnal colors, and the white part of your gradient should let them fade nicely into your background:

Step 3

Now create a new layer called ‘leaf’. Use your pen tool (set to paths) to create a leaf or petal shaped selection. Then to turn this path into a select your paths palette and option+click on your path (or right click and select ‘convert to selection). Fill your selection with a linear gradient ranging from c37b08 to d1470b.

Then, on the SAME layer use your paintbrush tool to draw a 1px, hard, white paintbrush mark on the OPPOSITE side of your canvas (demonstrated below):

Reduce your ‘leaf’ layer’s opacity to 80%.

Step 4

Now apply an inner shadow and inner glow blending option to your ‘leaf’ layer (settings below):

Step 5

We’re going to begin working with actions, a very exciting feature within Photoshop!

Open up your actions panel (windows>actions) and click on the ‘new action’ icon. This should bring up a window where you can input the name of your new action. I called mine ‘rotateleaf’.

NOTE: Everything that you do now within Photoshop will be recorded as part of this new action – until you hit ‘STOP’ in your actions panel.

Step 6

For the first steps of your action duplicate your ‘leaf layer’. Then go to edit>transform>rotate. In the rotate options menu input 25 degrees (as shown below):

Step 7

Now, with your action still recording go to edit>transform>scale and reduce the width and height of your duplicate leaf shape to 95% of the original in the scale options bar. Then, hit STOP in your actions panel to finish working with this new action.

Step 8

Now, simply hit the ‘play’ button in your actions panel many, many times to keep repeating your action on your leaf shape. This will result in dozens of leaf shapes being duplicated, rotated, and resized smaller and smaller, until you end up with a pattern like the one below.

Importantly: the 1px white spot we painted on our original leaf layer means that the shape won’t simply rotate on the spot, but will create a shape like the one below:

Step 9

Because we now have around 40 layers, I hide my white background layer and watercolor layer and hit ‘merge visible’ to blend all ‘leaf’ layers into a single layer.

Then I create a new layer called ‘leaf 2′ and create a similar leaf/petal shaped selection, this time filled with a different colored gradient. I apply the same layer blending options as before (inner shadow, inner glow).

Also – don’t forget to add the 1px white spot!

Step 10

Now hit ‘play’ on your actions panel repeatedly to create a similar effect to your first leaf.

Once you’ve got around 40 duplicate layers for your second leaf shape, merge all of these layers together. Then you can move around your two final shapes:

Step 11

Now duplicate your final shape layers, resizing and rotating them into various areas of your canvas. With each duplicate be sure to play around with the hue, so that each shape is a different color.

Finally, make your background layer ‘black’, and reduce your watercolor brush strokes layer’s opacity to 15%:

Step 12

Now create a new top layer called ‘radial gradients’. Drag out various radial gradients (white-transparent) over your canvas. Then change this layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’. This should give a create lighting over your shapes.

Step 13

Now use your dodge/burn tools to select each layer and then accentuate the shadows and highlights of your shapes:

Step 14

Now create a new layer called clouds. Go to filter>render>clouds. Then set your layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce the opacity to 80%.

Step 15

Now cut and paste this photo of a bird into your composition:

Bird Photo.

Step 16

Now apply a color overlay blending option to your bird layer (settings below):

And We’re Done!

You can view the final outcome below. I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to hear your feedback on the techniques and outcome:

Download Source File for this Tutorial

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. Very psychedelic and very cool. Great tutorial Tom and easy to follow steps. I really like the final image and I will have to give this ago when I’ve got some spare time. Thanks for another quality tutorial.

  2. Melody says:

    Trippy effect, kind of reminds of me of the shapes of shells..

  3. Sebastian says:

    Nice. I need to try that tehniques.

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks everyone! I’m glad you found this easy to follow. Admittedly I was a bit late in the date discovering Photoshop actions (a year or so ago), but they’re a big time saver, and you can have some cool experiments like the one above.

  5. PSDDude says:

    Very Nice idea!

  6. ravi says:

    very nice. I need to try that this………..

  7. Ramki RP says:


  8. Fantastic! It’s so colorful with amazing effects. Really a high quality tutorial.

  9. Miriana says:

    Love this !! BUT, the watercolor brush set link is no longer working

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