Jeff Milner

How to Create a Moonlight Silhouette Scene

Technical Tutorial Published 11/23/16 Last updated on 3/2/20

Using Photoshop CC 2017, create a moonlight silhouette scene like the one shown here. In the process your students will learn

  • Importing images to Photoshop
  • Drawing shapes
  • Rendering trees
  • Transforming (CTRL + T)
  • Moving (v or click black arrow)
  • Painting with custom brushes
  • Drawing with pen tool
  • Select and Mask
  • Blend modes
  • Adding layer styles


The Moon:

Grass Brushes:

Girl Swinging:

Night sky stars:


dog: the dog used here is no longer available. A quick search will find an appropriate dog image.


The idea was based off of the tutorial found here: but with Photoshop CC 2017 having some new features there are modern ways to achieve a similar outcome that I prefer.


Update: These instructions are now available as an online video:

Create a new document 2000px tall by 3000px wide.

Unlock the solid background layer and re-label this "background". Add a layer style < gradient overlay. Choose sunset / dusk colours. I like to just pick the red to green gradient and then modify the green to purplish blue because it's so fast and easy.

Create a black rectangle for the ground, about 1/8th the size of the canvas -- this will automatically create a new layer. Label this layer "horizon".

Create a new layer, called tree. Under the Filter < Render < Tree option, choose a tree for the girl to swing under. This tree should have high branches -- I set my settings as: Elm Tree, Light direction 0, Leaves amount 29, leaves size 93, branches height 215, Branches thickness 131, default leaves: checked, arrangement 2.5 (but really you can experiment with your own settings -- the kids loved choosing their own trees.) Move the tree to the right hand side of the screen. Add a colour overlay layer style with black colour at 80% opacity (or 100% if you prefer, I think it looks slightly more realistic with a little visibility).

Create a new layer called moon. Then go to File < place embedded and place the moon image. Hit enter to confirm placement anywhere on the screen and then use the Select and Mask tool (Select < Select and Mask) to mask out the moon. Be sure to set output to: Layer Mask. Once it's done, use Command+T / CTRL+T to resize moon and position the moon in the centre of the scene just slightly lower than the top of the "horizon" layer. Drag the moon layer under the horizon layer in the Layers panel.

Repeat the process that was done on the moon image with the dog image. Add a colour overlay layer effect with black set opacity to the same as the tree (between 80% - 100%).

Next, add the girl swinging image. Position her under the tree. Rotate her slightly.

Create a new layer called rope. Set the brush tool to 8 px black 100% hardness. Switch to the pen tool and draw a simple path (make sure pen tool is set to path and not shape) and click once on the girl, release and click once on the tree, release. Then right click on the line and choose stroke path. Choose brush from the pulldown menu. Once the path has a pixel stroke, you can delete the path by clicking on it with the white arrow and pressing delete. I added a motion blur to the girl but I wouldn't add it again in retrospect, it just made the image look out of focus rather than in motion.

Add the stars image (place embedded...) size it to fill the screen, move it's layer position under the moon, tree, and ground layers and set it's blending mode to screen.

Create a new layer called "grass". Using the custom grass brush paint in some grass. You'll have to click on the down arrow drop down menu for brush settings, then click on the gear icon, then click on Load Brushes. (The default grass brushes that are already in Photoshop work too but this gives the students a chance to learn about custom brushes). Paint in the grass being careful to blend the horizon into the sky covering up and blending with the top edge of the rectangle.

Create a new layer called "clouds". Place embedded... select your clouds.jpg image and after filling the screen set the blend mode to either overlay or screen. Position the clouds in layer order to be behind the tree, girl and dog, but in front of the moon, stars, and background sky.

Once you're finished, you can go back to the gradient overlay of the background layer and experiement with different colours.

  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

Age Levels
1-2 Hours

Photoshop CC 2017

Projector if you want to demo the process for the students.

CC License
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
4 / 5 • 1 Rating

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Jeff Milner

Posted on 11/6/17 8:56:27 PM Permalink