Snow Globe Card Art

August 30, 2008 at 9:01 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Another Card In The Series

Photoshop Techniques Revealed

I just finished another card in the series, soon to be available at

I began by creating a storyboard in which a mischievous kitten is playing, causing the snow globe to tilt, setting the snowflakes in motion. I wanted the elements to appear dynamic, emphasizing movement. I juxtaposed bright colors against an ornate antique background to give a sense of a traditional Christmas. 

Under the snow globe I built a box, beginning with an image of a wooden dresser, then began adding colors and a 3-dimensional bevel to resemble an old hand painted metalic box.  I spent hours painting and adding bevelled bits, combining multiple techniques to create a metalic, texturized appearance.  I tried so many techniques that it’s hard to remember exactly what ones I finally settled on, but I do remember painting with the Blending Mode “Color Dodge” to add a fantastic lighting effect and then burning in the colors and shadows with the Burn Tool.  This is the kind of stuff that I enjoy the most.

The ornate edges are taken from small details of an image of an East Asian carving of Ganesh while the base of the snow globe is taken from the bottom detail of an image of an antique figurine.  For the child, I dressed her in whimsical colors and placed the snowball in her hand as a final touch.

Back To My Old Habits

For several weeks I was determined to rid myself of my midnight marathons, where I had fallen into the habit of working throughout the afternoon and deep into the night until the sun came up the following morning. I knew this was taking a toll on my health and probably isn’t the most productive way to work. I started going to bed at a much more reasonable hour, around 12:30 a.m. But while creating this image, I fell back to my old habits, working all afternoon and through the night until 5 a.m. When I get into that state of concentratoin that I call “the zone”, I completely lose track of time.

Although there aren’t many elements in this scene, each required a lot of tweaking because they are prominent. I wanted to ensure that each detail fit perfectly within the scene. I go over the smallest details until I feel that it fits perfectly.

Viewing at Various Zoom Levels is Important

I continue tweaking until the art appears just right at all zoom levels. As I’m working, I constantly switch between zoomed in view and fully zoomed out to a size not much larger than a thumbnail. I find that comparing various zoom levels reveals very different aspects of the image. At the fully zoomed out view I am able to just see the overall lighting and silhouette of the image. I can judge whether or not the general lines and lighting are harrmonious.

For example, I made some changes to the snowman, making the top portion of the hat more symetrical and adding a more symetrical rosy hue to the left cheek. But as soon as I zoomed out, I realized that it was the asymetrical aspect that gave the snowman it’s character. Making it symetrical actually took away from its charm. This wasn’t visible when I was zoomed in. Had I not checked the ‘before and after’ by clicking on various stages on the History Palette at a fully zoomed out view, I wouldn’t have noticed this important fact. I quickly undid the changes I had made.

Alternately, at a zoomed in level, 100% or above, I am able to see all the finer details. Anytime I change a major element, I always zoom back out to a very small size to ensure that the lines and lighting have not been disrupted, while pressing CTRL / Z numerous times.  (Unlike other software, Photoshop alternates back and forth between the last change when CTRL / Z is pressed more than once.  To do continuous undo’s in Photoshop you must press CTRL / ALT /Z  or CMD / OPT / Z on the Mac.  This makes it very easy to click back and forth between the before and after version of the last change you’ve added.  I find these steps to be so important. My art really began to improve when I started taking the time to do this.

I even stand back from the computer and take a look at the art from several feet away, with the zoom level set to “Fit To Screen”. I usually do this when I am having a tea break. I sit on my couch which is about 7 feet away from the computer. For some reason by viewing at this distance, lighting problems become glaringly apparent. I discovered this by sheer accident while relaxing during a break. I was able to see huge lighting errors that were not apparent from a closer view. It also is great for revealing any issues with positioning of body in relation to other elements.

A Tip Gleaned From Robert Bateman

Wow! Just as I was writing this, in the background I have a documentary on TV about Robert Bateman, whose work I completely admire. He just said the most amazing thing related to this very subject. He mentioned that he stands back while he is painting and with his wife Birgit, views his art reflected in a mirror so that the image is reversed. He said this reveals hidden rhythms and forms that are not visible from the ordinary view and he then makes adjustments to the piece he is working on! Amazing! I am going to begin using this technique from now on!

He also said that he doesn’t use the “Rules of Composition”, that he doesn’t believe in them, except for not placing key elements along the center line of the image. Tears came to my eyes when I heard him say this because in my gallery on Flickr I’ve had numerous discussions with people about this topic. I’ve always said that don’t follow any rules of composition, that they stiffle creativity and make an image appear stilted and rigid. To hear Robert Bateman say the same thing filled me with joy! When I work on my art, I often have the TV on in the background, tuned to the documentary channel. It often inspires my work.

Thank Goodness For CTRL / Z

It’s so fantastic working in a digital medium, where any paint stroke can be undone with CTRL / Z (CMD / Z on the Mac). I am constantly experimenting with different effects, lighting, Blending Modes, painted elements, etc. I try everything and this is what takes each piece so many hours. If the effect doesn’t work, Voila!! I simply press CTRL / Z. It is so wonderful that sometimes, after working for hours at a stretch, I go to jot something down and if I make an error with pen and paper, my fingers begin to do the motion of CTRL / Z before I realize that this can’t be done on real paper. If only life were so simple, where any mistake we make could be corrected with a simple CTRL / Z.

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr

Return To Gale’s Home Page


  1. karen Robert said,

    This is a great image, I would love to post it on my blog,, it is a blog about fun, creative Christmas cards. I would , of course, link to this site. Thanks,

    • Gale Franey said,

      Sure, you can post it on your blog. It would be great if you mention that people can order this card and many others, with their child’s face inserted, from That is the company that commissioned me to make the cards.


      Gale Franey

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