How to create real wood effect - Photoshop Tutorial

Wood is a beautiful thing. Organic, warm and natural. Using it in a design to reflect these qualities can be done to great effect if done well. However in the interests of climate change we do not recommend cutting down real trees. Ohhh no. In this tutorial we give you the basics so that you can create your very own 'real wood effect' virtualy, using Adobe Photoshop - completely harmless to real trees! So - grab a coffee, pull up a chair and lets get cracking...

Step 1 / Prep for work

Ok first of all we are going to open a New Document. Open Photoshop and hit 'Cmd N' and add in your dimensions - for the sake of this tutorial we are going to use 2560px x 1140px in the RGB colour mode. Hit Ok!

Now we have a nice canvas to work from! The next stage is to prepare the canvas for our planks of wood. To do this we are going to set some guides down which will be really handy later on. To do this we are going to first use the 'Markquee' tool to create a template. Select the Markquee tool from the tool pallet (hot key 'M'). In the top bar select 'fixed size' and a width and height of 190px (this is one sixth of the height of our document which means we will end up with 6 planks).

NOTE: be sure you add "px" at the end of the digits instead of the default "mm" else your measurements will be off!

Now we should have a sleeted area of 190px by 190px. All we do now is turn on the rulers (hot key 'cmd R'), ensure our selected area is placed at the top of the document and then click and drag a ruler our from the top ruler bar. Now move your selected area down so the top sits on the ruler and drag a new ruler down to the bottom of the selection.

Do this until you have reached the bottom of the document. We should now have a document with evenly spaced rules which looks like this:

STEP 2 / Add some background

We are now going to get a base colour for the wooden planks. First double click on the primary colour on the tools palette. You should then see a screen allowing you to select a colour. We have chosen a pale warm brown (hex ref: #bb8d47).

Hit ok. Ensure that "background" is selected as a layer and then hit shift and backspace. This will allow you to see a window which you can now fill the whole of your canvas in with this colour. Incidentally this is a great hotkey to tuck away in your brain as it works with any selection you wish to fill and can save you loads of time.

Your canvas should now be a nice warm brown colour. Now we want to add some highlights to give the canvas a natural look. Create a new layer called "highlights" (you can do this by selecting the "new layer" icon  in the bottom right hand corner for the layers window). Select a new colour (we've chosen #eac690). Hit hot key "B" for brushes and add a few highlights to the canvas. If necessary change the brush size and hardness by right clicking (if you are on a mac like us then hold down control and click for the same thing!) Also change the colour to white and add a few random white areas. Your canvus should now look like this:

We now go to the top menu and select 'Filter > Blur > Motion Blur' and blue this layour in the direction we want the grain to go in. We've set our setting to angle: 0 Distance 800px.

You should now have a background which looks something like this:

This is basically now the background for our wood effect.

STEP 3 /  Add the grain

Now comes the fun part. We are going to add some grain. To do this create another new layer (call it 'grain'). Now we are going to user our trusty Marquee tool again. Select it and draw a thin box across the whole canvus like this:

Now select a new colour - this is going to be a darker brown, we've selected #79430d. Now press the hot keys shift and backspace to flood fill that area with the dark brown. Then go and draw another think line of a different size and fill that brown. Keep doing this randomly so that you get a variety of horizontal lines.

After you've done about 8 you can then use the selection tool (hot key V) to select these and if you click and hold alt the lines will be duplicated in a new layer. You can then quickly pad out the canvus Be sure to merge all the "grain" layers into one. Also if your lines are too thick you can use the Marquee tool to set and area and then hit the hotkeys 'cmd + T'. This will enable you to "transform" your selections and easily compress the lines.

At the end of this process you should end up with a canvus which looks like this:

STEP 4 / Add some swirl

We are now going to add an organic feel to the grain lines by "liquifying" the grain layer. Ensure that your grain layer is selected and then go to the top menu bar and select 'Filter > Liquify' (or hot key SHIFT +CMD + X). This will bring up the 'liquify' window.

Use the liquify tools to add some interesting shapes into your grain. Use a large brush to create slight adjustments and then add detail with a smaller brush. Don;t go mad at this stage but try to image the grain of wood and keep things as natural as possible. This is how our liquify looked:

It gave us the following:

STEP 5 / Plank up

Now we are going to add a plank effect suing the guides we set up in step 1. Using the MArquee tool (Hot key M) select the top area between the rulers. Then by holding down shift select a new area leaving the gap between the following ruler space. Do this again until you have 3 areas selected like this:

We are now going to use the Transform function again. Hit hot keys Cmd and T. If you hover over the corners of the selection you'll see that your curser changes into a rotate icon. Click and rotate these areas like this:

And you should end up with planks like this:

Now we are going to add some 'noise' to this layer to give it an authentic feel. Simply go to the top menu and 'Filter > Noise'. We added 5% of Gaussian. Hit ok.

Now go to your layers palette and make the grain layer have the "darken" effect and change the opacity to 50%. This allows the grain to more naturally blend into the background we created earlier.

This should give you the following:

STEP 6 / Final bits

To finish things off we have added two further layers. One which had a dark brown around the edges of the canvus which gives a lighting effect. For this we used a normal brush with the colour #5d330a. This gave us the following:

We then added another layer called 'warmth' which we draw a few areas of colour in the center of the canvas using a bright yellow colour: #eac040. We set this layer to have the "colour burn" effect. This adds some warmth to the piece and gave us the following effect:

So - that should give you the basis of how to create a real wood effect using Photoshop! We hope you have enjoyed this tutorial - be sure to leave a comment and let us know how you get on. If you have any examples of where you have used this tutorial feel free to post a link! Happy crafting!


this is an amazing, innovative tutorial! learned a lot here! great work attitude!

I love this real wood effect. Can I use this to make real stone effect? How