Made With Envato: Creating Dreamy Designs in Photoshop with Sofia Aguilera

Photoshop expert and digital artist Sofia Aguilera walks us through how she creates her dreamy designs using Envato Elements.

Made With Envato: Creating Dreamy Designs in Photoshop with Sofia Aguilera
Portrait for Kelsie RimmerBy Kelsie Rimmer  |  Updated March 16, 2023

Sofia Aguilera is a talented Photoshop artist, graphic designer and content creator who produces surreal, romantic digital art. Her work features a mix of photography, illustration, and photo manipulation, and it overflows with color, creativity and femininity – giving viewers a peek into her fantasy world.

Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sofia – or Sofi as she’s known online – started out her creative journey in 2019 as an aspiring travel photographer. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, she masterfully shifted her creative focus to photo manipulation – realizing that if she wanted to discover beautiful new places, she’d have to create them herself. 

Now an expert at Photoshop and photo manipulation, Sofia shares her dreamy edits and Photoshop knowledge with her loyal creative community on Instagram – always including handy tips and tricks in her posts for advanced and amateur creators alike.

We chatted with Sofia to find out the stories behind her dreamy designs, as well as how she used Envato Elements to create this romantic artwork

What’s your artistic background and how did you get into digital art? 

When I first started my account, I was sharing mostly travel content. But when the pandemic hit, I realized that if I wanted to keep on posting regularly on Instagram, I needed to get creative. It was hard to keep up a travel account with nowhere to go, so I started taking photos in my room and learned how to manipulate them in Photoshop. At first it was as simple as changing the color of a wall, but with time, I learned a ton of useful tools and tricks about photo manipulation. I shifted my Instagram content from travel to creative edits, and discovered a huge community filled with talented creators. 

What’s the underlying mission or meaning behind your work? How do you believe your content is making an impact?

I love editing, putting my unique spin on photos, and sharing art with my community. I feel so passionate every single time I open Photoshop and start creating. If my content excites one person, or distracts them after a bad day, then mission accomplished. One big thing that I’ve learned is to value community over competition – there’s space for everyone to succeed.  

How did you come up with the idea for this Made With Envato piece? What inspired it?

The main inspiration for this edit was love. It was around Valentine’s day, and I wanted to create something romantic but not cheesy. I love pastels, and it’s always been a dream of mine to someday visit the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Festival, so that’s how the idea came about. 

What specific Elements items did you use and how did you choose them?

Lavender flower field at sunset by photocreo

It usually takes me a while to find a photo that fits perfectly with a creative idea. As soon as I saw this colorful balloon image on Envato Elements, I decided to build the whole concept of my composition around it.

What tools and programs did you use?

I create all my edits in Adobe Photoshop, and add any finishing touches in Adobe Lightroom. My favorite Photoshop tool is the brush, and playing around with the Curves adjustment. I only use high-quality stock images, which I find either on Envato Elements or on other stock websites. 

What was your creative process from start to finish?

After coming up with my concept, I searched for the assets I needed to bring it to life. I then imported everything to Photoshop and started to blend, color match, and sharpen up the important elements. 

I first added the flower field, then the sky, and color-matched them before adding the balloon and the couple inside. The moment I blended everything together it was truly magical – it was exactly like the concept I had in my head. Finally, it was time for my favorite part – adding highlights and shadows. Then, I exported the edit to Lightroom and added my preset.

I am super happy with how this piece turned out. Funnily enough, after I posted it on Instagram, a lot of the members of my community thought it was based on the movie Up, and now I can’t unsee it! 

What were the main skills and techniques involved in creating this piece?

The main skills and techniques involved in creating this piece were photo manipulation, color matching, background replacement, and tweaking highlights and shadows. I spent many hours learning these Photoshop skills – I’m a self-taught artist, and learned everything I know thanks to other artists posting their tutorials on YouTube

Do you have any secret tips or tricks for achieving this style of art?

1. Matching color is as much about matching light levels as it is about matching the reds, greens, and blues. You can use Color Balance to adjust the appearance of specific color channels in each of the highlights, midtones, and channels.

2. If you want to compare highlights and shadows between photos, convert them to black and white – it makes it much easier to see the differences.

3. Choose the images with the same perspective and lighting conditions.

4. Edit your images nondestructively and work on duplicate layers.

How does Envato Elements help you create your work? What types of items do you use the most? 

My edits have improved so much since I discovered Envato. It’s easy to find anything you need, such as photos, graphics, overlays, and (my favorite) 3D items. Envato greatly improves the quality and professionalism of my edits. It’s key for artists to be able to find everything they need in one place, and that’s what Elements provides.

Where do you look for inspiration? 

Pinterest, books, and movies are my go-to places for inspiration. My style comes from my love for animated movies, fantasy books, and other artists such as Benny Productions, Vanessa Rivera and Alexandria Lens.

I’m most creative after working out or spending time outside in nature. However, creative blocks can be hard to overcome. At first it was hard for me to accept that I had no inspiration, and I would get so frustrated – I still do sometimes. After talking with other creators, I learned that creative blocks are normal and it’s healthy to take a step back from time to time. Creativity can be an intense and uncomfortable process because, to create meaningful art, you need to be true to yourself.

What are the must-have tools, programs, or skills all successful artists need in their toolkit?

Photoshop and Lightroom are a must – these two programs were great for learning when I was starting out. Another must-have tool is a resource to download photos, overlays and 3D designs without worrying about licensing. That’s one of the many reasons why I love Elements.

What are your top tips for creating high-quality digital art? 

  1. Practice! It’s so important to keep learning new skills – that’s what’s going to set you apart in the long run.
  2. Invest in high-quality equipment and tools.
  3. Remember that behind every great edit, there are plenty of average ones. And that’s okay – it’s part of the learning process.

How did you grow your Instagram following and how has Instagram benefited your art?

The key for growing my Instagram following was focusing on connections rather than numbers. You need to dedicate time to building your community by engaging with your followers and the accounts that you admire. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my amazing community.

Another golden rule is developing your personal style. There is no right way of editing photos. You need to experiment in order to find what type of edits you enjoy creating. Don’t copy what others are doing – and if your work is inspired by someone, ALWAYS give credit to the creator. This should go without saying, but in case it doesn’t – always credit the source.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming a digital artist?

When I first started, I was focusing on all the wrong things – such as likes and follower count. It took time for me to realize that numbers didn’t define the quality of my work. The same goes for you – your art doesn’t need to generate hundreds of likes to be worthy.

My advice for other artists is to stop waiting for others’ permission or approval. As long as you enjoy what you are doing, that’s all that matters. 

New to Envato Elements? Enjoy unlimited downloads of 60+ million creative assets. Or, read up on Creating Retro Collage with NaomiAmberDawn, Creating Abstract 3D Art with Khyati Trehan, or How to Make Anime Art in Photoshop with Farely.

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