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Gear Reviews

Phlearn Pro – Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop {Review}

By Leo Hoang on February 11th 2014

Aaron Nace, aka Phlearn, runs through his processes for retouching, cutting out, stylizing and compositing to create this stunning image.

This style of imagery is generally beyond what I usually do, but that is the very reason why I wanted to review this tutorial! I wanted to learn the techniques for which I can use to create images like this and to master the features, so I can add my own creative flare to my future images.

The tutorial is definitely tailored to the advanced user, as he does cover a lot of topics and  he does discuss them very quickly.

Basic Information
Website: Phlearn
Title: Phlearn Pro – Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop
Run Time: 2.5hrs
Difficulty: Advanced
Price: $24.99 (Currently on Sale for $14.99)

When you purchase Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop, you’ll have to download a 317Mb Zip file, and once extracted you’ll find
– Brushes
– Tutorial Images
– Video Tutorial

The Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop video tutorial is divided into 5 parts, each part covering specific topics
– Section 1 – Introduction and Planning
– Section 2 – Body Shaping
– Section 3 – Cutting out Subject
– Section 4 – Stylizing and Retouching
– Section 5 – Finishing Touches

I don’t follow Aaron’s YouTube Channel, Phlearn, but I generally watch his videos for his “10 Questions” segments and general discussions, not for his actual tutorials in Photoshop. So, this Pro Tutorial was my first attempt to follow one of his tutorials; and for me personally, it was very challenging!

Now to be clear, this tutorial is geared more towards the advanced user and unfortunately I am not one. I do consider myself more on the beginner level, however I opted to check out this tutorial as the final image, in my opinion, is very striking!

It is something very beyond me as I generally do not create images to this style, but I very much would like too! So I decided to give this tutorial a shot with the hope that I could learn his techniques to create my own image in a similar style, or at worst, learn the techniques to master them for other uses.

For some reason, upon extracting the files, I ended up with an error message. It’s probably worth mentioning I am using a Windows 8 machine and extracting via WinRar. The error message states something along the lines of “The system cannot find the path specified” and lists a bunch of directories. I had concerns not all the files had extracted properly, however when I opened up the folders, everything seems to be there and the videos played absolutely fine. I suspect this won’t be an issue with Mac users, but unfortunately, I do not own a Mac to check for myself.


Throughout the Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop tutorial, Aaron does also refer to the keyboard shortcuts in Mac form and doesn’t always explicitly inform you of the keyboard shortcuts that he’s pressing.

I began the tutorial and found the first video to be at a very steady pace. Aaron only discusses planning and pre-production at this stage, so nothing too complicated.

The second and third stage of cutting out the subject and shaping the models body was very easy to follow as I have experience with doing this in the past. He uses the pen tool method, which I have not ever used before, however it wasn’t too difficult to understand,  just a bit tricky to master. I definitely had to pause the video whilst I used this tool to catch up to him.

I then arrived at part 4 and 5; and I soon realized why this tutorial is geared more for advanced users!

After Aaron runs through the “sampling paint technique” for the skin retouching, I was then basically lost. He discusses the following topics very quickly and when you watch him actually do the work, you begin to feel very much out of your depth with the many layers and groups on the side panel.


Aaron is truly a master at what he does and can very quickly perform tasks without really thinking about it. You get the sense when watching these tutorials that he has used these techniques many times in the past!

For me, that was the biggest problem. I felt that doing certain things in Photoshop is so simple for him, he did it so quickly that I simply felt like I couldn’t keep up.

Although the Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop is geared more for the advanced users, I feel a lot of users out there who are beginners or intermediate users will still be interested in this series. The unfortunate truth is, unless you’re an advanced user, you will struggle a bit to follow this tutorial.

He does work through his processes extremely quickly and there were times when he mentions a topic and discusses them very quickly. So quickly to the point I had to pause and rewind a number of times throughout.

I would still recommend Phlearn Pro – Create a Fantasy Character in Photoshop to anyone who likes the final image as Aaron does go through each step it takes to attain that result! However, I would have liked to have seen the series broken up into further bite-sized chunks.


Leo Hoang is a professional photographer based in London who shoots Weddings, Events and Real-Estate.


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  1. Leo

    Hi Jim, agreed there is pause and rewind… agreed he probably does explain some features in other free YouTube videos.

    I did explain I hadn’t previously followed the basic stuff and wanted to jump right in purely due to the stunning image he created.

    Overall I still recommend it, but with slight caution that is can be tricky to follow, even with pause and rewinding it can be quite fiddly to do so.

    I merely suggested that there may be potential to break down chapters further to help the inexperienced users a bit more and would in turn, open up to more potential customers.

    But definitely worth checking out! No doubt about that…

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  2. Spencer

    The pro tutorials are more advanced but his free vids on YouTube are super comprehensive he is very in depth on what each tool does and why he chooses it over others like it.

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    • Jim

      Yeah, I would find his free tutorials that cover the same things (everything is tagged on his website). They will cover the basics. His Pro tutorials kind of assume that you are willing to watch the free ones to get caught up.

      Also, I feel that is what pause and rewind are for. If you can’t keep up with what he is doing, stop the video, re-watch it and look up shortcuts online if he doesn’t tell you.

      I’m not putting down the reviewer, He has every right to his opinion. I think he may have been expecting too much from the tutorial, and I think he might agree with me.

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  3. Clayton

    You said it yourself, you do not watch the a Phlearn YouTube channel. If you did you would already know 90% of all the techniques that he uses in every Pro Tutorial, for free.
    Aaron does an incredible job in explaining, and for you to have to pause it to catch up to him makes me laugh. He is a very skilled photo manipulator, and it comes across in his videos. But in the end they are videos, so pause, rewind, play it again. Don’t complain about him going too fast for a non advanced user to follow as you might turn someone off from checking it out.
    Do yourself a favor and watch more than just the 10-questions. Search for videos using the techniques on his site for more examples on how to do something.

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