Tips about how I made the Northern Lights wallpaper ( see wallpaper).
Let's start with mountains (though the particular order of steps is not important now). Switch to Pen tool (P), set foreground color to black, and start drawing mountains with short "strokes" or pen (click - drag a little - release).
Continue until the mountains shape is ready.
If you want mountains to look more natural, you can add trees to top of it. Create new layer, switch to Brush tool (B), select very small (2-3px) hard brush, and draw trees carefully with short vertical strokes. I recommend you zoom in while drawing.
This is how mountains look with trees added.
Now let's design the sky in the background. Create new 'sky' layer behind the layer with mountains (it should be on bottom of list of layers). Fill it with black. Because mountains are also black, they will disappear, just like shown on this preview :-)
Set foreground color to dark blueish-purple, select very large soft brush (B), set brush opacity to 10%. Draw some lights behind mountains.
Change color to lighter gold, make brush size smaller, and add smaller lights just near the right edge of mountains.
Change color to lighter blue, and repeat the same on the left edge of mountains.
Now it is time for the most exciting part - the Nothern Light! I recommend that you create new layer
set for each Light. Switch to Pen tool, set
color to black, and make the shape similar to shown here - bottom curve
is important, all else will become invisible. It might go outside file
boundaries, if you'd like. Let's call this layer "Northern Light black
Create new layer, switch to gradient tool (G), open Gradient Editor (to do so, click the gradient preview on top toolbar). Create gradient with colors you'd like. Then, fill the layer with gradient from left edge of image to right.
Go to Layer menu - "Create Clipping Mask" (Ctrl-Alt-G), so that the gradient layer is only visible within Northern Light black shape layer.
Select the Northern Light black shape layer. Create a mask: Layer menu - Layer Mask - Reveal all. Make sure layer mask is selected (not layer itself). Switch to Brush tool (B), set color to black, select very large soft brush. Draw on mask with black brush - the layer becomes invisible as you draw, similar to Eraser tool. You should "erase" almost everything, keeping the area near bottom curve. Continue until the shape starts to look like northern light.
To make our lights more realistic, we need to add some vertical shades. The best way to achieve it is to use Noise effect. Create new (temporary) document, about 20 x 8 pixels. Fill it with grey color, then apply Noise (Filters menu - Noise - Add Noise, amount = 20-30). You should get something similar to shown here (zoomed in).
Select all (Ctrl-A), copy (Ctrl-C), close temporary file, paste into our original file (Ctrl-V), then transform (Ctrl-T) and scale up so that it covers Northern Light black shape layer entirely and even bigger. Apply some Blur (Filters menu - Blur - Gaussian blur, radius = 10-20px).
Go to Layer menu - "Create Clipping Mask" (Ctrl-Alt-G) so that the "noise" layer is only visible within Northern Light black shape layer.
Finally, change layer Blend Mode to "overlay". Ta-da! The first Light is ready!