Hiya! Time for another “How To” session! In this tutorial we will be creating a sci-fi inspired composite using simple layer mode tricks and easy painting techniques. This tutorial leaves a lot of room for experimenting and always remember that every image is different.
In this tutorial we will be creating a sci-fi inspired composite using simple layer mode tricks and easy painting techniques. This tutorial leaves a lot of room for experimenting and always remember that every image is different.
Software: Photoshop Cs6 Time: 45 min Level: Advanced
Step One – Create Sky
First off we are going to create a bright starry night sky with a hint of a nebula. Create a Solid Color fill layer and set it to a dark blue (#070e24). Next create a new layer and with the Elliptical Marquee tool set to a high Feather of 50px or more (the amount depends on the size of your image) create an oval shape.
Set your foreground and background colors to black and white, then go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Next go to Filter > Render > Difference Clouds a few different times times. This will be shaped into our nebula.
Next, stretch and shape your clouds so that they flow sideways. I used the Transform/Warp tool.
Set the layer mode to “Color Dodge”
Next, create a new layer and set it to “Soft Light”. With a soft round brush set to a flow of 20% or less paint streaks in your nebula. Build them up gradually, and very slowly. You want them to be very subtle. Patience is key! For this particular piece we will keep the nebula very subtle.
Next, create another new layer and set it to “Overlay”. Now, do the same exact thing as you did before only this time with black. Shade in the darker part of your nebula.
Group the last three layers you created together and call it “Nebula”.
Above that group, create a new layer set to “Soft Light”. Now, we are going to do some broader shading and lighting. With a large soft brush set to 30% flow paint black around the corners of the image and white in the middle.
To create the stars, create a new layer above all current layers and fill it with black. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Check “monochromatic” and set it to “Gaussian”. The amount depends on your image. You want something like you see below.
Create a Curves Adjustment layer and clip it into your noise layer. Set it to what you see below.
Your results should be something like this:
Set the layer mode to “Screen”.
If you would like you can also create a new layer above that and add some larger stars using any typical “star” or “reflection” brush in white.
Step Two – Create Mountain Range
Now we are going to add a mountain rage to our image that we will later turn into a city scape. First, extract your mountain rage using your preferred method.
Now we are going to color the mountains using 4 different adjustment layers that are all clipped into the mount range layer. These layers should be sorted from bottom to top. These settings will differ from image to image.
The first adjustment layer is a Hue/Saturation layer with the Hue set to “+161” and the layer mode set to “Hard Light”
Above that is a Color Balance layer set to -43 Red and +35 Blue.
Above that is a curves layer set to what you see below:
And finally, a Color Lookup layer set to “Night from Day”.
The final result:
Step Three – Create Cities
To turn the mountains into cities we are going to use a very simple trick with the layer mode “Screen”. First, find an image of a city landscape at night. Something like you see below.
Next set the layer mode to screen and increase the contrast/shadows until (almost) all you can see are the building lights. I used a curves layer to do this. You can also use a Brightness/Contrast layer.
Merge the city image and any adjustment layers you used together (and reset the layer mode to “screen” if needed), then clip it into the mountain range image. Above all the adjustment layers from before.
Shrink and position the city image until you are happy with where the lights are located on the mountain range. Now add a layer mask, and mask out any parts of the city image you want to hide. Here is my first bunch of lights:
Do this for all the lights in the background as well.
Step Five – Distance and Shading
To add more distance to the image we are going to add more buildings to the background. To do this simply select and duplicate your mountain range and all the layers clipped into it. Merge the copies you just made and place them behind your original mountain range. Here is a visual:
Shrink and position it so that it looks like there are more mountains (or cities) behind our original ones. Go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast to lighten them. And add a layer mask to mask out any harsh edges you do not like. Here is what mine looked like both above and bellow so you can see it better:
Create a new layer below your landscape copy layer and set it to “Soft Light”. Paint white with a large soft round brush across the horizon line.
Step Six – Lighting and Coloring
Now let’s do some color correction. We are going to do this in 5 different adjustment layers starting from bottom up. These layers should be located above all other layers.
First, a Brightness/Contrast set to Brightness 22 and Contrast -50. Next, a Curves layer set to what you see below. Select the mask and with a large black soft round brush mask out the middle so that it’s only darkening the outside of the image.
Now, a Color Lookup layer set to “Filmstock” at 65% opacity. After that another Color Lookup layer set to “Anime Palette” at 50% opacity. And finally, one last Color Lookup layer set to “RedBlueYellow” at 29% opacity. Group all these layers together and name the folder“Color Correction”.
Step Seven – Add Subject
Lastly, we are going to add a subject to our scene. They will be below our color correction group, but above all other layers. Extract your model and size and position them accordingly.
Clip a new layer into your model layer and set it to “Overlay”. With a large soft round brush paint white where the light would be hitting and black where there are shadows.
Above that, clip a Color Balance layer and set it to red +15, And above that clip a Color Lookup layer set to “Moonlit” at 84% opacity.
To add a final touch, I went back and merged my sky background and cut and copied a patch to place in the goggles of the man. I simply clipped the patch of sky I copied, set the layer mode to Screen, added a layer mask, and then masked out around the edges of the goggles.
I also added some color above the man using a layer set to screen and lightly painting some purple and blue. Then back lit the man by added a new layer below the man’s layer, set it to “Soft Light” and then painted white.
Then that’s it, you are finished!
What do you think of this tutorial? Let us know or share your results below! See you next month with more tips and tricks!