photoshop creative
Nov
16

Create an epic fantasy concept

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
November 16, 2016

Combine photo elements and painting techniques to create photoreal concept art

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1. 3D block sketch

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Create a new document with a size of 5661 x 3669 pixels and 300dpi. You will start by using a 3D render. The 3D render was created with Autodesk Maya and V-Ray. You can use other 3D programs and renderers to create a similar image, like CINEMA 4D or Google SketchUp. The 3D mesh will help to give you the basic composition, perspective and lighting for the scene. For this painting, the 3D part was completed in around two to three hours. Render out different passes like Diffuse or RGB.

2. First photo bash

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The next step is the background. For a better overview, create a group by clicking the group icon in the Layers panel. To browse the photos you want to use in the image, the best way is to use Adobe Bridge or Adobe Mini Bridge. To activate the Mini Bridge, go to File>Browse in Mini Bridge. When you find the right images for the background, double-click on the thumbnail in Mini Bridge to open them. Use the Move tool to move the image into your PSD file.

3. Extend the photos

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The next stage is the extension of photo elements by copying the images and painting on top of them. Duplicate the sky image with Cmd/Ctrl+J and put it under the original sky. Than use the Move tool to move it to the right. Make another copy and move it down. After that, merge the sky layers together and use the Brush tool with a chalk brush to paint a seamless edge between all the sky parts.

4. Match the elements

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Now it’s time to match the mountain with the sky. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+B for Color Balance to match the colours. Select Shadows and add a bit of cyan to the mountain. Press OK and open the Hue/ Saturation dialog with Cmd/Ctrl+U. Go to the cyan and blue channel and pull down the Saturation. Create a new layer behind the mountain layer. Use the Lasso tool to make a shape for the distant mountains. Pick a shadow colour from the mountain and fill the selection with this colour.

5. Add the waterfalls

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Other than the sun rays, the background needs another interesting element – the waterfalls. To create these, use two different waterfall images. To paint the shapes of the waterfalls, create a layer mask by clicking on the layer mask icon in the Layers panel and paint with the round brush in black to change the shape. It’s important to look at the size of the trees – the waterfalls shouldn’t be bigger than the trees on the mountain. After that, match the colours again with Color Balance.

6. Overpaint the waterfalls

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Now you need to match the waterfall size by painting on top of the waterfall. Create a new layer on top of the waterfall layer and use a chalk brush. Pick a dark colour from a nearby area and just paint some lines on the waterfall. Then add some smaller islands and stones. Go to Image>Image Rotate>Flip Horizontal to have a fresh eye and check the perspective and scale. Create a new layer and set it to Lighten. Pick the sun colour and paint some highlights over the waterfall where the light hits.

7. The middle background mountain

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Now you can repeat the same techniques as used in the steps before. Try to match the shape of the 3D render to the scene as much as possible, as well as the lighting direction. Create a new group and call it something like ‘midground mountain’. Import the images into your Photoshop file and place them by using the Move tool. Then create a layer mask for every image you want to add and paint the shapes. Here, tree images were used to create a base for the mountain.

8. Overpaint the mountain

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Now you can repeat the same techniques as used in the steps before. Try to match the shape of the 3D render to the scene as much as possible, as well as the lighting direction. Create a new group and call it something like ‘midground mountain’. Import the images into your Photoshop file and place them by using the Move tool. Then create a layer mask for every image you want to add and paint the shapes. Here, tree images were used to create a base for the mountain.

9. Paint the snowy distant mountains

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Flip the image again to get a fresh eye. Create a new group. Use the 3D part as a base, but extend the shape a bit more with the Lasso tool. Import a snowy mountain and put it into the PSD file. Use Color Balance to match the colours. When you have done this, create a new layer over the mountain. This layer will be a cloud layer. Use the Brush tool and a cloud brush. Pick a cloudy colour from the sky layer and paint the clouds.

10. Midground mountain

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Create another new layer. Select the part of the mountain you want to add details to with the Lasso and click on the mask icon in the Layers panel. Now the group must have the mask in nearly the same shape as the mountain. Import some more grassy mountain images. Here just two different ones were copied and moved around so that they did not look like duplicates of each other. Create a mask for every image and paint some areas away if it ever starts to look too similar.

11. Paint the sun and sky

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Create a new layer inside the mountain group. Pick the colour of the darker cloud and change the layer mode to Multiply. Fill the layer with the colour and paint the elements away on the mask where the sun hits the mountain. After, create a new group with a mask. Inside this group, add a Color Balance adjustment and match the light side of the mountain with the sun colour. Then create a new layer in Lighten mode, picking the sun colour, and paint the sunny side of the mountain.

12. Final details of the mountain

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Here, some rocky parts of the mountain didn’t match the buildings and smaller cathedrals. Create a new layer on top of the latest layers you created. Pick a colour from the rocks and start painting on some rocks near the buildings to create something like platforms that the buildings are built on. Be sure to repaint as much as possible, like the existing rocks. Use a chalk brush with a texture for this part. The result should show nearly no difference between the original rocks.

13. Mountain clouds and foreground

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Look for some cloudy mountains. Use the Quick Selection tool to select the cloud and move it into the PSD. Match the colours with Color Balance. Move one cloud on top of the mountain group and one behind. Paint in some details on the top cathedral. For the foreground, use three images for the water and two for the riverside in front of the gate and copy them three times. Merge the images again by painting on top of it. The colours are matched with Color Balance.

14. Main cathedral, gate and riverside

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Create a new group. Select the main cathedral and make a layer mask out of it. Use cathedral textures to add some basic details and paint on top of it. Do the same with the bridge and the wall. For these elements, just use some old stone textures you can find at CGTextures or Texturepilot. Copy the image from the riverside on the left and put it between the tree images you added before. For the tree, use just one image and paint on top of every layer to create randomness.

15. Final step

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Now add some textures to the remaining parts. Create a new layer and paint some city smoke with a cloud brush. Use a knight image, scale it and paint on top of it to create some randomness. Then create another new layer, pick the sun colour and paint all the sunny parts with a soft brush to create a moody feeling. Press Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+E to create a master copy. Then go to Filter>Blur> Gaussian Blur set 4%. Change the layer mode to Lighten at 75%. Done.