photoshop creative

Photoshop Tutorial: How to create an atmospheric city composition

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
August 16, 2013

Free Photoshop tutorial on making a steamy street scene, turning day into night and adding realistic lighting effects

Photoshop tutorial special effects

All the tutorials are available here¬†under ‘Steam effect’, so you can follow along with the steps below.

Step 1

Because the sky was too bright, the only way of creating a realistic night effect was to replace it with a darker one. Use the Quick Selection tool to select the sky and mask it, then paste the new stormy sky below the city.













Step 2

Layer styles can be used to create light effects. In this case add a Gradient Overlay to the city layer at an angle of -90 degrees using Linear Burn to darken the top part of the image and to keep the bottom part brighter.




Step 3

Add a Black & White adjustment layer to create a high contrast monochrome effect. This adjustment enables you to change the intensity of each colour Channel separately and gives you more control over which hues are brighter and which are darker.





Step 4

To achieve the night effect and add more contrast to the composition, add a black-to-white Gradient Map adjustment layer. Use the Multiply blend mode and set the Opacity of the layer to 70%.





Step 5

Use a smoke brush to add the steam effect on the bottom-right corner of the image. This kind of detail will give more depth to the artwork and make it more interesting.





Step 6

Paint a second load of steam on a new layer, set on Screen, and then create a clipping mask. Add clouds from the menu Filter>Render>Clouds for a bit more texture. The blend mode was set to Normal at 100% Opacity.




Step 7

You can create realistic headlights using the Lens Flare filter. Create a circular selection and fill it with black. Go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare and choose 105mm Prime. Centre the flare into the circular shape and desaturate after you place it.





Step 8

After adding the lens flare to the circular shape, switch the blend mode to Screen and position the flare over the car headlights. Create the headlights of the other cars by duplicating and resizing the layer as needed. Group all related layers by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+G and dragging layers into it.

Step 9

Add more light effects to the scene using the Brush tool. Use a big soft brush to paint with white over the neon panels in the background. Use 100% Opacity for the brush, but if you think the effect is too strong, use less.




Step 10

In order to create the light for the street lamps, apply the same technique as was used for the headlights for the cars. Simply duplicate that layer a few times more and resize as needed using Cmd/Ctrl+T to activate the Transform controls.




Step 11

A Gradient Map adjustment layer was added with a very subtle colour. A dark blue (#041521) to white gradient was used and the Overlay blend mode set to 35% Opacity helped blend it in. As a final touch you can add a Levels adjustment layer to control the contrast of the entire artwork. Lower the midtones and kept the shadows and highlights untouched.

  • Roman Gulevskiy

    How can I acchieve the effect as it is on the first picture “before & after” and add some colors? At the end of the lesson the image remains just black and white( Thanx in advance

  • Simon Skellon

    Hi Roman – in step 3, try lowering the Opacity of the B&W adjustment layer – to perhaps 50% (look for opacity inside the Layers palette).