Creating the Basic Landscape with Photomerge in Photoshop, Part 4

 Creating The City In The Sand and Adding Atmosphere in Photoshop

By Stephen Burns

Part 1, 2, 3, and 4

Now that you have the basic building to establish your city we will blend this into the sand dune landscape.  You are going to create 4 separate buildings to place into the landscape. You will use several tools to assist with this: layer masking, Layer Grouping, Paint Brush and the New Rotation command.

Step 1.

Enlarge and place the merged Sky Scrapper into the left edge portion of the composition.  Since you are going to create 4 buildings to place throughout he composition let’s create a new Layer Group and call it “architecture”.   To do this click the 3rd icon from the right on the bottom of your Layers palette.  Next, make sure that the “architecture” Layer Group is selected.  Now, add four new Layer Groups within it and title them “city 1” thru “city 4”.  Place a Sky Scrapper into each Layer  Group where two of them will sit onto op the highlighted peaks located to the left of the composition and one will sit onto of the shadowy peak.   Resize each Skyscraper smaller as it gets further into the background approximately 50% of its foreground brothers.

Within each Layer Group Create two new layers and title them “shadows” and “sand”.  Let’s start with the enlarged Archtecture that sits on the  left side of theframe.  Let’s paint in the sand first so select that layer.  Hold down your Alt/Opt key on the keyboard to get the Eye Dropper tool.  Now select the color of the sand beneath the Sky Scrapper and paint it onto this layer.  Make the sand wide at the base to taper into a point as it extends further up the building.  Use a softedge Paint Brush with the “Pen Pressure” attributes turned on as shown in figure 31.  Use the WACOM pens pressure capabilities to facilitate the painting process.  Next,  make sure that the Shadows layer is on top and change its Blend mode to Multiply.  Ctrl-click/Cmd-Click on the Architecture layer to get a selection of the shape on the layer and fill it with black (Shift-F5>Fill with Black).   .   Since the sunlight is coming from the upper, right rear let’s add a shadow to reflect this so, paint in black on the left side of the rounded contour leaving the left side mostly lit.  Now it starts to look more three dimensional because it is becoming visually integrated into the scene.

While you are painting hit the “R” key to rotate the canvas in any direction that will help you paint more intuitively.  Everyone has an ideal angle that they like to use and this is a great new feature in CS4 that I know you will love.

032smApply the Rotate command

Step 2.

Select the Shadow layer.  Now, add a shadow to the city element by holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key on the keyboard and click on the Architecture layer to get selection of the building.  Fill this selection with black and make it Smart Object.   Place this layer underneath the building and use Free Transform (Ctrl-T/Cmd –T) to flip it onto the left and overlapping the top portion of the sand as shown in figure 33.

 033smCreate shadow for Skyscraper

Step 3.

Now, give the shadow a soft edge by applying Gaussian Blur (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur).

As you can see by making the Shadow layer a Smart Object allows you to have nondestructive effects using any of the Filter commands which is in this case Gaussian Blur.  This is an advantage because you can go back and edit the blur at any time..

034smApply Gaussian Blur to shadow for Skyscraper

Step 4.

Proceed to alter the shape of the shadow to give it the effect of it flowing with the shape of the sand dune Use Warp (Edit>Transform>Warp) to achieve this.  As a final touch access the layer for the Skyscraper with that will sit on the shadowy sand dune.  Fill it with black (Shift F5>Fill with Black).  While still in the Fill dialogue make sure that the Preserve Transparency box is checked so the only the shape of the architecture will be filled.  Click “Ok” and the rear skyscraper will reflect the shadow of the dune that it sits on.

035smApply Warp  to shadow to shape it to the flow of the sand dune

Step 5.

Add some highlights to the sky to gain a more luminous effect.  Create two new layers an change their blend mode to Overlay.  Make sure that you have your Paint Brush tool selected.  Hold down your Alt/Opt key to get the Eye Dropper tool and select the yellowish hue of the sunlit sky.   Now paint this color on the brighter areas and notice how they become even more illuminated.  Two layers were created so that you can spit up the task of applying one for the overall highlight enhancement and the other to create the central glow coming from the upper right portion of the sky.  However, use as many layers as you feel necessary for this technique.

036smAccentuate the highlights in the clouds

Step 6.

Create a new Layer Group called “light steaks 1”.  Create a new layer and fill it with the yellowish highlight sampled from the scene (I).   Give this layer a black filled layer mask. Use your Rectangular Marquee tool (M) to make several long vertical rectangles adjacent to one another in your canvas.  Now fill these selections with white onto the mask.  You are going to transform the layer masks to get the effect of the lighting coming from the sunlight in the rear.  So, use Distort (Edit>Transform>Distort) to accomplish something similar to figure 37.  Don’t forget to utilize your new Mask palette (Window>Masks) to alter the look of the sunlight so that the edges take on a softened look.   Next, duplicate this layer and offset it to get a more convincing effect.

037smCreate the light steaks

Step 7.

Apply a mask to the Layer Group itself and edit it so that the sunrays dissipate as they get further away from the light source.  Use a soft edged Paint Brush for this.

038smCreate sunrays for the lower portion of the sky

Step 8.

Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the lower portion of the sky.

039smActivate Move To Current View.

Step 9.

Create a new Layer Group and call it “Lighting”.  Add two layers that will add an orange glow to warm the highlights and blue hue that will cool down the shadow details.  Shadow colors are the opposite of their highlights.  In other words sunlit areas provide warmth which is interpreted with warm colors.  Their opposites, on the other hand, are cooler colors which are blue or violet. If you photograph in a shady environment the dominating color will be blue which is the opposite of a sunlit environment.  So, let’s add that characteristic here.

Select your Gradient tool (G) and set your foreground color to an orange hue and in the options select Foreground to Background Gradient as shown if figure 40.  Place your mouse on the top portion of the canvas and drag half way down and release.  The yellow hue is placed on the upper portion of the image and gradiates toward transparency.   Change the layer blend mode to Multiply to achieve a more saturated effect.

Now do the same thing for the shadow details below the horizon on the shadow side of the sand dunes.  Just change the Foreground Color to deep blue an apply the gradient to the other layer.

040smAdd a orange glow to the highlights.

Step 9.

Continue to accentuate the shadow values by adding more blue filled layers with a blend mode of Multiply.  Give them a black filled mask and paint with white to reveal  the bluish color in the shady areas only.

041smAdd deep hues to the shadow areas

Adding Atmosphere

To finalize this we need to add some hazy atmospheric effects to give it a more outdoors environmental feel.  You will use color filled layers and simple isolate their effect to the areas of your choice.

Step 1.

Let’s apply the haze to the sunlit portion of the scene. Add a gradient that creates yellow in the upper portion of the image and blue in the bottom portion.  Change its Blend Mode to Multiply and add a mask.  Editing the mask, apply the effect to mostly the upper and mid portion of the composition and not affecting the skyscraper to the left or the lower portion of the sand dune.

042smApply haze to the sunlit portion of the scene.

Step 2.

Let’s repeats step 1 for the architecture only but this time create an orange filled layer and keep its Blend Mode at Normal.  Using a layer mask paint in the haze into the upper portion where the rear most Skyscrapers will appear to fade into the warm glow. Experiment with his and have fun.

043smApply warm glow to Skyscrapers

Step 3.

Add some contrast adjustments to the entire scene.  Start with an Curves Adjustment layer and increase the contrast slightly.  Notice that a new functionality has been added.  An Adjustment palette will give you the ability to access an and all adjustments with the need of a panel that will freeze of your workflow until you commit the changes.

044smApply an Curves Adjustment layer

Step 4.

Give the image some color alterations through the use of a Color Balance Adjustment layer.

045smApply a Color Balance Adjustment layer

Apply the following settings.  User these as a starting point only and experiment.

046smView of the Color Balance Adjustment layer settings

Step 5.

Finally, give the scene a slight shallow depth of field.  Select the very top layer.  Merge visible layers into a new layer (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E) and make this a Smart Object.   Apply Gaussian Blur and edit the mask so that the rear composition takes on more blur than the foreground.  User your Paint Brush to control this.


Create a new merged layer and apply Gaussian blur to create a shallow depth of field.

We’re done for now.  We will use this backdrop as the environment to drop our 3D object into to complete the final look. I hope that this article has given you some insight as to what you have to look forward to in Photoshop CS4 extended.

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