How to create an energy sci-fi scene in Photoshop
Today we will use Photoshop to combine 3D renders with stock images and light effects. The creative process is not so easy to be turned into a tutorial, so I won’t go into details. This is an unconventional Photoshop tutorial because it is focused more on the process rather then the technique.
I don’t think that a 100 steps tutorial is so useful to the community. From my point of view a tutorial should be focused on a specific technique. It’s the learner that shall combine several techniques into a complex work. Today tutorial is the result of 6 working hours so it was difficult for me to screenshot every step. This is why I preferred to show only the main phases of my work-flow.
Preview of the result:
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- 3D renders pack by MediaMilitia
- Real Smoke PS Brushes by PhotoshopTutorials
- Abandoned castle
The idea behind the design
Before start working with Photoshop, I prefer to fix ideas on paper. What do I want to realize? A kind of superhero. I’m working hard to achieve a personal style and I’m oriented on energy style images with light and abstract effects. So I decided that the focus of the work had to be a supernatural man.
After chosen the theme, it’s time to find nice images. Normally I use 2 sites to download stock images: iStockphoto which is my favorite one, and 123rf, which is more economical ;-). After having searched for a while, I downloaded two images of the same model. This is because I realized that one of the images could be used as reference while creating light effects.
(the inspirational image is “Cry of Emotion” by Zach Bush)
Creating the background
I wanted to create a dark background to enhance light effects. Then I came across the image of an abandoned castle. It’s perfect. But how to transform this light photo into a dark background? First I duplicated the layer and set the blend mode to multiply. Then I duplicated again the layer, but this time the blending mode was set to overlay. Now it’s time to play with adjustment layers. We want to apply these adjustments only on those areas that may distract the user capturing his attention (the windows for example). So grab the lasso tool and select one of these areas. Then go to Layer>New adjustment layer>Levels and make the area darker. The way to achieve the best result is to use a combination of some adjustments (curves, levels,brightness…).
In order to complete the background we can use a black soft brush to obscure windows and the burn tool for the light on the floor. Remember: a work must have a focus. Since I decided the focus has to be in the center (the superhero), other elements that capture the attention, even if they are nice (the window on the top-left for example) has to be eliminated.
After modified the background, we can insert the man. I used the pen tool to extract his silhouette. Then I positioned him in the center of the canvas. When I work with images of people, I usually start increasing the contrast. In this case I also want to enhance the details. If you observe the image of the dude, you can notice a strong muscle structure with highlights areas and shadows. I’m sure that more contrast and the sharpen filter will give a nice result. In order to give a more dramatic look to the superhero I used the Topaz Adjust plugin.
At this point I decided to integrate 3d abstract renders into the piece. There’s not a particular reason. After inserted some 3d elements into the work I realized I had a proper connection. Notice the outer glow around the renders: it is obtained duplicating the render and applying the gaussian blur filter. Since we have to respect the way light covers the man it’s important a correct use of the burn tool to make some parts of the renders darker, doing the same for the man’s body.
The light effect could seem difficult to be created. The truth is that you only needs a lot of patience: I used only smoke brushes. After have created a new layer, I simply click with the brush. Observing the form of the smoke you can choose a part of it, isolate and use the part to highlight the edges of the body. The reference body is the other image of the same dude, that I extracted and pasted into the piece. This process is more difficult to explain rather than to realize. This is why I made a brief screencast that shows how to achieve the result. To create the radial effect I first merged all the layers with smoke brushes into a new layer (shift+alt+ctrl+E) and then applied the radial blur.
The most difficult thing to do working with lots of images is to create a color harmony. Fortunately Photoshop helps us with powerful tools. At the end of a work, I generally apply final adjustments layers. In this case, for example, I applied a gradient map layer at the top of all the other layers, and set the blending mode to overlay. You can notice a more homogeneous color result after the gradient map.
This tutorial explains the creative process behind this work. As you noticed, there is often a simple technique behind complex result. The best way to understand how Photoshop works is practice, sometimes with the help of a tutorial. I hope the suggestions provided in this post will be useful for you.
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