7 June 2009

Build a fantasy castle in Photoshop

Pick up incredible photo-montage and texturing tricks with this tutorial from Jeff Huang.

Fantasy art is a genre all of its own: just like any other art form, it has its own rules and conventions. Slick, polished finishes are central to fantasy art. To achieve these slick finishes, you’ll need razor-sharp compositing skills and a neat way with color – you’re aiming for something that looks as though it could be real, but that nonetheless has a faraway, dreamlike feel.

In this tutorial, Jeff Huang shows how to use blending modes, textures, shadows and colour to create this hilltop castle – which makes the perfect backdrop to any fantasy composition, and will teach you a few of the tricks you’ll need on your way. The Masterclass is also great for anyone seeking to brush up their compositing skills in general.

01. Open GreenHill.jpg from the cover disc in Photoshop, and rename the background layer as ‘BG’. Renaming the layer helps us to be better organized, and also unlocks the layer. Next, we’ll need to dream up the atmosphere of our image, and the environment the castle will sit in.

02. Create a new layer and name it ‘Atmosphere’. In this layer, click on the primary colour picker in your toolbar and enter reference number #ffd258 in the bar at the bottom, to bring up a yellow hue. Fill the Atmosphere layer with this colour (Cmd/Ctrl + Delete). Your entire canvas will now be yellow – don’t panic, just change the blending mode to Multiply to get a mysterious, yellowtoned atmosphere.

03. Now let’s enhance the atmosphere. Create an empty layer and name it ‘SkyDarken’. As the name indicates, we’re going to darken the sky to make it more dramatic. As in the previous step, go to the colour picker, and enter #4d320c to bring up a brown hue. Use the gradient tool (being sure to set the preset to Foreground to Transparent) and create a gradient going from the top of the canvas to about halfway down the canvas. Now set the blending mode to Multiply.

04. Next, we’re going to create a light source for our scene so that it’s not so neutral. Create a new layer and name it LightSource. Go to the colour picker and enter #fff5dd to bring up a light peach hue. We’re going to use the gradient tool again, but this time instead of a Linear Gradient, we’re going to use the Diamond Gradient. Before using the gradient, set the blending mode of our LightSource layer to Overlay. Now, with the Diamond Gradient, create a light source from where the dark clouds meet the light clouds on the right side of the canvas.

05. Because this is not a complete startto- finish tutorial, we are going to skip a few steps so that we can focus on more technical aspects. In order to save time, I’ve prepared a modified version of the green hill, which we will be plotting onto our canvas. Open ModifiedHill.psd from the CD, and hold Shift while dragging the image layer onto your working canvas. It should now be neatly plotted onto the canvas with no flaws. I have also pre-modified the lighting and shape of the hill, as we will not cover that in this tutorial.

06. Next, we’ll plot a pre-painted castle onto our canvas. Open CastleBase. psd from the CD. While holding Shift, drag the CastleBase image onto our tutorial’s canvas. This is the painted base of our Castle, which we will begin to texture in the steps to come.

07. Next, we’ll create a stone texture for the castle. Download a flat stone-wall image or texture – you can download the one I’ve used from http:// tinyurl.com/3wf8d2. Fiddle with it until you’re happy with the texture, and drop that into our tutorial’s canvas on a layer named ‘StoneTexture’. Don’t worry about exact placement at this point.

08. We’ll start texturing our castle now. Duplicate the ‘StoneTexture’ layer and hide the original. With the duplicated texture, first set the blending mode to Multiply, then hit Cmd/Ctrl + T to free-transform the texture. Resize and move the texture accordingly, then right-click (Ctrl + click) on the bounding box and choose Distort. Drag the corner points of the bounding box to fit the perspective of the castle wall.

09. In the layer stack, we’re going to move the distorted stone texture layer to be above our castle layer. Once that’s done, hold Alt/Opt and click on the space between the ‘StoneTexture’ layer and the ‘Castle’ layer. You’ll notice a symbol that resembles an inverted lock showing up if you’re doing this correctly. Click on the symbol to make a clipping layer between the texture and the castle layer. Your texture layer should now be stacked on top of the castle layer.

10. Although clipping layers help tremendously and save you from needing to mask precisely in all areas of the castle, minor masking will still be needed. Create a layer mask on the texture and mask out all of the castle’s light sides, so that you’re just texturing the dark sides of the castle walls with the Multiply mode. We will be texturing the light sides of the castle later on with another blending mode.

11. Repeat Steps 08-10 for the rest of the castle’s dark walls. This should give you at least five layers of textures. Duplicate the original ‘StoneTexture’ layer and begin the process again. Pay close attention when distorting the texture – matching the perspective of the castle walls is key. Also, make sure that you’re using Multiply as the blending mode, that you have a consistent size ratio of the stone textures. Do not scale the walls to different sizes, or it will harm the image’s realism. When you’ve finished texturing and masking, merge the layers to one single layer and rename it ‘Darks’. Also, if the blending mode resets from being merged, change the mode back to Multiply.

12. Now that we have finished the dark sides of the castle, we will need to work on the light sides. Repeat Steps 08-10 on these sides, except this time use Overlay as your blending mode. Once you’ve done this, merge the layers like before, and change the mode to Overlay if it has reset to Normal. Clip this layer on top of the castle layer.

13. It’s all about details from here. The castle is looking convincing now, but it’s missing shadows. Create an empty layer, name it ‘Shadow’, and clip it on top of our ‘Castle’ layer. Set the blending mode to Multiply, and using the colour picker, enter the reference #2b190f to get a brownish hue. Using a soft brush with a low opacity, begin brushing in the shadows for our castle, observing the light source.

14. Let’s add some highlights to the castle. Create a new layer, name it ‘Highlights’, and clip it on top of the Castle layer. In the colour picker, enter reference #fef993 to select a light yellow. Now paint in some highlights where you feel they would occur. The light source is from the right of the sky, so highlights should be on the outer right edges of the castle. If the highlights become too strong, simply lower the opacity of that layer to a comfortable level.

15. It’s time to add final adjustments to our castle. You can create your own elements from your imagination, or use the ones included on the cover disc. Open up BridgeAndGrass.psd, hold Shift, and drag the layer into our canvas. Make sure it is our top layer. If done correctly, your image should now have grass, a bridge, and minor details, tweaks and adjustments on the canvas.

16. Finally, let’s plot some more fun elements onto our canvas to complete our piece. Also on the CD are Birds. psd and LensFlare.psd; open them and Shiftdrag them onto your canvas. Again, make sure they are at the top of the layers hierarchy. You should now be able to create imaginative scenery and convincing texture elements with no problem.

Author: Jeff Huang

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