In the first part of a three-part chapter excerpt, Stephen Burns begins with a tutorial on creating the initial landscape using auto align layers.
Creating The Initial Landscape Using Auto Align Layers
In this chapter, we’re going to explore two different approaches to integrate 3D objects into your Photoshop environment. First, we’ll use the new 3D layers and then progress toward using bitmaps in the next exercise. We will not go into great depth as to all of the capabilities and features of 3D layers in this chapter primarily so that we can just have fun creating. We will cover those features in greater depth in Chapter 6.
You’ll start with a panoramic-formatted image consisting of three images, and you’ll apply Auto-Align Layers and Auto-Blend Layers to create a landscape.
This landscape will be the backdrop for a futuristic scene where you will create an underground city within a desert-like landscape. After creating the city, you will then apply the light source emanating from beneath and provide ambient lighting derived from the sunset.
You will also learn about the wonderful new Photoshop CS4 Extended feature called 3D layers. The new 3D layers allow you to import 3D objects created from third-party programs into Photoshop to integrate into your digital workflow.
1. Create a new file that is 8.5×15 inches wide (see Figure 5.1). We will place the end result of the merged panoramic landscape into this file.
2. Access the Tutorials/ch 5 folder and open desert1.jpg, desert2.jpg, and desert3.jpg. Place these three images into your new file (see Figure 5.2).
3. These three images show a desert expanse taken in three separate shots. They are basically the left side, the midsection, and the right side of the composition. These images were not shot with a tripod but rather a handheld to test how well the new Auto-Align Layers feature worked in Photoshop CS4. Auto-Align Layers is basically Photomerge, and it allows you to merge images on selected layers.
4. Select the three desert layers and go to the Auto-Align Layers command (Edit > Auto-Align Layers). A dialog box appears with six options for you to choose how you would like your layers to be aligned (see Figure 5.3). They are the following:
Auto. Tells a program to make all of the important decisions for you and give you the best results. The Warp Transform command will be utilized as needed here.
Perspective. Applies the Perspective transform techniques toward the end of the merged image. This is a good one to use when the perspective causes the imagery to shorten toward the end of the image. Distortion of this type is a common problem with wide-angle lenses.
Collage. Allows the user to manually position the images.
Cylindrical. Tapers left in the right portion of the image but rounds the horizontal. Applies distortion to favor wrapping images around cylindrical shapes. This is ideal for the new 3D features in CS4 Extended.
Spherical. Applies distortion in favor of wrapping images around spherical shapes. This too is ideal for the new 3D features in CS4 Extended. Reposition. Merges photos without using Transform or Warp distortions. This is ideal when you do not want your images to be transformed with stretch or warp.
5. Click OK and take a look at the results in Figure 5.4.
6. The landscape has been blended fairly well, and if you take a look at your layers, you can see how each image has been positioned so that the three images are overlapped in such a way that the landscape takes on a continuous flow. But there are a few problems. First, each photograph seems to have a slightly different exposure because the digital camera was set on auto exposure, which means each image has its own exposure settings. Another problem is that the edges of the images are prominent and need to be removed. You could do that with masking, or Photoshop can do it with the Auto-Blend Layers command (Edit > Auto-Blend Layers), as shown in Figure 5.5.
7. This command blends the edges of your photographs and adjusts the brightness and color balance so that the overall results look consistent, as shown in Figure 5.6.
8. When the layers are merged, Photoshop expands the canvas size to fit the three images. Since we want to retain the original dimensions of 8.5×15 inches, merge all three of the layers and place the merged object into the new canvas that you created earlier (see Figure 5.7). Afterward, simply Free Transform (Ctrl+T/Cmd+T) the image to fit within the dimensions of the new file. Place these files into their own layer group titled “merged landscape” (see Figure 5.8).
9. Use the Quick Selection tool to select the sky, as shown in Figure 5.9. When you are finished, press Delete to cut out the sky.
10. Now you will create the location where the underground city will be built. In addition, you will resize the mountain range so the viewer’s attention can be focused on the underground city structures. Use the Circular Marquee tool (M) to make a selection similar to what’s shown in Figure 5.10A. Select a mountain range with the Rectangular Marquee tool (Shift+M) and use Free Transform to reduce its height toward a more narrow result (see Figure 5.10B).
Shortcut ToolsThe shortcuts for Photoshop’s tools are often designated by a single character; in this case, it is “M” for Marquee. However, there are other options within the same palette. To toggle through these options, hold down the Shift key and press M to access the other hidden tools. This is standard procedure for all tools on the Tools palette.
11. Next, you will create the sunset-dominated sky by using the Gradient tool. Make sure that your foreground color is of a bluish nature and your background color is more of a reddish nature. Use the Gradient tool (G) and apply the blue for the upper portion of the photograph with a gradient toward a red in the lower portion of the photograph, as shown in Figure 5.11.
12. Add a new layer and place it above the gradient layer. Create a gradient by making sure that your foreground color is yellow. Select the Gradient Editor and then select the Foreground to Transparency option. Now apply the yellow gradient so that it tapers off to transparency near the upper portion of the mountain range, as shown in Figure 5.11. Figure 5.12 shows the options that were used to create the gradient for the yellow highlight. In addition, add a gradient in a separate layer below the landscape layer where the sides are black to medium gray toward the center. Use the Mirror option in the Options panel, also shown in Figure 5.13. This helps to give a visual that this will be the cavern where the underground city will be placed. The look for now does not have to be fancy. It is just a proxy that will help aid your imagination. The city will replace it.
13. Double-click the landscape layer to bring up the Layer Style dialog box (see Figure 5.14). Use this to create a gradient where the top one-third portion is darkened and the rest of the image is unaffected. Change the opacity of the gradients to 81%. Now the background appears to recede into the distance.
14. Let’s get the landscape to reflect the ambient light coming from the sunset. You use layer styles to do this. Double-click the landscape layer to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. Select a gradient from the menu and use the foreground color that is close to a reddish hue that was used for the sunset (see Figure 5.15). In addition, set the background color to the blue that was established for the sunset layer (see Figure 5.16). Play with the Opacity slider for this gradient to get a subtle effect. It is important to play with these settings to get the results that you are satisfied with. There is no substitute for pure experimentation.
15. In the Tutorials/ch 5 folder, open the clouds 001.tif file. Place the clouds in the upper portion of the sky (see Figure 5.17). Resize the clouds so they fit into the horizon. Also, reduce the clouds’ opacity to about 40% so they blend with the gradient.
16. Give the clouds a slight Motion Blur. Since the cloud’s image is a Smart Object, the filter for Motion Blur will become a Smart Filter (see Figure 5.18).
17. Figure 5.19 displays the settings used for Motion Blur. Experiment with different angles and blur effects to come up with something that you will like better.
18. This is where the real fun begins. Let’s start creating the underground city. Go to the Tutorials/ch 5 folder and open architecture 001.tif (see Figure 5.20A). You will apply quite a bit of distortion to these images, so you will not commit them as Smart Objects. Select the sky as you did with the landscape image using the Quick Selection tool (see Figure 5.20B). Then invert it and apply perspective so that the lower portion of the image is slightly shorter than the top. This will make the buildings look as if they’re extending downwards.
19. The whole concept of this tutorial is to apply some trickery to the eye. Sometimes working in more of an abstract fashion can help convey a figurative concept. So we will lay out a series of buildings, which will not take on any definite shape until later in the tutorial. To make sure that things don’t get too visually busy on the canvas, turn off the landscape layer and work with the visual aspects of the architectural images for the time being.
20. Duplicate the architecture layer several times, resize the layers, and position them so that they look similar to Figure 5.21. Place these layers into a layer group titled “underground city.”
21. Continue to duplicate and add portions of the architecture, but this time, change the Layer Blend mode to Darker Color (see Figure 5.22). This will allow the texture information that is darker to dominate the blend. In effect, the concrete texture and window patterns will become even more prominent throughout the underground cityscape portion of the final object.
22. When you’re finished, turn on the landscape layer, which should look something like Figure 5.23.
23. Create some extra detail by adding a platform supported by a circular-shaped building. Create the platform on top of the landscape layer using the Circular Marquee tool and the Polygonal Lasso tool to get a shape similar to what you see in Figure 5.24.
24. Go to the Tutorials/ch 5 folder and open the architecture 002.tif file (see Figure 5.25A). You need to make sure that the lines are going to be fairly straight to make it easy to apply the next step. So make sure that the rulers (View > Ruler) are turned on, place your mouse in the left side of the vertical ruler bar, and click and drag to place three guides, as shown in Figure 5.25C. This will assist you in lining up the vertical lines for the new piece you’re about to create.
25. Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl+T/Cmd+T) to narrow the image downward vertically (see Figure 5.25B). While still in Free Transform, hold down the Ctrl/Cmd key, select the middle handlebar on the top portion of the transform box, and move the point to the right so that all of the architecture’s vertical lines match up with the guides that you have laid down. Holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key while still in Free Transform is the shortcut for applying Distort.
26. The goal is to give the building some height but maintain the short horizontal grid patterns that you have established when the size of the image is reduced. Duplicate this layer three times and use the Move tool (V) to position the layers on top of one another (see Figure 5.25D). Next, let’s give it a rounding effect with the use of the Warp command (see Figure 5.25E).
27. Merge all the layers used to create the rounded architecture; then apply the Layer Styles Gradient. Use this setting as shown in Figure 5.26 as a starting point.
28. Position the completed image below the platform. Use Figure 5.27 as a guide.
29. Add some warm color to it using the Hue and Saturation command and duplicate the procedures from steps 23 through 28 to create another platform on the left side of the composition (see Figure 5.28).
30. In the “mountains” layer group, you will establish a shallow depth of field with a mountain range in the background that blurs out slightly. In addition, you’ll establish a slightly stronger atmospheric haze that reflects the ambient color in the environment.
31. Make sure that the mountain layer is committed as a Smart Object. Next, apply Gaussian Blur to effectively blur the entire landscape scene. Since the Gaussian Blur is a Smart Filter, restrict the effects of the blur to the upper portion of the landscape by editing the mask that is associated with the Smart Filter. Create a gradient where black dominates the lower half of the image and gradates toward white in the upper portion of the image. This will restrict the blur effect to the background of the composition, which is the mountain range in this case.
32. Now, let’s create the atmospheric haze. Make sure that your foreground color is a similar color to the reddish hue in the sunset area. You can do this by using the Eye Dropper tool to select a color from any area on your image (see Figure 5.29A).
33. Use the Gradient tool (see Figure 5.29B) to apply that color to the mountain range only by using the Reflect a Gradient option on the Options bar (see Figure 5.29C).
34. This is a good time to add the beginnings of a light source to the underground city. Do this by way of a gradient that uses blue for the top portion of the city and yellow on the lower half of the city. To blend these colors in with the architecture, change the Blend Mode to Multiply. Then follow up by adding two more layers using the yellow as the foreground color that will gradate to a complete transparent pixel, as shown in Figure 5.30. Use layer masking to edit the layer to restrict the effects to various locations of the landscape. This breaks up the perfect shading pattern so that you can give the illusion that the lighting is affected by the geometry of the unique shape of each building.
Stephen Burns' passion for the digital medium as an art form is as great as his passion for photography. His background began as a photographer 28 years ago and, in time, progressed toward the digital medium. In addition to being the president of the prestigious San Diego Photoshop Users Group, of which there are currently 3,000 members, Stephen Burns has been an instructor and lecturer in the application of digital art and design for the past 13 years. He has authored several books, including the first two editions of this book, and has written numerous articles, including some for HDRI 3D magazine about using creative digital techniques with Photoshop and 3D applications. His work has been shown at fine art galleries worldwide and at www.chromeallusion.com.