Create a fantasy-style city in Photoshop

In this lesson you will learn how to create a fantastic city in the style of Minas Tirith from The Lord of the Rings.

Before starting, I advise you to watch a video with this lesson.


Note: If the photo is no longer available, you will have to find a suitable replacement.

Note: In the lesson there is no detailed explanation of all actions and commands, so it is not recommended for beginners.

Part 1: Preparing Materials

Step 1

Let’s open one of the photos and try to carefully cut out the city. Let’s start with the sky.

Step 2

Activate Magic wand tool (Magic wand) (W).

Step 3

We click the wand across the sky until we select it completely.

To make the selection neat, use the following parameters for the tool.

Step 4

Now open the window Refine edge (Advanced Edges) to adjust the selection.

Adjust the parameter Edge detection (Definition of faces) depending on the image you are using. When finished with the selection setting, press the Delete key to delete the sky.

Step 5

Now take Rectangular marquee tool (Rectangular selection) (M) and select the area that you want to save.

Step 6

Move on Image – Crop (Image – Crop) to crop the image.

Step 7

Now we can save the resulting result to use it later. We select the PNG format to preserve transparency.

Step 8

The previous step should be applied to all images that we will cut. Open the next photo.

Step 9

Select the sky.

Step 10

Be especially careful in difficult places, such as these trees. In such situations, zoom (Ctrl + +) can facilitate the work.

Step 11

When finished, we get this result.

Step 12

To improve the selection, do not forget to use Refine edge (Advanced Edge).

Step 13

Repeat the previous process for the rest of the photo. Save them to PNG and proceed to the next step.

Part 2: Getting started

Step 1

Now the real work begins. To begin, open the source code with the fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, which we will use as the basis for our city. The image is quite large, so we will work directly on it. If you have a weak computer, try reducing the size of the photo a little.

Step 2

We use Polygonal Lasso Tool (Rectangular lasso) (L) to highlight one of the towers.

Step 3

Copy it and move to another place to add another tower. If you wish, you can create more copies.

Step 4

Activate Rectangular marquee tool (Rectangular selection) (M).

Step 5

Now we need to get rid of everything that looks modern: metal windows, tourists, shop signs, etc. To do this, you can use Spot Healing Brush Tool (Spot Healing Brush) (J) or Clone stamp tool (Stamp) (S).

Something like this should look like a well-crafted photo.

Below you can see which items have been deleted. Don’t worry about the cars yet, we’ll get rid of them later.

Step 6

Via Polygonal Lasso Tool (Rectangular lasso) select the main tower of the castle. Copy it and paste it on a new layer. It will be useful to us later.

Step 7

Open the image with the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Step 8

Insert the dome on the working paper. Do not forget that each new architecture detail must be on a separate layer. This will greatly facilitate the work.

Step 9

To adjust the contrast go Image – Adjustments – Levels (Image – Correction – Levels). Adjust the sliders in and out until the contrast of the dome matches the contrast of the fortress.

Step 10

Now we need to close the hole below the dome. To do this, duplicate it (Ctrl + J).

Step 11

Move the duplicate below to close the hole.

Step 12

Now we have to trim the top of the dome so that it is less recognizable. Select it and go Layer – New – Layer via Cut (Layer – New – Cut to a new layer) (Shift + Ctrl + J).

We leave the upper part with the cross, and remove the lower part, while reducing the height of the top of the dome.

Step 13

Open the next image with a dome.

Step 14

Copy and paste it on the working document, then adjust the size (Ctrl + T).

Step 15

Adjust the levels to adjust the contrast of the dome.

Step 16

Now we cut the roof so that with its help we can connect two domes.

Step 17

To add more details, copy the small spiers.

Step 18

Create two copies of paired spiers and reflect one of them horizontally. Image – Transform – Flip Horizontal (Image – Transformation – Flip horizontally) to make a solid section of four spiers.

Step 19

Place it on the edge of the fortress, as shown below.

Step 20

You can add more spiers. The smaller the fortress will look like the original, the better.

Step 21

Copy a piece of fence on the roof and use it to add new parts.

Step 22

Open the image with the tower and transfer it to the working paper.

Step 23

Select three windows.

Step 24

With the help of these arches we will add new details. Copy them and transfer them to the main building, as shown below.

Step 25

Slightly reduce the size of the arches and duplicate them.

Step 26

Select the lower part of the arches and duplicate it several times. Place copies over the entire height of the wall.

Step 27

We use this technique to add more arches on other walls.

Step 28

Now we will add big walls. Select an empty piece of the wall on one of the buildings.

Step 29

Duplicate the wall several times.

Step 30

To make the result look more realistic, we will add another wall.

Step 31

Place the copied wall in the right place and transform it. Via eraser (E) you can erase excess areas.

Now we have some great walls.

Step 32

Open the image with the London Towers.

Step 33

Insert one tower on the working paper and reduce its size. To keep the proportions pay attention to the size of bricks and windows.

Step 34

Adjust the contrast of the tower.

Step 35

To change the appearance of the tower, we will cut it a little and insert new parts. Experiment with the duplication of individual elements of the tower, their size and slope.

Step 36

Having finished with the tower, we can begin to create a bridge to connect it with the main architecture of our city. Open the picture of the beautiful Belgian castle.

Step 37

Having brought the picture closer, we will see a wonderful basis for our bridge. Select it and copy it to the working paper.

Step 38

Duplicate this area and connect the copies in the form of a bridge, one after the other.

Step 39

Select, copy and paste a suitable piece of wall to create a support and complete the “construction” of the bridge. If necessary, duplicate the columns so that they reach ground level.

Step 40

Select the spire of the original tower, which we copied at the beginning of the lesson.

Step 41

Move the spire to the new tower. Now it does not recognize.

Step 42

Open the next image with the lock and select the right tower.

Step 43

Place it on the working paper and adjust the size.

Step 44

Duplicate the tower with the bridge, move it to the right side of the city and reflect horizontally.

Step 45

Cut off the top of the tower.

Step 46

Use a copy of a group of four steeples to decorate the tower.

Step 47

Copy the round tower and place it next to the upper dome.

Step 48

By duplicating the tower several times, we can make it much higher.

Step 49

Copy the right half of the tower and reflect horizontally.

Step 50

Making the tower even higher. We also add a copy of the spire, which we copied at the beginning of the lesson so that the tower looked like a huge igloo. Also, do not forget to adjust the contrast.

Step 51

Use the previously created bridge to connect the tower with the dome.

Step 52

In this paper, we used the architecture of different periods of history. To make these differences less noticeable, we will copy small parts from some buildings and transfer them to others. Select one of the windows of the tower next to the dome.

Step 53

Add the copied windows on the dome.

Step 54

At this stage, the city already looks good, it remains to modify the external walls. Select a large piece of the wall, reflect it horizontally and place it on the left side of the city.

Step 55

To close the gap between the walls, select and copy another area of ​​the wall. If necessary, mask the seams.

I hope that you have each element on a separate layer. Select them all and group them (Ctrl + G). Then duplicate the group to create backup copies of all items. We need them later.

Part 3: Background and lighting

Step 1

Now we can add a suitable background to our illustration. Open the photo of the sky and place it behind the created city.

Step 2

The sky does not cover the entire background, so select the left side and stretch it along the entire length of the document.

Step 3

Open the image with the desert and place it in front of the city.

Step 4

Now we will use the mask to edit the desert layer. Add a mask and activate Brush tool (Brush) (B). Use black to hide areas, and white to make them visible again.

Using the mask, we hide all transport and other unnecessary elements.

Step 5

To make the illustration look realistic, the scene must be properly illuminated. The light source is located outside the city, so we must edit all the buildings so that the distant ones are better lit than those that are closer to the viewer.

Step 6

I decided to take another photo of the sky. Open a new image and place it outside the city. Dull sky fits better in this illustration.

Step 7

Create a new layer and change its blend mode to Linear dodge (Linear Dodge). Place this layer between the background and the city. On this layer we will draw dust to give depth to the image.

Step 8

Take the standard round brush and choose dark brown or gray. We start to draw clouds of smoke and dust, as shown below.

Step 9

Duplicate the front layer with the desert and change the layer blending mode to Color Dodge. Add a mask and hide the layer in places where, in theory, the sun’s rays should not fall. Try to make the effect quite soft. Think about which areas of the land can be lit by the sun, and which are shaded by the city.

Step 10

Now set the blending mode BRUSHES on Linear dodge (Linear Dodge). Remember, we have made backup copies of all layers from which we “built” the city? Due to this, we can now add light and dust without affecting other elements of the composition.

Step 11

Duplicate the city layer and change the copy blend mode to Linear dodge (Linear Dodge). Add a black mask so that the layer is initially completely hidden.

Step 12

Select the area where the light should fall. Do not overdo it with light. Most of the city should be in the shade.

We use standard round brush (B) white to edit the mask in the highlighted places. Thanks to this technique we get good realistic shadows.

Step 13

Move the city a little to the left and insert another source with a lock. Now we will add buildings outside the city walls. When adjusting the size of the source, do not forget about the proportions.

Step 14

We copy several city houses.

Step 15

One piece of the building will be enough for us. Cut it out and adjust the contrast / color.

Below you can see the finished result. You can add more buildings, move the city even further left to make more room for new items. You are limited only by your own fantasy.

Step 16

We are almost finished, it remains to add a couple of strokes. Create a new layer in mode. Linear dodge (Linear Dodge). Choose a nice warm shade to draw sunlight. We experiment with the level of opacity.

Step 17

With a standard round brush we draw a glow around the city. Try to strike a balance between too much and too little.

In this lesson, you learned how to cut individual elements from photos and glue them together to create something new and interesting. Never forget about the scale and perspective, about the lighting and color of all the elements. When finished, you can always use the awesome Photoshop features to add some magic to your work.

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