Create a photorealistic landscape in Photoshop

A professional digital artist shows you how to create an epic Hollywood-style scene that recreates Machu Picchu with incredible details (using the tool Stamp (Clone Stamp) to accelerate the pace of work).

From the moment cinema was born, cinematographers created stunning special effects, combining large-scale drawn pictures with a live film. Mat painting techniques were once carefully guarded secrets that never left large studios. Today, however, with the help of modern personal computers, the creation of epic large-scale paintings in the style of Hollywood has finally become possible for anyone.

For this master class, professional artist in the style of Mat-painting Sarel Theron reveals the process and secrets of creating a realistic landscape. Using images of the ancient city and instrument Stamp(Clone Stamp), he will concentrate on creating 2D digital photorealistic painting – from the beginning of the sketch to the final work. To create this image, you can spend from 24 to 32 hours.

In this lesson, we are recreating a mythical version of the ancient Inca city Machu Picchu, also known as the “Lost City”.

Step 1

Create a new document by clicking File – New (File – New) 5700 x 3900 pixels in size.

Open a photo of Machu Picchu and paste it into your new document. Place the photo in the center of the canvas, slightly shifting it to the right down.

Step 2

Use a big soft Eraser (Eraser Tool) (E) to remove the sky in the photo, and then create a new layer, above the city layer, and name it “Outlines”: the main menu is Layers (Layer) – New (New) – Layer (Layer).

Choose soft Brush The (Brush Tool) (B) is about 30 pixels in size and start drawing the general outlines of the new landscape you are about to add.

Step 3

Now that we have the general outline of our future image, we can start drawing a little more detail. Always start with the item that is furthest away (usually the sky). Select the “Background” layer by double-clicking on it, rename it to the “Sky” layer. In mode Brushes (Brush Tool) (B) hold down the Alt key to turn the cursor into a color eyedropper, and select the gray-blue color of the background mountains in the photo. Use this color to fill the sky.

Step 4

Add darker strokes of blue and gray to imitate the thunderclouds in the sky, and determine where the light source will be. Use soft brushes of different sizes to gradually create layers of stormy clouds. Do not forget to add a sunbeam!

Step 5

Create a new layer above the “Sky” layer, and name it “Right Mountain.” Use the same technique that you used for the sky, select the color of the vegetation and rocks in the original photo, and then paint with these colors the continuation of the right mountain in your image.

Add more color to the mountain being created by choosing different shades from the original photo. The sky and the landscape were created from my imagination, but you can use any photographs from different terrains if this makes your work easier.

Step 6

Create a new layer above the layer with the city of Machu Picchu and name it “Right Front Mountain”.

Repeat what you did in step 5, but add a little more detailed detail this time, drawing a continuation of the stones and greenery. Use the original photo as a color palette to maintain a uniform and balanced color scheme throughout the photo.

Step 7

Now create a new layer and name it “Left Front Mountain”. Draw rough details for the mountain in the foreground on the left, as it was in the previous step. After that, create a new layer with the name “Medium”, above the layer with the city of Machu Picchu.

Step 8

On this layer we will add the final continuation of the landscape over the original picture, which includes a waterfall and another small peak in the back of the ruins. After that you can remove the “Outlines” layer.

This sketch will give you an idea of ​​what your final composition will look like, displaying elements such as color, lighting and perspectives. Ideally, you should not spend more than a few hours creating this sketch. Then we begin to visualize our art material in a bit more detail and try to make the colored area look more photorealistic.

Step 9

We will start again from heaven. Select your “Sky” layer and using different brushes of different sizes, carefully create clouds. If you do not feel in yourself artistic talents, you can always find a photo of good size and paste it, retouching with brush strokes.

Use adjustment and overlapping layers above the sky layer to view the changes without affecting the working layer.

Step 10

I drew distant mountains against the sky to give the picture more depth. These are simply flat color silhouettes with highlights added to the edges.

Once you finish painting the sky, go to Filter (Filter) – Noise (Noise) – Add noise (Add Noise) and add some Gaussian noise to match the texture of the original painting with the city.

Step 11

It’s time to add some more photographic textures to our landscape. We will use the tool to draw textures. Stamp (Clone Stamp).

Select the “Right Mount” layer and select the tool Stamp (Clone Stamp) uncheck Alignment (Aligned). Hold Alt to modify the cursor in the crosshairs, and select the area of ​​the mountain on the original image, indicated by the red circle. Start drawing the texture above the sketch. For rocks, I used texture samples from a cliff on the original, indicated by a blue circle.

Step 12

That’s what it looked like when we finished working on the “Right Mountain” layer. I slightly changed the shape of the mountain on the original and added some brush strokes to get a little blue on the rocks. For the two foreground mountains, we will need larger and more detailed rock and vegetation textures, which we will use from another large-scale photo of the mountain behind Machu Picchu.

Step 13

We will need some more mountain elements, so download this mountain image from iStock.

Drag a new photo into the job, above all other layers. Go to the menu: Picture (Image) – Correction (Adjustments) Color balance (Color Balance) (Ctrl + B) and set the color balance with the following settings: blue (cyan) 30, green (green) 25, blue (blue) 65.

Then go to the menu: Picture (Image) – Correction (Adjustments) Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast). Install brightness (brightness) at -30 and contrast (contrast) at -25.

Select the “Left Front Mountain” layer and Tool Stamp (Clone Stamp). Use the area indicated by the red rectangle in the new photo as your texture palette, and draw the textures above your sketch, changing the pen pressure.

Step 14

When finished with the texturing on the “Left Front Mountain” layer, select the layer with the image of the mountain that we last inserted into the work. Then go to the menu: Picture (Image) – Correction (Adjustments) Brightness / Contrast (Brightness / Contrast) (Ctrl + B) and set the mid tone balance: red (red) +10, yellow (yellow) -10. Select the “Right Front Mountain” layer and paint the textures using the sunlit part of the mountain as the palette to display highlights.

Step 15

For the penultimate step, select the “Medium” layer and using the Tool Stamp (Clone Stamp), clone pieces of stone textures on your original photo, above the edge of the cliff, where the waterfall will be. Paint the waterfall with a small brush, then use a large, low opacity soft brush with a light blue / gray color to create a hazy atmosphere of water vapor at the bottom.

Cover the closer ruins with vegetation and add a few trees. Create trees by brushing the trunks and branches, then select the area with vegetation on the image and clone it along the branches of the trees to create leaves. Finally, remove the mountain photo layer.

Step 16

Now, we need to rebuild the destroyed city and restore its former glory! For the pyramid I used the tool Rectilinear lasso (Polygonal Lasso) to highlight a large building. Then I copied and modified it four times and superimposed layers on top of each other.

You will need to do a great job of retouching with the Tool. Healing Brush (Healing Brush), Tools Stamp (Clone Stamp) and brushes in order to again make the city livable. As a final step, you can add several adjustment layers on top of the image, as well as use different layer blending modes to set the overall mood.

We admire the final result.

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