Fantastic apocalypse scene in photoshop

In this lesson you will learn how to create a scene from a movie in a few simple and easy steps! You will learn how to combine images to create an exciting scene of the apocalypse, as well as how to create the effect of flying meteorites with the help of ready-made Photoshop brushes. You will also learn several different ways to create light effects and create an exciting atmosphere.

Final result

Source materials:

STEP 1. Create a background

Create a new document in Photoshop. Download a stock image of ‘Heaven’ from the link at the beginning of this lesson. Move this image to our working paper. Name the sky layer ‘SKY’. Renaming layers is a good habit and useful action, since when creating more complex works, it will save you time when searching for the right layers for additional correction.

Choose a tool Rectangular area (Marquee Tool (M). Create a rectangular selection at the bottom of the image without capturing the edges of the roofs. Press the keys (Ctrl + C) to copy the selection, and then press (Ctrl + V) to paste the copied image.

Place the layer with the copied part of the sky below the ‘SKY’ layer. Name this layer ‘REAR BACKGROUND’. Next, go Editing – Free Transformation (Edit> Free Transform) or press keys (Ctrl + T) to activate this tool. Drag the bottom of the image of the ‘REAR BACKGROUND’ layer to the bottom of the document. In the screenshot below, you can see what I mean.

This is just the base, over which we place skyscrapers, so you should not worry that at the moment the image looks weird. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “RETAIN”. Choose a tool Stamp (Stamp Tool (S), with the help of this tool hide the image of the roofs. After this action, your image should look like in the screenshot below.

STEP 2. Add a city

In this step, I will show you a small trick on how very simple it is to add a city image to our working paper, so that the image looks seamlessly when combined, without any complicated efforts and time costs when working with a mask. Download a stock image of ‘Cities’ from the link at the beginning of this tutorial. Move this image to our working paper. Place this layer with the image of the city on top of all other layers, name this layer ‘CITY 1’. Right-click on this layer and in the window that appears, select the option Create duplicate layer(Duplicate layer). Name the duplicate layer ‘CITY 2’. Place a duplicate layer on top of all other layers. So let’s move on to combining.

You have created two layers with the image of the city in order to combine each of these two layers in different ways to achieve the best effect. Turn off the visibility of the ‘CITY 2’ layer so that you can only see the ‘CITY 1’ layer (to turn off visibility, click on the eye to the left of the layer thumbnail).

On the ‘CITY 1’ layer, reduce Opacity (Opacity) of this layer up to 50%. You can find this option in the upper right part of the layers palette.

You probably noticed a rough transition between the image of CITY 1 and the rest of the image. To combine, add a layer mask to the ‘CITY 1’ layer. You can find the button Add layer mask (Add layer mask) in the bottom toolbar.

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with an opacity of about 70%, brush color is black. Make sure you are on the layer mask (click on it) and using the selected brush, paint over the top of the ‘CITY 1’ image for create a smooth transition between the image of the city and the rest of the image.

The result should be as in the screenshot below.

As you can see, the city is poorly visible at the moment. For these purposes we use the second layer with the image of the city. Turn on the visibility of the ‘CITY 2’ layer, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay). In the screenshot below, you can see the effect of a duplicate layer on the whole picture.

There is a rough transition between the image of the city of the ‘CITY 2’ layer and the rest of the layers. Therefore, add a layer mask to the ‘CITY 2’ layer, select a brush with the same settings that we used before, and then make the appropriate combination using a layer mask.

STEP 3. Dim the city

In this quick step, we will darken the city a bit. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves) over the ‘CITY 1’ layer, apply the curve shown in the screenshot below.

In order for the adjustment layer to affect only the ‘CITY 1’ layer, and not all the underlying layers, you need to convert this adjustment layer to a clipping mask. Right-click on the adjustment layer you just created and in the window that appears, just select the option Create clipping mask (Create Clipping Mask). You can see the result in the screenshot below.

STEP 4. Add meteorites

Download the Meteorite brushes from the link at the beginning of this tutorial, and then install them in Photoshop. Create a new layer on top of all other layers. Name this layer ‘METEORITES’. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), select one of the Meteorite brushes that you just installed. I will give you three tips on how to make meteorites look realistic:

1. All meteorites should fall in the same or almost in the same direction.
2. Some meteorites should be larger, others smaller to create a sense of space.
3. Do not use white color. Choose a light blue tint to get a more realistic result.

In the screenshot below, you can see clearly where you should draw the falling meteorites.

STEP 5. Add chiaroscuro

In this step we will start creating more interesting light and shade effects to create a more dramatic atmosphere. To do this, we will perform the following steps. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer, for example, ОС LIGHT EFFECTS 1 ’. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G), set the mid-tones gray (# 808080) and using the fill, fill the new layer with gray. Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with an opacity of 15%, the color of the brush is white. Start painting over areas that should be lighter:
– clouds around meteorites
– clouds from where the sun shines,
– portions of buildings that are facing the sun.

Once you are done, turn black. Using a black brush, paint over the bottom of the image, as well as the upper left corner of the image, so that the whole image looks more balanced. If you are not sure where to paint with a brush, then pay attention to the screenshot below.

STEP 6. Add a vignette

In this and the next steps we will focus on color correction. Let’s start by adding a soft vignette effect. I really like to add a vignette effect to my artworks. This is a great way to get the attention of the observer in the center of the image. Choose a tool Oval area (Elliptical Marquee Tool (M), with this tool, create a selection in the center of the image.

Now we need to make the selection edges softer. For this we need to shade them. Let’s go Selection – Modification – Feather (Select> Modify> Feather), (the activation path of this option in different versions of Photoshop may be different, but this activation path is for version CS6) or press the keys (Shift + F6) to activate the settings window Feather the selected area (Feather Selection). Install Feather Radius (Feather Radius) approximately 40px and then click OK.

Next we go Selection – Inversion (Selection> Inverse) or press the keys (Ctrl + Shift + I) to invert the selection you created. Without removing the selection, add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves) on top of all other layers, set the curve as shown in the screenshot below.

Due to the active selection, the adjustment layer will affect only the edges of the image, darkening them, while the center of the image will remain the same as before.

STEP 7. Strengthen the atmosphere

When I created this photo manipulation, in my imagination I represented a big gas city. In my opinion, this feeling can be obtained by adding red shades and by darkening. We will take both steps in this step. First add a correction layer. Curves (Curves) on top of all other layers, set the curve as shown in the screenshot below. This way, you add red hues to the shadows of your image, and blue hues to the light highlights.

Change the blending mode for this layer to Chromaticity (Color) for improved effect.

Now we darken the image a bit. Add another adjustment layer. Curves (Curves) on top of all other layers, set the curve as shown in the screenshot below.

In the screenshot below, you can see the stages of correction carried out in this step.

STEP 8. Darken the Sky
The sky in the image should be slightly darker to create a more balanced feel. To fix this, add a new adjustment layer. Curves (Curves), set the curve as shown in the screenshot below.

We need to darken only the top of the image. To do this, first select the tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G), set the fill color to black. Next, fill the layer mask of the adjustment layer with black.

Choose a tool Gradient (Gradient Tool (G), set the color to white, in the settings set the type of gradient Linear Gradient (Linear Gradient).

Apply a gradient to the layer mask of the adjustment layer. In the screenshot below, you can see where to apply the gradient. I highlighted the scope of the gradient in red.

STEP 9. Add smog

Next, we will add another shade of color associated with air pollution (at least for me) – it is a shade of green. In this step, we will add green smog to the horizon to add even more gaseous atmosphere. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “SMOG’. ” Choose a tool Gradient (Gradient Tool (G), this time select the gradient type Mirror Gradient (Reflected Gradient).

Set a green tint (I used shade # 6c7345), and then create a gradient, as shown in the screenshot below.

To match the rest of the image, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay) reduce Opacity (Opacity) layer up to about 65%.

At the moment, the result should be as in the screenshot below.

Step 10. Red cars

In my opinion, the lower part of the image, where the streets of the city pass, is completely boring at the moment. We will revive the scene by adding red highlights around the city streets. We will create the feeling that there is a lot of traffic on the streets. Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer “MACHINE”. Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B), set a soft round brush with low opacity, about 40%. Choose reddish shades for the brush. Paint over the roads with the selected brush. Pay attention to the screenshot below to see where to paint with a brush.

To match the rest of the image, change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Step 11. Darken the Sky

The sky should be a little darker. We will make an additional correction in this step. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves), set the curve as shown in the screenshot below.

To correct only the sky, not the entire image, select the tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (B). Fill the adjustment layer layer mask with a solid black color. Next, select the tool Gradient (Gradient Tool (G), set the color to white. Gradient type Linear Gradient(linear gradient). While on the layer mask of the adjustment layer, drag the gradient from the top down to the horizon line, just like you did in the previous steps. In the screenshot below, you can see where to apply the gradient. The gradient is highlighted in red.

After this step, your image should look like the screenshot below.

STEP 12. Brighten the center of the image.

In this step we will make the center of the image lighter. This will add more volume and drama to our scene. The human eye first draws attention to the bright areas of the image. You can use this fact to direct the viewer’s eye to those parts of the image where you want. Add a new adjustment layer Levels (Levels), apply the following Input values (Input Levels) 0; 1.00; 175.

Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (B). Fill the adjustment layer layer mask with a solid black color. Next, select the tool Gradient (Gradient Tool (G), set the color to white. Gradient type Radial Gradient (Radial Gradient). Apply a gradient in the center of the image.

In the screenshot below, you can see where to apply the gradient. The gradient is highlighted in red.

STEP 13. Add a light highlight.

In this step, we will add a highlight to the center of the image to create a more interesting lighting effect. Create a new layer on top of all the other layers, name this layer ‘LIGHT GLUE’. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (B). Fill the new layer with a solid black color. Go Filter – Rendering – Blick (Filter> Render> Lens Flare). Apply the settings shown in the screenshot below. Click OK.

Change the blending mode for this layer to Lightening (Screen).

The result should be as in the screenshot below.

STEP 14. Perform light flare correction.

As you may have noticed, at the moment the light flare does not look quite realistic. We will fix this in this step, by blurring and bleaching. On the ‘LIGHT BLUE’ layer, go Image – Correction – Hue / Saturation (Image> Adjustments> Hue / Saturation), set the value Saturation (Saturation) at -100.

To blur the highlight, let’s go Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur), apply a blur radius of 3.0 px. Click OK.

In the screenshot below, you can compare how the light flare looks like before and after this step.

STEP 15. Dim and add more contrast.

In this step, we will darken the image a bit more and add contrast. Let’s start with the blackout. Add a new adjustment layer Gradient Map (Gradient Map), apply the gradient shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Multiplication (Multiply). Thus, you will not only make the shadows darker, but also add blue shades to them.

To enhance image contrast, add a new adjustment layer. Curves (Curves), apply the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 16. Add light highlights to the skyscrapers

To make the image more interesting and realistic, you need to add lighting effects to those parts of the skyscrapers that are facing the sun. (The highlight that you added in Step 14). Create a new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer ‘LIGHT GLARES IN THE SKYS. Choose a tool Fill (Paint Bucket Tool (G), then, fill the new layer with a gray middle tone (# 808080). Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Choose a tool Brush (Brush Tool (B). Set a soft round brush with low opacity, about 20%, the color of the brush is white. Next, start to paint the areas where the light from the sun falls. In the screenshot below, you can clearly see where you need to paint with a brush. I highlighted these areas in red. Do not rush, carefully paint over parts of buildings to get a more realistic result.

The result should be as in the screenshot below.

STEP 17. More Contrast

From this step we will focus on color correction in order to enhance the atmosphere and to make the picture look more like science fiction. Let’s start with a slight increase in the contrast of the entire image. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves), apply the settings that are shown in the screenshot below.

You probably noticed that the curve in shape is the same as the first time when you increased the contrast. “S-curve” is always used to enhance contrast. By shifting the upper square, you add light shades, and, shifting the lower square makes dark shades darker. Depending on how far you have shifted these two squares, it will depend on how much or not you increase the contrast. If you unfold the “S-curve”, then you decrease the contrast.

STEP 18. Blue Shades I

In this and the next step, we will add shades of blue to our scene. Add a new adjustment layer Gradient Map (Gradient Map) on top of all other layers, apply the following settings for the gradient, which are shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Chromaticity (Color), reduce the layer opacity to 45%.

In the screenshot below, you can compare how the image looks before and after this step.

STEP 19. Blue Shades II

To add even more shades of blue, create another adjustment layer. Color Balance (Color Balance), apply the settings that are shown in the screenshot below:

In the screenshot below, you can compare how the image looks before and after this step.

Thanks to more vibrant color shades, the picture has become more exciting, is not it?

STEP 20. Strengthen the contrast.

In my opinion, the picture will look more interesting if we add more contrast. To enhance contrast, we use two adjustment layers in this step – Gradient Map (Gradient Map) and Curves (Curves). Let’s start with Curves (Curves). We use this adjustment layer to make the lighting effects even brighter. Add a new adjustment layer Curves (Curves), placing on top of all other layers, apply a curve, as shown in the screenshot below.

To make the shadows darker, add a new adjustment layer. Gradient Map (Gradient Map), placing on top of all other layers, apply the settings for the gradient, which are shown in the screenshot below.

Change the blending mode for this adjustment layer to Multiplication (Multiply).

STEP 21. Sharpness

To enhance the details, we will add a slight sharpness effect to our manipulation in this step. Press the keys (Ctrl + A) to select the entire image. Next, go Editing – Copy merged data (Edit> Copy Merged) or press the keys (Ctrl + Shift + C) to copy the merged image.
Paste the copied image (Ctrl + V). Place this new layer on top of all other layers, name this layer ‘SHARPNESS’. Next, go Filter – Other – Color Contrast (Filter> Other> High Pass), set the value Radius (Radius) approximately 1.7 px. Click OK.

Change the blending mode for this layer to Overlap (Overlay).

Final result

Author: Jarka Hrncarkova

Link to the PSD file of the lesson

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