We first need to build a background for our scene. Open the ‘Clouds Above 2’ image from deviantART and change the Hue/Saturation settings (Opt/Alt+U) to Hue -10 and Saturation -20. Enlarge the image by increasing it by 34%, being sure to keep the proportions locked together. Now apply a 5 pixel Gaussian Blur.
Select the Eyedropper tool, zoom in and then pick a colour from just above the horizon. Hit ‘X’ to switch foreground and background colours, then pick a blue from below the top cloud. Create a new layer, applying a foreground-to-transparent vertical gradient, using your picked tone from above the horizon. Use a large soft round eraser to blend it in.
Grab another cloud image from deviantART, using the Polygonal Lasso to cut out the clouds at the bottom of both photos. Now build up a cloudscape by moving and flipping the stock. Each time a cloud looks to be in a good position, copy the layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J) and reposition until the scene takes shape.
Download a new cloud image (SXC’s ‘1285735’), increase its size to 160% then flip it horizontally. Select Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation, setting Hue to 168 and Lightness to -20. Change the blending mode to Multiply, apply a Gaussian Blur then add a layer mask with a vertical gradient to only show above the horizon. The Clone Stamp tool is used to remove untidy areas of cloud.
Open SXC’s ‘1298053’ cloud image and enlarge it by 200%. Add a Gaussian Blur and change the blending mode to Overlay. Position the sunset on the right-hand side of the picture and add a layer mask that paints a Radial gradient from the sunset to approximately halfway across the picture. Incorporate some cloud on the left using the same process.
Now you have the basic setup complete, go back to the earlier cloud layers and add a layer mask to each one. Zoom in and clean up the rough cutting using a small soft brush (2-5 pixels) on the layer masks. Start blurring the layers – strongest for the furthest away, becoming weaker as clouds appear closer.
Open all ‘CINEMA 4D Abstract’ stock from the link at the top of this page and copy images into a new group called ‘Ship’. Hide all the stock and start to build your ship by copying a stock layer, un-hiding it and using the stock at full size with a combination of the Transform and Flip tools and layer masks to build a design you can flesh out.
Still using the same stock, start to make them smaller and create areas of detail on the ship. Blend these smaller areas together by zooming in and using the Dodge and Burn tools (Shift+O to cycle) and also erasing layer masks to join them to the bigger framework. You can also paint with a small brush to hide untidy areas or to create fine detail.
Using the parts of ‘Abstract’ stock 5 that resemble pipes or arms, create links between the left arm and centre stem of the ship. Enlarge the stock for some of the largest pipes and also use the Warp tool to make it fit your form. A set of four or five different sizes and degrees of Gaussian Blur will bring both depth and flow to the alien craft.
To give a sense of depth, set up a new group below the Ship group, bringing in the darkest abstract stocks. Use them to add a right arm to the ship and add some forms behind the ship, using the darkest stock images as though in silhouette. Add a Levels layer (from the ‘Create new fill or adjustment layer’ options), reducing the centre black level to 0.59 to emphasise the shadows.
The sky is a bit weak so, under the Ship groups, add an orange Photo Filter adjustment (70% Density), apply a layer mask and then a Radial gradient from the sunset to halfway across the image. Add a Color Balance layer, increasing Red and Blue in the Shadows, Cyan, Magenta and Blue in the Midtones, and boosting Yellow and Magenta to the Highlights.
Set up a new group called ‘Explode’ under the Ship group. Open the ‘Exploding.tif’ stock and add it to the right side with a flip, resize and rotate and use a layer mask to remove unwanted elements. Using the same stock, apply it to the left, using a different part of the image for variation. Add extra debris copied from the original stock.