Thanks go out to Anton Egorov for this tutorial. See more of his work at www.behance.net/egorov
Step 01 – Create Workspace
Create a new document sized 3600 x 3600px. Such square canvass is really handy for creation of multipurpose image. Make a grey background layer and a group. Name the group ‘Sizes’. Create two layers ’16:9′ and ‘A4’. Fill them with a dark grey color and set their Opacities at 70%. Make rectangular holes in them sized 3600 x 2025px and 2776 x 3567px any way you prefer.
Step 02 – Rough Sketch
Open the supplied ‘draft-render.png’ file from the CD and place it into the scene so that it looks great in the both size frames. Hide the ‘Sizes’ group. Now your task is creating of the main feeling of the artwork. Paint a sketch using any kind of rough brushes, photos and whatever you want.
Step 03 – Draft Landscape
Great! But we need a pile of misty photos. Go to a photo stock website and collect as much as you can. Replace the sketch with preview photos. Try various, be negligent! Place them using truly rough masks and color corrections. For the strict result you’ll need the ‘25817889’, ‘25817914’, ‘25014376’, ‘25013547’ and ‘2640502’ files from www.istockphoto.com
Step 04 – Place High-Res Photos
When you will be satisfied with the draft compositing download high-res photos. Substitute them for the previews. Thoroughly refine the masks where it’s needed using soft and hard brushes. Some photos will need color correction. Like the ‘25817889’. Deepen its shadows using a new Adjustment Layer > Levels. Clip it to the photo (Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + G). Move the left slider at 37. Desaturate the photo using a new Hue/Saturation Layer. Set the Hue at +3 and the Saturation at -55. Then create a Solid Color Layer in Soft Light mode and choose a tan color.
Step 05 – Foreground
Choose your photo or download the ‘24864654’ from iStock. Replace the preview with it and improve the mask with artistic brushes, like the Rough Round Bristle brush out of default Photoshop brushes. Create a gentle effect of speed with Motion Blur filter. Set the Angle at -6 degrees and the Distance at 31 pixels. Create a new clipped layer and another one beneath the photo. Use a soft brush with low opacity to brighten pieces of the landscape where it’s needed settling the pines into the scene.
Step 06 – Colour Correction
We need to reconcile different photos with each other. Create a new Solid Color Layer in Color mode and choose a blue-grey color. Set the Opacity at 40%. In order to diversify the colors create a new Curves Layer. Vary the channels individually. Red: move the bottom marker a bit to the up. Blue: move the center of the line a bit to the down. So as to make the colors more natural create a new Layer in Soft Light mode. Paint with broad strokes using a huge soft brushes of different colors.
Step 07 – Aerial Perspective
In order to make to scene deeper use aerial perspective. It means that the distant objects especially horizon are less contrast and lighter than the front-plan ones. Сreate a new Brightness/Contrast Layer. Set the Brightness at 28 and the Contrast at -29. Clean the front-plan using a huge soft black brush on the mask of the layer. Create a new Levels Layer and move the center slider to the left (1,65). Make similar mask for it. Refine to result with other adjustment layers if it’s needed.
Step 08 – More Fog!
Definitely the scene needs more fog. Go to www.cgtextures.com find the ‘Smoke0403’ set and download the first photo. Create a group and place the file into. Remove the sky, the chimney and excess of the smoke using layer mask and any kind of brushes. Reduce a little the Opacity of the layer. Create a new Adjustment Layer > Levels. Clip it to the group and move the center slider at 1,51 and the right one at 138. Add a Solid Color Layer filled with a grey-blue color in Soft Light mode.
Step 09 – Import the Render
You can import your 3D render or take ‘production-render.png’ from the CD. The attached fighter is a stock 3D model. It was rendered using V-Ray. The landscape created before was used as a HDRI environment map for reflections. The surface of the fighter is quite matte but this trick can be very helpful in other cases. Once you’ll have placed the render make a group ‘Guides’ and place it above all others. Just draw some perspective lines. You will be able to check with them to avoid mistakes.
Step 10 – Aerial Perspective on The Fighter
The first helpful pass is ZDepth. It’s a grayscale image that shows distance from the camera. The closest objects are white and the furthest ones are black. It can be a great mask for adjustment layers of aerial perspective. Place ‘render-ZDepth.png’ into the scene. Align it with the fighter and fill empty space with black. Invert and cut the layer. Create a Brightness/Contrast layer clipped to the fighter and paste into its mask. Brighten the furthest part and reduce their contrast. Use the same mask for a blue Solid color layer in Soft Light mode.
Step 11 – Colour Tones and Reflections
Color reflexes are one of the most important things to settle an off-site image into a scene. Tone the fighter a bit using a clipped Solid color layer in Soft Light mode filled with a blue color. Set its opacity at 10%. Then add matte color reflexes. Create a layer in Soft Light mode. Grab the Brush tool and choose a green color. Paint the lower wing and the lower side of the cockpit with broad strokes using huge soft brush with low opacity. Pick a blue color and paint the higher parts of the fighter.
Step 12 – Additional Lighting
Common problem of 3D renders is their ideality especially in lighting. So let’s make the lighting of the plane more natural. Create a new clipped layer in Overlay mode. Select the Brush tool and paint shadows and highlights with a soft black & white brush. Feel free to work instinctively.
To be continued…