How to Create a City in Photoshop

Written by elizabeth chaplin
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How to Create a City in Photoshop
Create a one-of-a-kind graphic city in Photoshop. (new year city fireworks image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com)

Adobe Photoshop is a popular graphics program that allows the artist to draw, paint and design digitally. The many features offered in Photoshop assist in creating artwork that is comparable to traditional art styles. Making a digital cityscape is a great way to turn a city that exists only in your mind into reality. Use personal photographs as a template and a few of Photoshop's features and tools to create your one-of-a-kind city masterpiece.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Digital camera with USB adaptor
  • Drawing tablet

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Take photographs of buildings and skylines. One of the easiest ways to make a successful fantasy city is to borrow from images based in reality. Then take photographs of the sky at various times of day, such as morning, afternoon, sunset and night. Capture images of a road or other ground area. Plug the camera into the computer with the USB adaptor.

  2. 2

    Open "My Computer" and double-click on the digital camera icon to view the photographs. Choose the photographs you want to use, selecting several building pictures, one sky and one ground photo. Hold down "Ctrl" while clicking to select multiple photographs. Then, click-drag the photos to the desktop. Close "My Computer" and unplug the camera.

  3. 3

    Open Photoshop, then go to File > New to create a new image. Choose the desired size of the canvas. Make the resolution at least 300 dots per inch (dpi) for the best quality. Hit "OK."

  1. 1

    Go to File > Place and choose one of the building photographs. Hit "OK." Repeat this process for each building photograph. Look at the Layers palette. Each photograph will have its own layer. Hit the eyeball icon to make all of the photographs invisible except one.

  2. 2

    Select the "Polygonal Lasso" tool. Outline the building and other features in the first photograph you want to keep. Then, go to Select > Inverse. Hit "Ctrl+X" to remove the unwanted material.

  3. 3

    Hit the eyeball icon next to the outlined photograph's layer to make it invisible. Turn on the eyeball icon for another photograph and repeat Step 2. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for each building photograph and the picture of the road or other ground surface.

  4. 4

    Make all building layers visible by turning on the eyeball icon next to each photograph in the Layers palette. Arrange the buildings on the canvas so that they make a collage-like city. Arrange layers by click-dragging them on the Layers palette to make buildings overlap one another.

  5. 5

    Make the sky layer visible and arrange it so that it is behind all of the building layers. Hit "Ctrl+A" to select the entire sky photograph and hit "Ctrl+T" to activate the "Transform" tool. Click-drag one of the corners of the sky photograph while holding the "Shift" key to increase the size. Make the sky fills the entire background behind the buildings.

  6. 6

    Hit the eyeball icon next to the ground photograph layer. Move the ground so that it sits under the buildings. Adjust the size by hitting "Ctrl+A" to select, then "Ctrl+T" to Transform.

  1. 1

    Go to Layer > New > Layer to make a new layer. Label the layer "Outlines."

  2. 2

    Select the "Paintbrush" tool. Choose a hard, round brush from the "Brush" drop-down at the top of the screen and adjust the size so the brush is relatively small. Outline the buildings, including windows, doors, grommets and other details. Make straight lines with the Paintbrush tool by holding down the "Shift" key while drawing. Outline over the ground area as well.

  3. 3

    Go to Layer > New > Layer and label it "Color." Arrange the "Color" layer so that it is behind the "Outlines" layer, but in front of the photographs. Increase the size of the brush, then colour in the buildings and road, much like a colouring book. Change colours by double-clicking on the "Set Foreground Color" swatch in Tools palette. Layer several colours over each other for more depth. Click on the "Brush" drop-down, click the small arrow and select "Natural Brushes" to layer colours with rough-edged brush.

  4. 4

    Make a new layer and label it "Sky Color." Select a large, round, soft brush and begin colouring over the sky photograph. Use the same colours as in the sky, or choose different colours to blend together. Make sure to keep the light source the same.

  1. 1

    Create a new layer and label it "Shadows." Choose a black colour swatch. Click the "Opacity" drop-down at the top of the screen and lower the opacity to about 30 per cent. Change the Brush to a mid-sized, soft, round brush.

  2. 2

    Shade in the areas with the Paintbrush tool. Look at the sky background to determine where the light source is coming from. Make areas darker by overlapping paint strokes.

  3. 3

    Make a new layer and label it "Highlights." Choose a white colour swatch and adjust the opacity to about 30 per cent. Keep the brush soft and round.

  4. 4

    Create highlights over the building colour. Keep the light source in mind. Make straight highlight lines by holding down the "Shift" key while drawing.

  5. 5

    Select the "Smudge" tool and choose a soft, round brush. On the "Color," "Sky Color," "Shadows" and "Highlights" layers, smudge the paint so that it blends together. Hit the eyeball icons next to the photographic layers to make them invisible. Fill in any details or white spots in the various layers.

Tips and warnings

  • Also download photographic references from the Internet.

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