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My internet’s unfortunately been down for a few days, hence the lack of updates here. Apologies for the break in posting and replying to comments, but luckily I’ve managed to locate a handy coffee shop to work from while things get fixed. Enjoy the tutorial .
This is the final image that we’ll be creating:
Open up a new document 1024X768px and create a new layer called ‘clouds’. Then create some clouds by going to filter>render>difference clouds.
Now go to filter>blur>motion blur and apply the strongest motion blur (999 distance) at a 25 degree angle. Then go to image>adjustments>brightness/contrast and increase the contrast to +75. This is probably the quickest way to create a nice looking background from scratch. If you’re not bothered about creating a cityscape wallpaper then at least you’ve learn the basics of a professional looking background!
Now duplicate your clouds layer and go to filter>brush strokes>crosshatch. Apply the strongest crosshatch effect possible (stroke length: 50, sharpness: 18, strength: 3). Then set this duplicate layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’ and reduce it’s opacity to 45%. Then merge the two layers.
Go to image>adjustments>shadows/highlights and then set shadows to 0% and highlights to 100%. The outcome should look something like the image below:
Now paste in a photo of a cool cityscape onto a new top layer (source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/923333). Desaturate the image (image>adjustments>desaturate) and then set the layer’s blend mode to ‘overlay’.
Now duplicate your cityscape image and set the layer blend mode to ‘vivid light’. Then go to layer>create layer mask>reveal all. Drag a transparent to black radial gradient out from the center. This will fade out the edges of your vivid light layer, but leave the center in tact. This draws the eye to the focal point of your image, the large prominent building in the center.
Now select your original clouds layer. Apply a gradient overlay, and try to use one of the Photoshop present gradients, that consists of colors fairly different from your current image. As my current image is quite dull, orangy and rusty, I chose a bright blue-yellow-blue gradient. Then set the gradient blend mode to overlay and set it’s opacity to 50%. You can see that the image is coming together quite nicely now. The technique here is building up multiple layers of colors, effects and shades to achieve a really rich effect.
Now duplicate your photo layer and move it to be your top layer. Change it’s blending mode back to normal to make it easier to see what you’re doing. Then select around some key parts of your image using the lasso tool. I chose to select one of the cars, the lamppost and a few other pieces of my image. Invert your selection and hit delete to leave only these parts of the image remaining. Then set the layer blend mode to ‘vivid light’. This should give extra emphasis to these areas and help give a little more depth to your image by fore-grounding the parts of it that are nearer to you. The images below show the image before and after this effect.
Now select your original photo and go to select>color range. Then apply the settings below to select only the lightest parts of your image. It doesn’t matter that you’re on one layer only without merging the rest, as this technique will pick up the highlights in your image as a whole, not just within your selected layer.
With your highlighted area selection copy/paste to paste these highlights onto a new layer. Then set the layer blend mode to ‘color dodge’ and apply the strongest motion blur as shown early. Duplicate this highlight layer to make the effect stronger.
As you can see from the before and after images below this relatively simple set of techniques can really help to improve your images in a unique and interesting way. The best thing about this tutorial is that your outcome will be completely different with each image and each time you apply these effects. The fact that difference clouds are always different from the last that you rendered and that different images will have various levels of shadows/highlights to begin with mean that your images will never get predictable or boring. Try creating an album of your favorite images using these techniques, and try a different color gradient overlay to really mix things up. Click on the finished image below to view the full sized wallpaper.
The images below were just as quick to create but show how useful this effect can be using different photos:
Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.
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