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How to create a futuristic city with Photoshop textures

07. Colouring with a basic brush

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I select a sketching brush and introduce some colour noise in the shaded area. This produces a pleasing, painterly feel.

The default charcoal Photoshop brushes are fine for achieving such a look if you don't have your own custom brushes. I paint loosely, going with my instincts rather than over-analysing where I put down my brushstrokes.

08. Put together a custom swatch

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A personal colour swatch will speed up my colour choices. So I pick out a few lighting references, reduce their size to about 500 pixel wide, and click Filter Gallery>Texture Patchwork.

I increase the size of the square and deselect the Depth option. Now I can Color Pick from those swatches to introduce a few saturated lights into my scene.

09. Photo integration

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I drop in some photo textures to make the scene look more realistic, erasing elements of the photos to suit. When I rub out areas of the textures, some abstract shapes become visible through the erased part. This can sometimes give me new ideas on what shapes to use or create. I drag different photos for different purposes, such as to extract some interesting foreground shapes or to enhance the lighting.

10. Apply highlights

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I introduce highlights as a quick method of creating the illusion of details. I take a hard brush and put down some distinct lines, then loosely erase part of them with a texture brush to produce a random look. Note that the highlights have to be consistent with the light source, so think about your sources of lighting first.

11. Populate the scene

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Here, I add in a set of random characters to generate contrast and to help me to create a living world. You can use either a custom shape or custom brush techniques to paint different sets of figures, such as civilians, soldiers or robots.

I integrate a crowd of people into the image, and use a robot's silhouette to contrast with the scale of the humans.

12. Polishing the composition

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To help blend all the elements together, I do some extra brush work on the painting. I often use a brush that mimics a traditional tool, such as an oil or watercolour brush.

You can approach this stage by simplifying the shapes or increasing the colour vibrancy. I use ArtRage here, because it has a complete set of painting tools that mimics the feel of traditional paintings.

13. Apply zoom blur

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I return to Photoshop and add a subtle zoom blur. This will give my art a sense of motion and helps to blend the textures and my brushstrokes.

First, I merge the image on a new layer, then pick Filter>Blur>Radial blur, choose Zoom and set it to 10 pixels. I combine my zoom layer with the Masking tool: I apply a gradient on a mask, so only the bottom part is revealed.

14. Colour aberration and Sharpen

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I complete my scene by applying colour aberration and a Sharpen filter. For the former, I go to Filter>Lens Correction..., click the Custom tab and play with the Chromatic Aberration sliders.

I then click Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask, and adjust the Amount, Radius and Threshold settings. Finally, I enhance my highlights with a subtle texture placed over my painting

Words: Donglu Yu

Donglu is a senior concept artist in the video game industry. She's worked on the sequels to Assassin's Creed, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Far Cry 4.

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