Last week I posted some images on my Facebook page that were created for a competition our office was pursuing. I thought it would be interesting this week to break down the images and show the progression of post processing used to achieve the final composition. The steps outlined below are a cleaned-up version of the process that I used to better explain the overarching workflow. For example, the color overlays in Step 5 are shown grouped together as if they were all applied in one step. However, I probably applied 3 or 4 different color overlays at different times of the process when I was experimenting with different lighting styles. While the steps below outline the foundation, it still very much remains an iterative process of trial and error as well as revisiting different steps for refinement.
The competition encompassed a huge site, so one of our strategies was to illustrate multiple vignettes throughout the design. Because the scope of the project was so big, we were not able to detail out every building and landscaping feature. This meant a lot of time would be spent in Photoshop to add another level of refinement and detail.
1. BASE RENDERING
The process began with a simple Kerkythea rendering. Because the vignettes were focused on small areas of the model, I was able to delete most of the geometry that wasn’t in view to help shorten the rendering time. The water couldn’t have been easier to create. On the Kerkythea website, there is a free water materials pack that you can download and import into Kerkythea. Once the model is opened in Kerkythea, you can select the Sketchup water material and replace it with one of the water bump maps from the water materials pack.
I try to insert the sky as soon as possible once I'm in Photoshop because the sky defines the mood of the rendering from which the other Photoshop elements build off of. I normally don't use such graphically strong skies, but in this case it just seemed to work so I went with it.
I like to follow the insertion of the sky with the insertion of grass. Something so simple as Photoshopped grass seems to transform the illustration and remove the "computer generated" look. From here, it is much easier for me to envision how to bring in the remaining landscape elements.
Our 3-D model used very simple trees to help keep the file size down. At the same time, the simple tree place holders make it much easier for locating the placement of the Photoshopped trees as well as inserting them to the correct scale. I strategically placed a few trees to help frame the architecture and help direct the eye across the illustration. I also placed plants along the bank to create a cleaner edge as well as take advantage of the reflections. Note that all of the inserted trees were duplicated, flipped, and smudged to be used as reflections in the water.
5. COLOR OVERLAY
You may have noticed that up until now, the image was reading extremely dark and cold. An easy solution to bring in warmth is with color overlays. I didn't want to over power the image with the warm tones, so I focused the color on the horizon and over the architecture. The top image is showing the painted in color before its layer blend mode was set to "Overlay", while the image below shows the layer set to "Overlay". There was a lot of trial and error and adjusting of the hue before I arrived at this color. While I am only showing one color above, I also used multiple color overlays around the trees and sky. At this point, I have a pretty good understanding of where the illustration is going and what the final look will be.
6. ARCHITECTURAL LIGHT
The landscaping is reading well, but the architecture itself still seems a little lifeless. With the brush tool, I painted in light to give the illusion that the building was lit from the inside. The goal here was to use the light to my advantage and provide a better understanding of the form. Again, I made sure to reflect the light in the water as well.
7. PEOPLE, BOATS, ETC.
I usually save the Photoshopped people, boats and other supporting elements to the end. I didn't spend much time in this step, but these items are crucial in establishing a sense of scale and again adds life to the illustration.
I could have probably stopped at the last step, but I thought I would do a little more experimenting. Every once in a while, I like to test out some HDR techniques that bring out detail such as in the stone and water reflections. Typically used in photography, these techniques have been yielding some interesting results when I apply them to my renderings.
The competiton that the above images were used in is now complete and was a collaboration between Paul Lukez Architecture, Carol Johnson Associates, and Green Design Union. Video editing was by Silverscape. You can check out our final video submission of the completed design HERE.