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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photo Manipulation
Design

Create a City Destruction Scene Photo Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a city destruction scene. You'll learn how to destroy a city by adding broken, damaged elements and blending them using adjustment layers, masking and brushes. 

You'll also learn some easy tips to make the scene look dirty, adjust the light and contrast, and create a dark and haunting atmosphere. By following this tutorial you'll learn how to work with groups, manage your layers and pay attention to the details.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:

1. Adding the Base Environment

Step 1

Create a new 2200 x 1500 px document with the settings below:

new file

Step 2

Open the city image. Drag this image into the white canvas using the Move Tool (V).

adding city

Step 3

Open the sky 1 image. Use the Move Tool to place it onto the city and use the Free Transform Tool (Control-T) to rotate it a little:

adding sky 1

Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to erase the hard edges and blend the sky with the city, leaving a cloudy effect around the top of the buildings. Here are the results on the layer mask and on the picture:

sky 1 layer mask
sky 1 masking result

Step 4

Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask to reduce the sky saturation a bit. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue Saturation and change the Saturation value to -42:

sky 1 huesaturation

Step 5

Come back to the city layer and add a mask to it. Change the brush kind to the grunge ones and adjust their settings by pressing F5.

grunge brushes settings

Paint with some different brushes on the areas you want to destroy, mostly the top and sides of the buildings.

masking city with grunge brushes

Step 6

There are some unwanted details on the building windows. Make a new layer (set as Clipping Mask) and use the Clone Tool (S) to remove these details.

unwanted details building windows
cloning building windows

Step 7

Make a new layer, change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:

building dodge and burn new layer

Select the Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 15-20% to darken an edge of the left building (from the viewer), and also give the back building a dirty effect. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:

buildings dodge and burn normal mode
buildings dodge an burn overlay mode

Step 8

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and bring the Saturation value down to -45:

buildings huesaturation

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer and decrease the lightness a little.

buildings curves

On this layer mask, use the both soft and hard black brushes to clear the effect at the sides and the lower part of the buildings.

building curves layer mask
buildings curves result

2. Adding the Scraps

Step 1

Open the scrap image. Select the scrap part using the Magic Wand Tool (W).

select scrap

Place the scrap onto the top of the middle building and use Control-T to rotate it a little. Set this layer under the city one.

adding scrap

Step 2

Duplicate this layer several times and use Control-T to resize them if needed. Then arrange them around the top and sides of the buildings where you've applied the grunge brushes. Try to show the different angles, movements and edges of the scrap part to avoid a uniform look.

adding more scraps

Step 3

Use a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and increase the haze of the scrap part at the side of the highest building to fit the contrast and lightness there.

scraps curves 1

Step 4

Select all the scrap layers and hit Control-G to make a group for them. Change the mode of this group from Pass Through (default group mode) to Normal 100%. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer within this group and change Saturation to -73.

scraps huesaturation

Step 5

Make a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.

scraps curves 2

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the lightness at the lower sides of the scraps because the higher parts get more light than the lower ones.

scraps curves 2 masking

Step 6

Make another Curves adjustment layer and increase the haze.

scraps curves 3

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the hazy effect at the lower edges of the scrap and the one at the side of the highest building.

scraps curves 3 masking

3. Adding the Iron Lines

Step 1

From this step onwards, we're going to be adding more broken, ruined elements to the buildings and setting all of these layers above the city layer but under the sky one.

Open the iron lines image. Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the lines on the ceiling and place them onto the top of the left building. Rotate this part using Control-T.

select iron lines
adding iron lines

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend it with the scrap part.

iron lines masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer many times. Add some to the first lines part and move the rest to the other side of this building, on the top of the middle one. Use a layer mask and rotate them if needed to get the look of a destructed area.

duplicate iron lines

Step 3

Make a group for the lines layers as done with the scrap ones. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Saturation value to -88 to reduce their redness.

iron lines huesaturation

Step 4

Make a Curves adjustment layer to increase the hazy effect for the lines.

iron lines curves

4. Adding the Ruins and Windows

Step 1

Open the ruined building 1 image. Select a part of this image using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L).

select ruin 1

Place this part onto the top of the left building, using Control-T to rotate it to fit the perspective of this building.

adding ruin 1

Step 2

Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and reduce the Saturation value to -89.

ruin 1 huesaturation

Step 3

Create a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and increase the lightness.

ruin 1 curves

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the lightness at the side and the bottom of this part.

ruin 1 curves masking

Step 4

Open the ruined building 2 image. Select the building part using the Magic Wand Tool and place it onto the top of the left building (under the ruined building 1 part).

select ruin 2

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend it with the building facade.

adding ruin 2

Step 5

Duplicate this layer several times and arrange the images over the buildings' facades, and transform them using Control-T. Add a mask to each layer and erase the random details on them to make them appear different.

adding more ruins and windows

Step 6

Grab a part of the ruined building 2 image, place it at the edge of the highest building, and rotate it using Control-T.

select more of ruin 2
adding more ruin 2

Step 7

Select a bigger part from the original image and locate it higher than the first part. Add a mask to this layer and erase the unnecessary details using a soft black brush.

take another part of ruin 2
adding more ruins 2
ruins 2 masking

Step 8

Continue to take other parts from the original one and place them along the building, using the same technique to blend them with the building and other ruined parts.

take more parts from ruin 2
adding and masking ruin 2 parts

Step 9

Make a group for these four layers and change the mode to Normal 100%. Create a Curves adjustment layer to reduce their contrast.

ruins 2 curves 1

Step 10

Make a group for all the layers taken from the ruined building 2 image, including the ones from the four previous steps. Create a Curves adjustment layer within this group to darken the ruined areas. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the effect on the details which are darker than you expected and match their contrast with the environment.

ruins 2 curves 2
ruins 2 curves 2 masking

Step 11

Come back to the ruined building 2 image. Select some of the iron lines and place them above the top of the middle building.

select iron lines from ruin 2
adding ruin 2 lines

Blend the lines with the scrap part using a layer mask.

ruin 2 lines masking

Duplicate this layer and resize it to be smaller. Move these lines to the other side of the building.

duplicate ruin 2 lines

Step 12

Make a group for these two layers. Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change Saturation to -100 to remove the blue cast completely.

ruin 2 lines huesaturation

Step 13

Open the broken windows image. Select two of them using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).

select broken windows

Place them in the facade of the back building and use Control-T to transform them following the perspective of the existing windows there.

adding broken windows

Step 14

Continue to take other windows to add to the buildings' facades. Here is my result for reference:

adding more broken windows

Step 15

Make a group for these windows layers. Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and decrease Saturation to -80:

broken windows huesaturation

Step 16

Use a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness.

broken windows curves 1

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the lightness and haze on the windows which are too bright or hazy compared to the environment.

broken windows curves 1 masking

Step 17

Use another Curves adjustment layer to make some windows darker.

broken windows curves 2

On this layer mask, reduce or remove the effect on the areas you feel are too dark or have too much contrast.

broken windows curves 2 masking

5. Adding the Holes

Step 1

Open the hole 1 image. Drag it onto the facade of the left building using the Move Tool

adding hole 1

Use a layer mask to clear the hard edges and blend it with the facade.

hole 1 masking

Step 2

Duplicate this layer and enlarge it. Place it under the first hole and use a layer mask to delete any unnecessary details.

duplicate hole 1

Step 3

Duplicate this layer again and move it to the middle building, using Control-T to rotate it.

duplicate hole 1 again

Step 4

Make a group for these hole layers. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Saturation value to -87.

holes 1 huesaturation

Step 5

Use a Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the holes on the left building as they look too dark.

holes 1 curves

Step 6

Place the hole 2 image onto the left building facade and use a layer mask to soften the edges.

adding hole 2

Step 7

Duplicate this layer four times and arrange the holes around the buildings' facades. Resize and transform them with Control-T to make them appear different.

duplicate hole 2 four times

Step 8

Group all of these hole layers into a folder. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change Saturation to -100.

holes 2 huesaturation

Step 9

Make a Curves adjustment layer to darken the holes.

holes 2 curves

Step 10

With the holes on the highest building, they look too dark and have too much contrast compared to the facade, so group these into a new folder. Use a Curves adjustment layer to increase the hazy effect.

holes 2 curves 2

Step 11

Drag the hole 3 image onto the top of the left building, and transform it using Control-T. Use a layer mask to make it fade into the facade.

adding hole 3

Step 12

Duplicate this layer and move it to the middle building, above the existing hole.

duplicate hole 3

Step 13

Create a group for these hole layers and use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturate them.

holes 3 huesaturation

Step 14

Create a Curves adjustment layer to darken the holes. On its layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the details which are darker than expected.

holes 3 curves
holes 3 curves masking

6. Creating the Basic Atmosphere

Step 1

Make a Curves adjustment layer on top of all other layers, including the sky one, and decrease the lightness.

whole scene curves 1

On this layer mask, use a soft black brush with the Opacity from 10% to 50% to reduce or remove the dark contrast in the lower part of the city and the building sides to fit the light direction from the sky (from the upper right to the lower left). 

whole scene curves 1 layer mask
whole scene curves 1 result

Step 2

Add another Curves adjustment layer and reduce the lightness again. It's mostly for the sky, however, so erase the rest using its layer mask.

whole scene curves 2
whole scene curves 2 masking

Step 3

Open the sky 2 image and drag it into our working document using the Move Tool. We're going to use it to create some mist.

adding mist

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to clear the sky area on the top of the buildings and leave it visible somewhere at the bottom. Try not to overdo it or make the mist too thick and intense as it would look unnatural. We need only a subtle effect!

mist layer mask
mist result

7. The Final Adjustment

Step 1

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors #2e4657 and #30c7ff. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.

gradient map

Step 2

Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and change the Midtones and Highlights settings to enhance the color of the shadows and the light of the scene.

color balance
color balance result

Step 3

Add a Curves adjustment layer and increase the lightness. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the lower parts and the sides of the scene to create a nice contrast and atmosphere for the whole scene.

curves
curves layer mask
curves result

Step 4

A final detail correction: Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #bbc9bb to paint on the right edge near the highest building to darken it a bit. Set this layer mode to Multiply 100%.

darken a sky part

Congratulations, You're Done!

Here is the result you should get with this tutorial. I hope you've enjoyed it and learned some new techniques. If you have any questions or ideas, feel free to leave them in the comment box below. 

Final city destruction scene
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