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3.1 Project Planning

Now it’s time to start applying some of those techniques we’ve learned about in our very own fantasy scene. Before we do, we need to plan things out carefully. In this lesson we will discuss the types of things that need to be considered before launching off on our fantasy image adventure.

3.1 Project Planning

Hello everybody. Welcome back to Advanced Photoshop Techniques. We are now starting out on chapter number three where we really start to dig into this new project. We are finished with the tools and techniques overview, and in this chapter, we want to apply a lot of those tools and techniques to an actual project. So this is lesson 3.1 called project planning. Before I start any type of project like this I always like to flesh out the concept that I have, and that always means beginning with a sketch. Now I realize not everybody is completely comfortable trying to sketch, especially digitally, a lot of people find that very awkward, but I assure you it is very important to at least attempt it. You don't have to show your sketches to anybody, but it's very important that you are able to at this stage, early on, to go through and evaluate all your ideas and try to put them on to a piece of paper or, shall I say, of pixel canvas. So that you can figure things out and start encountering some of the problems that you don't foresee just by having it as sort of a soft idea within your head. And by encountering these problems during the sketching process, you can solve them easier than once you get halfway down the production of it and find out that things really aren't working. To begin with I've got a blank piece of canvas here and I have mine at an image size of 2000 pixels by 1125 pixels at a resolution of merely 72. I chose this size because it is a 16 by 9 aspect ratio which is what movies are filmed in and that happens to be very attractive to me. I like the cinemagraphic feel of a nice wide 16 by 9 ratio piece of art. So, I've got a very blank background here. I usually do not start with a white background. I always fill it with a 50% grey. So go to Edit > Fill, choose 50% Grey, and start working from there. I will add a new layer, and grab my brush tool. I do happen to use a pressure sensitive Wacom tablet, which means it's very comfortable and easy for me to start sketching things out. To do any sketching, either with or a Wacom tablet, I do recommend finding the right brush that's comfortable for you to sketch with. And if you grab the brush tool, and instead of going to the brush presets, go up here to the top, there's a tool presets menu. And in here, you'll find some really good presets when it comes to sketching and just drawing things out rather quickly. The 2b pencil is a favorite of many people. I would also encourage you to open up the little gear icon. And there's some in here that's very good, like the artist's brushes and the pencil brushes. You can apen those, and you can see it adds a whole library of different pencils and brushes for you to use to sketch with. Find one that works really well for you. The next thing that I really like to do is to establish sort of a ground plane. This helps me figure out where I'm going to put the horizon, and it helps me to keep things visually in perspective. There's an easy way to do that in Photoshop, and that's with the vanishing point filter. Notice I've got an empty layer here. I'm going to Filter > Vanishing Point. And the way to use this is to start just by drawing a plane that appears to be in perspective, a type of ground plane. And then you can expand out the sides of it ,and even pull in those back corners, so it creates more of a perspective type of appearance. And then you get it to a point that you like the way it looks. Increase the grid size, so that I can see the grid a little bit better. Maybe even pull out on these corners so it's even more in perspective. When you get a perspective grid plane that you're happy with, be sure to click on this Options box up here and say Render Grids to Photoshop, and click OK. And you have this grid, it's hard to see, over this gray background. Now in order for you to see it, let's just duplicate it several times. I'm gonna hold down Ctrl and hit J three or four times. Now we're starting to be able to see it, but we need to combine all those together so I'm gonna grab all of those and hit Ctrl or Cmd+E. This is my grid plane, this is just gonna help me establish where I want certain elements within our scene, which by the way, also helps figure out where I'm going to put the horizon. Now I do greatly encourage you to use the rule of thirds to at least try to set up your composition. I'm not saying it absolutely needs to follow every single rule of thirds in every composition, but it's usually a good guideline to work with. Now I'm doing this by having the crop tool set to rule of thirds, and I'm not actually cropping it at this point. I'm going to hit Ctrl+R to get my rulers up, so I can just pull out guide lines that's going to match those rule of third guides. And then I'll even cancel the cropping. My guide lines are still there. So I want my horizon line probably to be just above this initial guide line here. This rule of third guide lines, I'm gonna bring that grid plane down a little bit, and then draw in a horizon. Now my main concept for this piece is that it's this giant tortoise. It's carrying the city on its back, poking up, sort of wandering through the clouds way up high in the sky. I like that imagery, I think it's something that's really interesting to look at, and that's my basic idea here. So I will sketch in a tortoise layer. I'm not too concerned about how his feet look. Cuz I recognize that the majority of his lower portion is gonna be concealed by the clouds. And my thought is the tortoise and the city that's on top of it is going to make up the mid-ground of this image. So, that's going to be the focal point. That's going to be the major action and focus of this composition but just because we have a middle ground doesn't mean we have to neglect the foreground and the background. Just keep that in mind. But for now let's sketch in our city. There we go. That looks something good like that. Now, we discussed the backgrounds before. I think if I put some mountains back here, sort of poking through the clouds. It would really help to indicate what the setting is for for this scene. And that establishes what the background's going to be, but then I need to consider, what do I want in the foreground here? I could put either a large mountain top here, which might kind of pull focus away. I definitely wanna have some clouds up in here, and the clouds that I have in the foreground won't necessarily be much larger and better defined. But my thought was, what if I had a plane there flying in to land at an airport in this city? Then if I had one plane, I should probably have had another one, too, so it doesn't look completely out of place. Now at this point I really liked that I've established the major compositional elements. What I often do here is then start thinking about the light source. And in this case I put a sun back over here, because I thought what if the sun was rising or possibly setting, and creating some really nice warm glows along this cloud surface. In the back of the tortoise, in the cities, in the mountains, and just added some really beautiful lighting affects in there. And in thinking about that, once I have a strong light source established, I need to figure out where the light lines are going so I know where to place shadows. And just roughly like that I created some straight lines going from the center of the light source to various edges within the composition. Because that's going to help me keep my shadows under control, and know where the lit edges of the objects are and the edges that are in self shadows. Before I worry too much about placing even roughed in sketched shadows, I wanted to have some type of representation of the clouds. So yet, another new layer and in this case I'm gonna grab my regular Brush tool. Get my Brush Panel open again. I'm looking for my Chalk Brush. Either the Chalk 36 or 44, let's start with the 36. Back over to the Brush area here. Increase my spacing, shaped dynamics. I wanna have a size jitter turned on. Angle Jitter turned on, add some Scattering to it, and Transfer, I'll put the opacity jitter. Or if you're using a tablet, go to Pen Pressure so the opacity of the brush becomes lighter with the various pressures that you apply to it. Pull down the opacity of the brush a little. And with this, just rough in some of those cloud areas. Now I'm going to want a lighter color here. This isn't gonna be perfect but it's at least going to create a good semblance of what those clouds are probably going to look like. And as I paint in the foreground with it I want to have the larger brush size. And when I paint in the background, I'll reduce that brush size so it's tighter together and looks like it's further away. So now I want to start dealing with some of those shadows, and the lighting effects that we would see from this light source. I love to do that by using the dodge and burn tools, on an empty, well, I shouldn't say empty layer, I should say on its own dodge and burn layer. Because I like to go and fill this with 50% gray. Set it to overlay, so you can't even see the gray areas, and then I can use those dodge and burn tools to create the shadows and the highlight areas. I always start with the burn, set the mid tones in a low percentage, underneath 10%, and start painting in shadow areas. This is just going to start exploring some depth and lighting elements within the scene. This is not a final rendering. Again, we're just sketching things through here and to do the highlights you do it the opposite way. You use the dodge but again with a low exposure. Things are shaping up pretty well here. The last thing I wanted to do was just add a very slight lighting effect coming from that light source. I'm gonna hide my light lines, grab my gradient tool, use the radio gradient from foreground to transparent, and make sure my foreground color matches what that sun is. And just very lightly draw a radial gradient. Pull down the visibility of it by setting it to Overlay, and even reduce the opacity a bit. I'm really happy with the way this sketch turned out. I think I've worked through and explored several elements within this project and I'm about ready to get started. Now I encourage you to create you're own sketch to go through this, but if you don't have the time or the ability to do that, this is available in the course files and you're welcome to use mine. That brings lesson 3.1 to a close on the project planning. Next up, lesson 3.2, where we establish the clouds in the sky area.

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