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Take a virtual journey to the bustling streets of New York in Bert Monroy: The Making of Times Square. Digital painter Bert Monroy reveals how he created the minute details that build the impressive 108,000 x 21,600 pixels, 25-feet wide photorealistic portrait of this iconic intersection.
In this installment, The Tools, Bert demonstrates how he uses the brushes, filters, and textures in Photoshop to create everything from the trees in Central Park to the billboards on Broadway, and shares his techniques for keeping his project organized with layers and groups. He also touches on the importance of channels and channel calculations, and how the evolution of the tools in Photoshop from CS3 to CS5 shaped his work.
Some elements of Times Square might seem simple but require many, many different steps to make them look real. I'm going to zoom in on one such item, which is right down here underground, a manhole cover. Now we are looking at a low-res version of this, so it worked very quickly on this machine. But I do have open in the background the actual file of that, the manhole cover. This is what it looks like. Now if you look at it closely, you see that there are all kinds of things going on. You see the bumps. You see the depths of them, and you see little highlights from the different streetlights all over the place, reflection of the signs up above, and then these reflections from the Toys"R"Us buildings, and so on.
So, all these little edges need a special type of attention and selection to be able to apply those effects. So let's see how those guys were created. Right here I have a series of paths for the manhole cover right there. Now these were created in Illustrator, and the tutorials on Illustrator will show you how exactly this was created. But here we have the paths. I brought them in as straight paths, and right here I am going to go in there and scrunch them down. I am going to go in there and do a little scale down like that, so it starts to look like it is underground there.
I am just going to make it a little bigger here, just like that, and let's move it up into the middle. So there we have it. Make that happen. And now the paths are all fitting into the perspective of the scene, so it's down on the ground we are looking down onto it. Now I need to separate some of these because they are going to be handled separately. So I am going to go in here and I am going to select certain paths. I'll select these outer ones, these ones that form the outside frame, and these two that form the inner part of the frame, and I am going to cut those. I'm just going to go in there and say Cut.
I am going to go to my paths and create a new path here and paste them into there. Now they will paste in position, so they are in register with the rest of the paths. So we will call this one 'outer edges'. Going back to this, I am going to select these particular paths that are separate from the rest, which are these little holes, these little vents in the manhole cover. So I am going to select every one of these, and there is quite a few of those, and we will just make sure we get them all. Go in there, and let's select this one, and we have got one more here and one more, and then we just look around to make sure we have them all and yes, we do.
So I am going to go ahead and cut those from the main set. Create a new path, and we will call this one 'holes' and paste. So now we have the three sets of paths that are going to make up our manhole cover. So we are going to start off with these outer edges. I am going to go into my Layers and in Layers here, I am going to create a series of layers.
So this will be the outer ring. That's the furthest ring out. It helps to spell it right, so let's just do that. There you go, outer ring. Now I am going to select this one way out here, and I have got this gray. Let's pick a slightly darker gray right there like that, and I am going to go ahead and fill that path in that layer. Now since I have that path selected, the others are not being affected, just that one. Then I am going to go in there and pick this ring right here, right inside there, which you can see that these guys are inside of it.
So I am going to go in there and create another layer, and we are going to say that this is the indent, right? This is where the actual hole is. So I am going to click OK. Let's reverse these so we keep that gray, and we will make this a much darker gray, like that. And in this layer here, I am going to fill that next path with that tone, and you can see there it's that darker tone inside. Now I am going to pick this ring here. This is another ring on the outside. Let's go back to light gray and a new layer, which we call inner ring.
We will go ahead and fill that layer with that. Go to our paths and fill it. Now I am going to select this one, this one here which I am going to make a selection, and then let's turn off our paths and delete it from that inner ring layer. Now I deleted those paths. That was crucial because if the paths were on and I hit that Delete key, the paths would have disappeared. But now it is taking away the center part of that ring right there.
So now we can deselect, and we have another layer which will be the center ring. Go to our path, and we see that here is our center ring right here. So we are going to select that, and in that layer we are going to go ahead and fill it. I am going to select this center part here, turn that into a selection like before, deselect, and delete that from that center part. So now we have all the rings that make up the outside area of our manhole cover.
Now comes that crucial inside part right there. So now we have that same gray. I am going to fill this entire thing with this path. So I am going to create another layer. We will call this design, and we will go ahead and fill that path with that. Now we have all the little shapes inside. And then finally, we need the little holes. So, I will create one more layer, and we will call it the 'holes', and we take the path that makes up the holes and we switch this to black and white and fill that with the black.
So now we have the little holes. Now we have the basic shapes for our manhole cover all completed. Now we have to give this a little dimension. So now there are separate layers, which makes it really easy to go in there and do anything that we need to do to this. I am going to go in there, and the first thing I am going to do is go to my outer ring and give it a layer style, give it a little Bevel and Emboss, just a tiny Bevel and Emboss which gives me this little highlight and shadow right in the edge there, just like that. I am going to increase the depth, so I get a really strong kind of a tone. There we see it.
All right, we can even make it a little smaller. Bring it down to about a 3. So we just get this little tiny edge in there. And if we want, we can start adding some of the color. So I can go in there and maybe give this a nice little yellow tone along that edge. There we can see it. Click OK. If you really want to see out this looks, let's go ahead and say OK and let's invert our background, make it black. So now we can start to see all the little highlights and shadows and so on in there. Or since we do want to be able to see the shadows here, let's just make to say kind of a bluish tone.
Let's go in there and fill that with a blue. There! Now we can see our little shadow in there as well. It helps to add a color to our background, which is going to make it easy to see the elements that we are creating and see all the different parts like the little shadow in there. So now that I have that effect, I am going to apply that to the inner ring. So I am going to hold down Option--Alt on a PC--and drag the little fx up to the inner ring, which is going to apply that same effect to the inner ring, as you can see there. I am going to then give it to the center ring.
I am going to drag that into there. Now, each one of the rings has that same effect being applied to it. Now comes this area here. Now this is going to require a little more work because this is going to pick up all those little highlights that we saw before, all these things that make up the metal on top here. So I am going to go into the design area, and I am going to do quite a few things to this. First of all, I am going to give it some layer styles. I am going to give it a little Bevel and Emboss, except this time it's going to be a little bit different because I am going to just kind of soften this up a little bit. Let's bring this down and make the size smaller. Let's bring it down to about 2, so we just get that little edge in there.
I am going to give it a little drop shadow as well. Now the drop shadow is giving it that depth. Instead of actually making it a shadow, it looks like it has got some depth to it. Now that I have got that, I might increase the distance just a little bit so they look like they are a little deeper, not too much because I don't want to see that separation. I just wanted to give it a little depth in there like that. That's good. Click OK and we are getting the beginnings of this. Now I might want to move to design over down behind the inner ring. There you can see now the inner ring came out on top. Now we need to accent all those little areas to add the little highlights that we wanted.
That requires a special kind of a mask. That requires an alpha channel. So what I am going to do is I am going to turn the designs into a selection by Command+Clicking, Ctrl+Clicking on the preview icon, which turns them into a selection like that. I am going to send that selection to an alpha channel. So I go over here and say Save Selection, and we will call it design. I am going to save it again. This one we will call edge.
I can now deselect it. Going over to my channels, we see that we have the two alpha channels. They are exactly the same because they were both made from the same selection. Now the edge, that's that little edge we are going to see right in there. So what I am going to do, I want it to be a little soft. I am going to go in there and blur it just a little bit, so I'll give it a little Gaussian Blur, just enough to make it soft, not so hard, just a little softening to it, right there, about like that. That looks good, nice and soft. Click OK.
Now I want to see the other channels, so I am going to turn on the eye for the other channel. Now what we are seeing here is a Quick Mask mode. It goes into red, which really doesn't let us see the difference between these two. So what I am going to do is I am going to double-click on the edge channel, which is the one I am going to manipulate, and that brings me up with the Channel Options. Now this has nothing to do with the way the channel is going to operate. It simply deals with how you see it when other channels are turned on. The color right now indicates the Masked Area, the area that's black, the Selected Area, the area that's white or a Spot Color.
This case we are going to leave it at Masked Area. We can also change the name here just like it was changed to the name of the panel. But the color, that's what we are going to change. We are going to change that to a blue color. That's going to be a contrast against the red there. I am going to bring the Opacity for it up to about 80% and still the Masked Area, click OK, and now we can see the difference between the two. We see it has a little purple haze right in there. So what I am going to do is I am going to take that edge, with my Move tool, I am going to move it. I don't want to move design because design is in register with the rest of the manhole cover.
So I just want to deal with the edge. So I am going to move it over to the right. I am hitting my cursor keys a little bit to the right and down, and you can see the area that's being exposed right there. See? That's the area I want to affect on this side. Now that I have that, that little movement and that overlap, I am going to come over here to Image and go Calculations. And in Calculations I am going to take the sources, and which source make a difference. So if I put the design up here, you can see something happened right off the back.
I want to go in there and subtract one from the other, and you can see that that's giving me an edge on the outside. I want that edge on the inside, so I am going to put the edge on top and the design for source 2, and there you can see that we are now exposing the edge that I want. Now keep in mind that an alpha channel is a mask to which you apply effects to your image: filters, colorizations whatever it is you want to do. It is being done through a specialized selection where white is exposing, black is protecting, and the level of gray is the level of exposure.
So now we see that those edges are now being exposed. I send the information over to a new channel. I can make it a selection or a completely new document. But in this case we will just send to a new channel. Click OK. There is our channel, which I am going to name right in here and call it the left edge. I am now going to go back and look at that channel again and turn on this one again, and I am going to move it in the opposite direction. I am going to come over in this direction here, exposing that side of my design.
Again, I go into my Calculations, where I have the previous settings and I'll send it to a new channel, which I now call this channel the right edge. Now that I have my channels, I can go back to the RGB layer, and here I can now start to apply my effects. So I will go in there and load the channel for the left edge right here like this, and now in a whole new layer on top of this, I will pick up say a reddish tone. And I can very loosely paint right into these areas here, and you can see that I am picking up those little red edges just where I want them, right on top.
I come over to this side and I will load the other channel, the right edge, and I could pick a different color. Let's say we pick a blue. And I will even bring down the Opacity this time to about a 50%, and you can see that I am adding a little blue just to those little edges of my designs. If we pull back, of course I am only working in little area there, but you can see how you start to develop a sense of the edges picking up the light, whereas the other sides do not. When the whole thing is done, I can easily go in there and add an overall glow to the entire thing. By going in there and creating another layer on top here, this one, we will just say glow.
We will create this one as a glow. I will just pick up a yellow color, nice yellow like that, and a large paintbrush, and I just throw a street right across here like that, and we make sure that the holes are on top of all this. So we take those holes and put them on top, because there should be no color inside of those. So I am going to take that yellow that I just created and possibly even make a mask for it. So what I will do is I will just make a mask, which is going to soften the whole thing up, and I am going to go in there and I am going to duplicate that because I am going to want it for something else.
So I am going to have two of them. Let's turn one off for now. This one I am going to take that original path. There's my path. So I am going to take the path for the design and turn into a selection. Now that I have that selected, I come back to my layers. In that layer I am going to say give it a mask, and now you can see that we are seeing it only inside of that area there. Then the second yellow glow, this one here, I am going to go back to those paths and I am going to make the inner selection right in here, this inner ring right there, I am going to make that a selection, and then go back to that yellow guy and say give that a mask.
Now I am going to put this one behind the design right here inside the indent, and I am going to lower the opacity for that one quite a bit. So now I've just got a little soft hint of the yellow on the lower levels and then the bright yellow on the top level. So you can see here how many different facets of Photoshop went in to play to create this effect. There were layers styles, there were alpha channels, and layer masks being applied to create the final effect which we once again looked at it here. I took my time to create it right, and you can see that all of these little subtle tones and colors have been applied to all the different ridges, giving it that 3-dimensional look of a real manhole cover.
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