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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.
The masking power of the clipping group is something that's essential in creating many of the pieces in Times Square. I'm going to zoom in real close here on this little marquee, and this area here is what I want to talk about right now. Now the clipping group is just using the base layer of a group as a mask for the layers above it. If we look at another file--let's just look at a simple lamppost here-- this lamppost, if we look at the layers, you'll see that there are quite a few clipping groups throughout this. And when we start zooming down here, you see here is one right here. Here is another right there.
The clipping group as you can see is indicated by one layer has an underline and the layers above it are indented with a little arrow pointing down, meaning that this layer is being clipped by this layer. In some cases, you'll see that there are multiple layers like right here--in some cases even more. Here are three. So you can see that there is quite a few clipping groups all through this entire image right here. So let's look exactly at how this works. I have here a file. I am going to create a layer. Here is one layer. And in this layer I am going to create a circle like this, which we'll just fill with a red color.
On top of that, I'll create another layer. In this layer I'll create another circle going this way, and we'll fill it with a green color, and then a third layer, where I'll create a little square like so, and we'll fill it with a blue color. So there are three distinct layers. Each one has its own element. Now, what I am going to do is use the transparency information of this base layer--that's this area here--as a mask for the layers above it. So we can see that the layers above it are extending beyond the boundaries of that red ellipse.
To create the clipping group, you see the little hand going up and down through the Layers panel right there. I am going to simply hold down the Option button--which would be the Alt on the PC--and you'll see that when the cursor now goes between two layers it changes, meaning it's about to do something different. If I click right here now, you'll notice that the green layer became indented with the arrow pointing down, to this one, which is now underlined, meaning this one is being clipped by that one. I'll come up here and do the same. Both of these layers are being clipped by the base layer. They are still individual layers, so I can go in there and move them around and do anything I want to them.
Let's say Auto select layer here, so we can just grab them. And there you can see that this one is moving around and this one is moving around. I can do thing to these layers, like I can take the green layer here and give it a drop shadow off to the side there, extend the Distance a bit just like that. I can take the blue layer and reduce its opacity. And you see that they are still individual layers that I am doing things to. Now if I do something to the base layer it will affect all the others. So if I went in here and reduced the Opacity of the base layer, you see that all the layers are becoming transparent, whereas in the case of the blue, it was working independently, but since this is the base layer, it is affecting all of them.
If I give the base layer a Bevel and Emboss, increase the Depth and the Size, you see that the Highlights and Shadows are affecting all the layers, but they are still individual layers, so I move them around within that space. If I want to take something out of that group, I simply do Option+Click between them again and the clip is broken. So now let's see how this applies to other images. Right here we see the file for the marquee itself.
There is a marquee with the little manga characters in it, and you can see that there are quite a few layers that make it up. Now right here is the clipping group I want to discuss. Now I am going to start with a fresh file that has everything flattened already, and here we see it. In the file before, you saw that the manga characters seem to be enclosed inside little tiny screens, little tiny bulbs, which is the way that sign is made up. It's made up of many, many little tiny bulbs that light up, creating the pictures on a screen that constantly change. So I am going to create that effect here.
I'm going to zoom in to this little area right in here just to get a little closer. I am going to create a little tiny circle right there like that. I am going to fill that circle with the black. So now, I am going to turn off all the layers except for that one that has that little circle, and I am going to select this little area right here, real close, like so. I am going to make a pattern out of that. Now when you make a pattern out of something, like in this particular case, this space here added to this space will tell you how close this circle would be to its neighbors on top and bottom.
The space on these sides, here and here, will tell you how closer it will be to its neighbors on the left and right. So I am going to go in there and say Define Pattern. Now since I have transparency, the space between the little dots will be transparent. So now that I've done that, I can throw it away. I've got a pattern. So what will happen now is I am going to go in here and let's turn everybody back on. Right here I have a layer that has just the area of the screen. So right above that in this layer, I am going to fill that layer with the pattern I just created, right there. There are all the little dots.
Now what I am going to do is I want to see those dots only inside this area here. So what I am going to do is I am going to turn this layer into a selection, which is that black area where the screen will fit, and I am going to go to this layer where it has my little dots and say give it a layer mask. So now we are seeing the dots only inside that area. The rest of the area is in black, and there are other tutorials where I explained the layer mask, but here you see that we've created the layer mask, so we only see the bulbs inside the live area.
So now that we have that--I'm going to get in closer--we see that the little characters here, we're seeing them all the way through, because of the fact that they are right now just as one big file here. So what I am going to do--and there we see them again; I had that one layer turned on, just one solid image. So what I am going to do is I am going to make a clipping group out of this layer. Now when we go to look at it, we see that these are only the dots and there are the manga characters on top. So what I am going to do it is I am going to turn that into a clipping group right here, and now we see that we're seeing the manga characters only through the little dots. When we turn everybody else back on, we see that the dots are what's showing our image right through it.
Now these are much larger than the actual ones, which I did there, which are very tiny. I made them larger just so we can see the effect and so on. If I get in real close on this, you will see that the dots are real tiny little dots, very similar to the big dots that I created for that pattern. But you see how this one layer right here has a layer mask to confine it into the area of the marquee and then that is acting as a clipping group, another type of mask, for the images that we're seen through the little tiny bulbs.
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