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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.
Times Square, the culmination of four years of my life to create this image that measures 5 feet high by 25 feet wide; a total of over 5000 images with a cumulative total of over 500,000 layers utilizing every feature of Photoshop. In fact, four different versions of Photoshop. It went through the alpha and beta stages of two of the different versions. During the process I learned a lot of techniques.
Now people ask me, "Why don't you just take a photograph?" "Why you spend all that time to create this thing?" Well, for one thing, I am not a photographer. And secondly, it's not the image itself that's important to me. It's not the destination; it's the journey. It's the challenge of creating this piece. Of how to make that glass look like glass; how to make that metal look like metal, how to make that asphalt look like asphalt. That's the challenge. Having a picture of it, okay, so it's done. But how do I create that? That's what motivates me to create my pieces.
In that process I learned all these techniques which I pass on to you. Now it's that challenge that's so important to me. That's what you see in all of my different paintings. It's the challenge that I was faced with at a time. Another reason why not take a photograph? Well, for one thing any photograph you've ever seen of Times Square, the buildings way off in the background are basically silhouettes with little pins of light for their windows. Even with HDR you wouldn't be able to get the kind of detail that I've gotten in this image, because this is more like being there.
Whatever your eye looks, it's going to come into focus. So whether you're looking into this person right here crossing the street or this guy standing right here in front of you, or you look into that window there, you could see the paintings that are hanging on the wall. Even more so, you go all the way down to the end of Seventh Avenue you can actually see the leaves on the trees in Central Park way back there. It's all in focus. Every single element in here was created from scratch, using only the tools in Photoshop. All the people here are all friends and family.
My son, my daughter, my wife, myself, they're all friends and family throughout this whole thing, where I've captured everybody's soul as best I could, by having them pose in certain situations and putting them in certain situations that tells a story. The story might be personal to me but it tells a story and it gives life to the scene, rather than just people standing there or people who are faceless and meaningless. No, all these people mean something. All the steps that I went though in this, all that learning process, it's important for me.
It's important for you because I then pass on all these skills. All this knowledge that I've gotten from this, I pass it on to you, in the hopes that you will be inspired to then go out there and take these tools and take what's ever in your imagination and create a fantastic piece that other people will enjoy looking at. There's one thing something that happens to me as a teacher, is that I do send out all these skills to people and I get all these emails of people saying, "Look what I did with what I learned from you." And that's a very tremendous reward for me. They know that I spent a lot of time trying to figure something out and then somebody else was able to take that and take a lot of time to create something on their own, and take it a step further, which is even more important.
Throughout this whole series I am going to say to you, look at what I've done, all right. What's important is not what I did but how I did it, because it's those techniques that are important. It's not the end result, my end result, but how I got to that end result. Because a slight change here and there, a slight change in color or mode, will give you a totally different effect. This is where you come in. To take that inspiration that I've given you and then challenge yourself to come up with some incredible image, whether you're the only one who is going to see it or the world is going to see it.
But I am hoping that it's going to inspire you to take that initiative to go in there, explore the program, go in the there and find all those little details because Photoshop has so many tools, so many filters, so many things that are available to you. And why are they there? They're not there just to fill up space, though most people only use a small fraction of what Photoshop has to offer. But there is a lot there. So now I am hoping to inspire you with, with these piece, is that you're going to go in there and look at all those tools. Push that button and see what it does. You face with the dialog box, enter 5, 10, -50, whatever, and see what it does.
You would be surprised with some of those happy accidents that are come through from that. And it allows you to get creative. So this was a labor of love for me. This isn't work. To me, this was a labor of love. I spent 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for four years. Of course, not all the time, I did have to make a living. Once in a while I had to go places. But still it was a tremendous amount of time, which I enjoyed because this wasn't work. This was playing. And you should look at your work the same way.
Look at it as play. If you look at this as play, then you'll wake up in the morning, you can't wait to get to work, because it's something you enjoy doing. And Photoshop gives you this tremendous palette of tools that allow you to take anything you can imagine and bring it to life. So let's get into this program. Let's see what it can do. Let's see what it can offer you so that you can take your imagination and go way beyond anything you ever imagined.
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