Steaming Happy – by Richard Keys
This has been a lot of hard work, over two days, a lot of fun, a lot of frustration – and you know what? I am a happy bunny. Photoshop is definitely required for this kind of exercise, it can’t be done in Lightroom. Creating art with multiple images, converting to PNG, free transform, layer mask, warping, hiding the layer mask and then revealing with the paint brush – its something that I am not very skilled at and find frustrating. However, I have done it. I’ve read magazines, watched YouTube tutorials, and here is the final result after around 17 hours of work.
Working with layers, moving them, putting them in the right place is something that I have improved at, as has using the background eraser tool so that I can blend layers into each other, such as the train and the bridge coming out of the bottle.
Photos for first draft
Step one involved a free transform of the train (above), the quick selection tool and eraser. I created a larger canvas so that I could rotate the train so that it pointed slightly upwards. My initial plan was to create a scene where it was leaving the tracks and beginning to fly. The flame involved – menu select > colour range, then the add to selection and mousing over the desired colours, messing around with the fuzziness so that I got the edge that I wanted, then take away from desired colours so that I could eliminate the background. Once I had got the flames I tidied up the background with the eraser, saved as a png, then copied the png into the train picture. Free transform, warp, persective, and placed them where I wanted them at the front of the train. The flowers were done via the same process.
This morning I got my watercolour pencils out, and drew the viaduct, and photographed it (along with the bottle). I processed them in Lightroom using the adjustment brush tool, increased the exposure and the whites to maximum, sent them over to Photoshop, quick selection tool, delete the background, and then save as png files, and copied them into the first draft. The background eraser again was useful, and I reduced the hardness of the brush, so that I could slowly brush them into the bottle.
Photos for second draft
The sky was the more complicated part because it involved using the layer mask. In the first layer I changed the curves because I wanted a little contrast in the clouds, once I had finished this I pressed Ctrl J – to copy the layer. Then dragged the mask into the rubbish bin and created a new mask for hue and saturation. I love the colours. Following this I tried to use a brightness and contrast mask, but it didn’t work out.
The flames look out of place and their lines are too sharp, so I decide to tidy them up. I have tried to use the Photoshop render clouds filter on a previous occasion and I did not like the result. The process is – menu layer > new > layer > then press shift f5 to create a fill layer, change the contents drop down to 50% grey and set the opacity to 50%, press ok.
**Go to the menu filter > render > clouds. Menu edit > free transform, you can now change the profile, size and shape of the rendered clouds so they are in the position that you would like them. However, if you now right-click on the render clouds you are given other options, so that you can warp, distort and change perspective.
Next its menu layer > layer mask > hide all – and this means that you can now use the white paint brush to slowly paint in the clouds where you want them. It doesn’t really create clouds, but I have seen others use it to add mist to landscape photos with very good effect.
Photos for third draft
The clouds didn’t work for me (yet again) so I opened up a photo of a steam train, cloned the sign out, erased the background, so that all I had left was steam, then converted to png, and copied it into draft two. Then instead of render clouds, I used the same process (from **above) but with the steam. Brushing it back in took a while but it was worth it. I managed to reduce the harsh lines of the flames, and have the thicker part of the steam at the front of the train. I also cloned out the white line between the train and the viaduct, and spot healed marks on the neck of the bottle.
The sky is very grainy and I would prefer it to be smooth. I went to menu filter noise > reduce noise, and in the drop down I changed the strength to ten and the reduce colour noise to 56%, returned back to the menu filter > blur > blur more, and then brushed that over the sky layer. I then repeated the filter blur process. The file has been saved as a psd so that I can go back and change any part of this piece of art in the future, but have also also saved it as a JPEG. Before saving a creative piece of work that has layers as a JPEG, you need to go to – menu layers > flatten image and then ctrl alt shift and s to save for web (save for web embeds the colour profile).
Steaming Happy by Richard Keys