Making of 'Fantasy View of Budapest'

The following article is a short making of "Fantasy View of Budapest" and is most useful for those who already have an intermediate or advanced knowledge of Photoshop. Note that this is not a PS tutorial but a walkthrough of the creative process containing the main steps of my workflow which hopefully inspires other artists.

The concept was inspired by an old game I played when I used to cross one of the bridges of the city. I'd look at the astonishing view and try to imagine different kinds of variations of the landscape in front of me. My illustration is one
of these visions.

1. Creating the base of the image. The major part of the process is slow and requires great attention to details, so you can easily get lost if you're not careful.

Original photo courtesy of Peter Fűzfa.

Two references for the dried out river bed.

The rough base of the image (lower part distorted for correct perspective).

Defining the final look of the river bed. I had to repaint all the rocky parts, because there were missing areas (big grey parts in the previous image) and the topology had to be rebuilt because of Margit Island in the middle of the basin. I used the final color palette here.

Here I refined the buildings and added some new ones to the scene. I got rid of the street lights and separated the background so later on I could simply paste in the new one.

2. Adding atmospheric effects and complementary elements to the scene. This is the part where the the whole of the background becomes a complete image itself. The details - we wouldn't notice seperately, but would miss if they weren't there - are applied in this phase.

The sky and clouds. This sky was composited from three photos, this is why it seems like there are two suns. By adding two major (but not equivalent) lightsources the background got a more exciting look and a feeling of motion at the same time.

Volumetric lights applied by adding rays of light.

Highliting the areas where the lightrays reach the surface of the ground.

Adding atmospheric perspective with a simple bluish 'color layer'. The value of this effect was applied (by masking) depending on the distance of certain objects.

First layer of fog. This was painted with a brush that leaves a cloud-like or smoke-like mark on the 'canvas'.

Second layer of fog.This is a duplicate of the first layer of fog with a bit of a blur added to it. This softens the whole 'fog effect' in certain areas.

Adding smoke here and there may hardly be recognizable in this phase, yet it enriches the image and gives the whole scene a more realistic look.

A minimal amount of color correction is applied making the foreground darker, thus emphasizing depth.

I painted the air-balloon ships, lights, and their smoke trails on a separate layer. After that I scaled the layer down and aligned the docks to the riverbank.

Final step: atmospheric perspective applied to the all the recently pasted elements.

Final resolution closeups (the original working resolution was even larger)

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