Making of 'Loading Dock'
The goal was to have a nice wide screen shot of a loading dock, with a greenish palette. I was given an exact picture (original plate), and asked to extend it and come up with some magic. I decided to go super wide, 5000x1500 pixels wide at 300dpi (Fig.01).
Right away I made a folder to plot my perspective lines and make sure I wouldn't run into any problems as the painting got more complicating. Here I changed the palette as soon as I could, to see where I could take this painting. I used green tints/overlays/layer modes and color adjustments. I blocked in the wide screen areas really quickly, and copy and pasted a section of the photo to the left just for a place holder (Fig.02).
Here, I worked on the left side while trying to figure out what I was going to put there. It was still very early on in the process for me to make any solid decisions. It was more of a playing around stage before I committed (Fig.03).
Now it was time to work on the right side, by adding realistic elements that a loading dock would have. Again, using photos with the lasso tool and square brushes, I blocked in detail very quickly. Nothing here was locked in, as again I like to see where a painting will take me. I also desaturated/color adjusted according to the rest of the painting so that everything fitted together. Adding some haze and clouds also gave more depth to this piece (Fig.04).
This step is where I started making more clear-cut decisions, such as wanting more of an open space. It felt way too cluttered, so I decided to go with another ship coming down a water channel. I quickly blocked in the water channel with a custom water brush that creates ripples for me (Fig.05).
Now I hopped back to the left side, and started making decisions about this side, such as adding more detail while using the perspective lines to make sure that the scale was correct. Here I used a chalk brush, also known as the "dusso" brush, which I love to use for refining details, along with the lasso tool to select areas to get the crisp reaction of the brush (Fig.06).
Here I fixed all my perspective issues. It may be hard to tell from the previous step, but this step was quite tedious but very necessary for me as it assured me no headaches later on in the process. I made sure all the tops of crates, buildings, etc were correctly aligned so that the lighting pass I was going to make later would be good (Fig.07).
This was my first lighting pass, establishing a middle value, along with matching the same intensity throughout the painting. I did this with paint, levels, curves, and color adjustments. I also decided to make a crane that went across the piece to show more depth (Fig.08).
Now this is where the fun started, by adding shadows and painting in the lights. I usually paint in the lights by using a light neutral color, with an overlay layer mode. Step 8 made Step 9 possible, since I went with a neutral value. Adding shadows and a light multiply layer achieves what I was looking for (Fig.09).
I started refining everything, being a render freak that I am. I started making all the decisions here as everything began to come together. To give the areas contrast and help sell the realism, I added lighting to everything, from reflections in the water, to highlights on the rooftop of buildings. Overlapping structures also sell the depth if tied correctly with the right values. I used every trick in the book pretty much to achieve this step. This step to me is called, "the icing on the cake" (Fig.10).
After looking at this painting, I realized my eye kept leaving the frame on the right side. Here I made a compositional call and added a crane on the right side to keep the eye from doing this (Fig.11).