When defining the city, I moved quickly to determine its size and how the various buildings were going to interact with each other.
Then I took various buildings from some famous city skylines, placed them in order to meet the global scale and corrected the colours to get the right tone between the various elements. To create areas lightened by the sun, I duplicated the level, greatly increased the contrast of it and turned it on yellow/red. In screen mode, I then fused it with the original, regulating its intensity, and then I hide the shadow areas with a level mask.
For the central building, I joined several skyscrapers together to create a huge palace, rich in detail. To do this, I mixed together some photographic references, redesigning them were needed. I also made use of textures from the Total Textures collection by 3DTotal, which I added to the drawn parts of the image. These added elements help to give an overall sense of "completeness" and make the drawn parts seem more real when the matte painting is resized (Fig.06)
The final phase, which occupied a lot of time, was where I added details to the matte painting. I did the last fixes, cleaned up the levels and added elements such as small lights, fog, haze, spaceships, seagulls etc. I created the ship with the bin and the lantern in 3ds Max, because it takes less time create them with 3D than looking for lots of references.
As the final step, I added the fog (Fig.07). I created a simple process using the filter "clouds" in Photoshop and by eliminating the black areas.
I always try to have a suitable number of levels for working; not too many (which risks overloading the file) and not too few.
To conclude the work, I collapsed the levels, added the glow of the sun and a little light warp of a few pixels in the contour of skyscrapers (especially the part in shadow).
I then rechecked the various elements, looking to see if all the shadows were matching, if the light was coherent, if the scale of the elements was right, if I had a good depth and if there were any mistakes or details that needed adding.
And here's the final image (Fig.08).