At this point I feel that I should go ahead and include the ship before I get too far along with the rest of the painting. I add in some bright yellow and orange hues and then put a Color Dodge layer on top of that to get the glow from the rocket boosters using the airbrush. The fiery exhaust will trail off into smoke (Fig.04).
Having just one single ship is a little boring, so I add in another in the middle ground, trying to work it in so that it leads the viewer's eye up towards the other ship. I like how the dark shape of the second ship is silhouetted against fire trail of the first. For interest I add in some pieces breaking off; dark shapes against the bright exhaust trail (Fig.05).
In this step I'm refining the drawing and adding in texture bits here and there for interest, shaping the rocks and pulling everything together. I copy and paste the smoke from the first rocket onto another layer and use the Smudge tool with a textured brush to blend the layer into a grainy smoke effect (Fig.06).
I've added in some more atmospheric perspective at the top of the piece with the airbrush to push that area back a bit and give it some distance. Since the two largest rocks are in the foreground, I want to make the edges of their shapes as tight as possible. I use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the silhouette as best as I can and paint inside the selection to keep the overall shape clean and crisp (Fig.07).
The piece is coming along but it lacks that bit of urgency and excitement I was hoping for. I figure it might be cool to have the lava actually spewing up from the cracks in the earth, and maybe one of the falling rocks clipped one of the wings on the bigger spacecraft - will they still be able to make it out? Hopefully! After a few color and level adjustments, I think I'm ready to call it done as a speed painting. There are a few things I would like to change should I decide to take the piece further; for example, the bigger ship, unfortunately, somehow ended up right in the middle of the page. Other than that I think the piece reads well enough and echoes the feeling of the original topic (Fig.08).
Thanks for looking and reading through this tutorial!
To see more by Justin Albers, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 4
and Digital Art Masters: Volume 7