Adding detail is more of the same. A friend of mine is one of the top matte painters in the business and I asked him once how he achieved a particular effect. I thought there might have been an easier way than laying the finished textures in one plane at a time, but when he answered "No, it's just tedious" it made me realize that most of the time you just have to work through it. So the details are made by first getting the larger tones to work, then modeling the smaller details, then adding the texture. One roof at a time; one section at a time; one building at a time (Fig.07).
I've included a few of the hundreds of paths I use to get the drawing right on all the details. For all the vertical and horizontal "sections" of the ship I build scores of paths that I use as masks, selections or strokable paths. There isn't just one technique employed. I use anything and everything I can to achieve the effect, adding dozens of layers with many different blend modes until it has a complex visual look (Fig.08).
I also use the paths to check my perspective. Here I've got them running to the vanishing point for the village buildings on the left side of the image. If there is a "secret" to my painting it's the willingness to take any step to make it as right as I can. There are no shortcuts to making complex images. They are complex and believable because I'm willing to take the time to make them so. I'm using the most basic tools, tone and perspective, and I'm not building up dozens of little inaccuracies that eventually make the piece sloppy and poorly drawn (Fig.09).
Here's the final stage. I ended up reworking the cliff side quite a bit from my initial lay in. I liked the pattern I first had, but the scale wasn't working once I started finishing the buildings and compared it to my first lay in. All in all this turned out to be one of my favorite pieces and I really retrained my eye to be more accurate by checking my drawing of everything as I painted (Fig.10).
To see more by Robh Ruppel, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 4
and Digital Art Masters: Volume 7