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Speed paint atmospheric scenes

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Date Added: 23rd September 2014
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Noely Ryan walks us through a step-by-step guide of how he created his image City Cave!


In this tutorial, I will share my process of creating a scene that takes place deep underneath the earth. Humans have returned to a planet Earth that has swallowed up its cities, turning them into vast underground caves. The name ?City Cave' was one of the topics of the day on the 'Super SpeedPainting Funtimes' group on Facebook ( The group's only rule is to stick to 50 minutes for the duration of the painting, but I decided to go a little longer and reinforce some elements.

I will go through creating believable destruction, capturing atmosphere in the piece and getting the right lighting, adding elements that help tell a story, and share a few tips that I find helpful to my workflow.

Step 1. Research, research, research

One of the great rules about the group I painted this for, is that the time spent researching a topic or searching for photos does not count towards the 50 minute limit. You can spend as long as you want gathering ideas and photographs that you will either use in the painting as a collage, (or ?photobash' as it is called sometimes), or just as reference. The thing is you can never spend enough time researching your craft no matter what it is. It only helps if the artist gathers as many photos as they can, and builds a visual library to which they can always refer to!

Step 2. The building blocks

Most of the images I looked for were of cavers being dwarfed by these huge walls of rock and I always had the idea of turning those walls of rock into the front-faces of my underground sky-scrapers. I started by filling the canvas with a dark brown to give me the base color of my cave, and on a new layer, created a rectangle with the Marquee tool. I filled this with an almost black color, as this was going to be the darkness through the windows of my buildings. I then skewed this rectangle into an angled plane, duplicated it and flipped it to the other side. I now had the ?building' blocks of my image.

Dark shapes which I can build on and light up (the dark brown layer is turned off to better illustrate the shapes).

Step 3. Easy windows with layers

To make the faces of the buildings and create windows, I first used a wooden fence texture for the building on the left. Then I tried to use it for the one on the right, but it looked too flat, so to achieve more depth on the building I had to create my own windows.

I turned off my layers so I could see a blank page and on a new layer I created a dark colored grid. I then duplicated the grid layer and lightened the color. Then using the Move tool, I could move either layer just slightly to the left or right to get the raised look on the grid, which created the window effect.

However, the trick to doing it here was to do one grid, transform and skew it first to match up with my building blocks and only then duplicate it, lighten the color and move it slightly to the right and up a little.

A simple yet effective trick for creating metal grates on drains or vents, or even netting. Just vary the line weight and see what you come up with!

continued on next page >

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