Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, I will show you the processes I use to create this fantasy style, really cool distant desert city scene with an awesome energy ray blasting through the sky in Photoshop.

Along the way, we will be using tons of layer blending techniques, and I will show you how to merge the images together effectively and efficiently. We will also explore skills such as masking, filter effects and various custom brushsets.

This is an intermediate-level tutorial, have a try!

Here is a preview of my final effect for this tutorial: (Click to enlarge)

desert-city-blast

Alternative version

desert-city-blast-alt

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OK Let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stocks:

Desert

Mist Brushset

Misty Rock

Sunset Sky

Distant City

Star Brushset

Lightning

Step 1

Create a new document sized 1280px * 800px, leave the background colour as White. Load the “Desert” stock image into Photoshop, copy and paste the entire image onto our document, position it as shown below:

1 resize

Name the new layer as “Desert”, add a layer mask onto it. On the layer mask, use the “Mist Brushset” we have just download (any brush in the set), erase the top part of the image as shown below:

1 eraser 2

This will form a nice misty effect for the image and make it easier for the layer blending later on:

1 effect

Now duplicate this “Desert” layer once and on the duplicated layer, go to filter > blur > gaussian blur and apply the following settings:

1 gau blur

Change the blending mode of the duplicated layer to “Screen” and drop its opacity to 70%, you will have the following effect:

1 effect 2

Now we have a very nice, dusty and misty desert scene with a lot of room to expand our imagination.

Step 2

To further adjust the colour balance and contrast of the desert, I add the following three adjustment layers on top of the previous two layers: (from bottom to top)

Color Balance

2 col bal

Curves

2 curves

Levels

2 levels

and you will have the following effect:

2 effect

Step 3

Now I feel that only the desert is a bit boring, so I decided to add some object into it so to create some depth for the image. So let’s load the “misty rock” image into Photoshop, copy and paste the entire image onto our document and name the new layer as “rock”, apply the following mask on the rock layer:

3 mask

Change the layer blending mode of this layer to “Hard light”, you will have the following effect:

3 effect

Add a Black and White adjustment layer on top of this rock layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

3 bw

Then duplicate the “rock” layer once and drag it to the top, change the blending option of the duplicate layer to “overlay”, you will have the following effect so far:

3 effect 2

Step 4

Load the “Sunset Sky” image into Photoshop, copy and paste it onto our document and name this new layer as “sky”, resize and position it as shown below:

4 sky drag

Add a layer mask to this sky layer, on the mask, use a soft round brush to gently erase the bottom part of the sky layer, as shown below:

4 mask

and you will have the following effect:

4 effect

Add the following two adjustment layers to the sky layer, make sure to tick “use previous layer as clipping mask” option:

Color Balance

4 col bal

Curves

4 curves

Then duplicate the original Sky layer once and drag it to the top. On the first duplicated sky layer, apply the following motion blur setting to it:

4 motion blur

After applying the motion blur filter, duplicate this layer once and change the duplicate layer’s blending mode to “Hard light”, you will have the following effect:

4 effect 3

You can see now we have a very nice sky on top of the desert, which makes the image more vibrant.

Step 5

Load the Distant City stock into Photoshop, cut out the city bit with any selection tool you like to use, copy and paste the selection on our document, name the new layer as “city” and use a big, soft brush to erase the surrounding, and leave only the centre of the city selection as shown below:

5 erase

Duplicate this city layer twice, change the first duplicated layer’s blending mode to “Soft light”, and leave the second layer’s blending mode as “Normal”, but drop the opacity to 45%.

You will have the following effect:

5 duplicate

Step 6

Now we’re onto creating the energy blast. Firsty we can make some background highlight for the blast. To do this, create a new layer called “highlight” and grab a soft round brush with white colour, gently paint over the centre area above the city.

Make sure to set the blending mode of this layer to “Hard Light” with an opacity of around 35%:

6 highlight

Now on top of this layer, create a new layer called “laser”, grab the Rectangular Marquee Tool with a 10px feather, make a selection and fill it with white colour as shown below:

6 rect

Apply the following layer blending option to this layer:

Outer glow

6 out glow

Inner glow

6 inner glow

and you will now have this effect:

6 effect

Step 7

Create a new layer called “Sparkle” on top of all previous layers, set its blending mode to “overlay”. Load the “Star Brushset” we download in and use it to paint around the laser line to create some sparkling effect:

7 sparkle

Duplicate the “Sparkle” layer once, and apply the following Radial Blur setting to the duplicated layer:

7 radial blur

Name this layer “Radial” and maintain its blending mode to “overlay” and duplicate it twice more, you will have the following effect:

7 effect

Then duplicate those three layers together once, use the Free Transform Tool to transfrom them to the left side, as shown below:

7 effect 2

Step 8

Now we want to work on to the top part (sky) of the laser energy ray. Create a new layer named “sky highlight” and again use a soft brush with white colour to paint over the top centre of the sky, and set the layer blending mode to “overlay”, with opacity around 40%:

8 sky hi

Then create a new layer on top of all previous layer and name it as “light top”, fill the layer with black colour and go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare and apply the following settings:

8 lens fla

Change this blending mode of this layer to “Screen”, use a soft brush to erase all areas expect the centre portion, as shown below:

8 erase

Duplicate this layer once, and move it the bottom of the city and change the blending mode to “overlay”, you will have the following effect:

8 dupl

Step 9

Now we can add some lightning effec to the top for further effect. Load the “Lightning” stock image into Photoshop, copy and paste the entire image onto our document and use a soft brush to erase the outer portion of the image.

Change the blending mode of the new layer to “screen” and you will have the following effect:

9 effect

Duplicate this layer once and free transform (Ctrl + T)  the duplicated layer as shown below:

9 effect 2

To futher touchup the image, we can add the following adjustment layers:

Curves

9 curves

Color Balance

9 col

and here is the final effect for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)desert-city-blast

That’s it for this tutorial! Of course you can further enhance the image effect by mixing lighting effect, change hue/saturation settings, etc.

Here is an alternative version I have after I change a few things: (click to enlarge)

desert-city-blast-alt

Hope you enjoy it! Drop me a comment if you have any question, I will try my best to help you out.

Categories: Photo Effect

Tags: ,,,,,,,,

  • http://designwannabe.com Design Wannabe

    Very nice tutorial

  • Myenemy

    Wow, this looks really amazing! Can’t wait to try this :)

  • http://www.orphicpixel.com Mars

    a very good to follow tutorial
    i like it

  • Wilson

    amazing. loves the effect :).
    gona try soon.

  • http://psaiclub.blogspot.com hitesh

    nice tut and it can also be nice wallpaper

  • Fredy Munevar

    awesome!!

  • http://aext.net Lam Nguyen

    God, it’s awesome tut.
    Thanks

  • http://www.bendesign.eu Bendesign

    Great Design. Awesome! Thanks

  • Marotzke

    A little bit oversaturated in my opinion, but nice particle effect and great idea with the lightning :-)

  • http://www.tutdepot.com Martyn

    The outcome is amazing! V.Nice tutorial

  • http://3d-today.blogspot.com/ xea

    Nice tutorial! Thanks for sharing :)

  • http://www.thierrydehove.com Thierry

    That’s a great and clean tip man…

  • Noah

    When i go to use the mist brush set its all trees? Im kind of new to photoshop so some of this stuff i just dont understand.

  • Roland

    well, i did found a similarity in this article: http://www.prowseed.com/blog/cod/ , at last it seems that you weren’t ripped anything, but wasn’t that your inspiration? ;)

  • James

    @Roland: no that wasn’t my inspiration. My inspiration of this tutorial just came from those final fantasy games I play :)

  • shereef

    Great…. tutorial… many thanks…

  • fovilwog

    thanks for the guide its amazing!

    The only thing was i had trouble with putting the city in place you didnt specify how you did it to make it look like it was really there. Or maybe i just done it wrong lol.

    seriously though this guide was great!

  • http://www.clickecover.com Koji@ ebook cover software

    Very nice Post! Really love it your post! thank you very much for your Information

  • belajar photoshop

    thanks………… that great .

    i try my best to do the same way like your tutorial , but ….. at the end ….. a different color came out. It take more then three hour for me to complete this job. Anyway thanks to you.

  • Need help

    can anyone email me the picture that in photoshop format?
    my email yuehhan613@hotmail.com

  • spiros
  • http://panduanbloggeradvanced.blogspot.com faiz

    wow! great sharing

  • Enrico

    You have outdone yourself that is just beautiful simply amazing thanks for that TUT

  • Hannah

    Can you post instructions how you created the last alternative image? You mentioned that you got it after you “changed a few things”. This tutorial is great!

  • alex

    hi there i hope someday i make what you did in photoshop im beginner in this field thanks im from philippines

  • http://gory.3d.lc/ Andre

    Very nice tutorial thank you for sharing !

  • Michael

    Thanks alot ! nice tutorial =)

  • Angel From Adobe

    One of my favourite tutorials from this website! I Love It ! Thumbs up !

  • http://www.bolakita.com gege

    waw. awesome trick…thanks for share,..

  • http://enyaai.tumblr.com Enya
  • shamir

    Thanks for sharing the tutorial

  • Soccerskick87

    The blog article very surprised to me! Your writing is
    good.