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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 500x312 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

Alternative version

desert city blast alt1 500x312 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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vip sign up 250 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x346 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x313 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

1 effect 500x309 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

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 500x311 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

Curves

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

Levels

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

and you will have the following effect:

2 effect1 499x310 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 mask1 500x309 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

3 effect1 500x306 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

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 21 500x309 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x308 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x311 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

and you will have the following effect:

4 effect1 500x307 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

Curves

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

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

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 500x313 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x312 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x309 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x418 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x495 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

Apply the following layer blending option to this layer:

Outer glow

6 out glow 500x350 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

Inner glow

6 inner glow 500x350 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

and you will now have this effect:

6 effect1 499x430 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

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

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

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

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

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 500x484 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x375 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

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

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

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

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

9 effect 2 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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

Curves

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

Color Balance

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

and here is the final effect for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)desert city blast 500x312 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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 500x312 Create a Distant Desert City Scene with Energy Ray Blast in Photoshop

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