The Making of ‘Down the Lane’ by John Higgins

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By John Higgins

Hi my name is John Higgins and I would like to show you how I produced the image below. This is not my usual method of modeling, but just another take on how versatile Google SketchUp can be. I had an image in my head of an old street scene ( in Yorkshire) to complement a project I had been working on. I used SketchUp, Photoshop and V-Ray for SketchUp.

1. To get started I needed a base image to work from, so I will looked around  Google Images and Flickr for examples. All I want was a cobbled road. I found the image below which was ideal for my cobbled road and the general line for my buildings. I opened this image into Photoshop and removed all unwanted content and then saved it as a PNG file. From this image I could envisage the line of buildings I would place in the scene. With all the unwanted areas removed I had the image you see below, which will be used on the ground plane in my SketchUp model.

Image for Ground Plane

2. I opened SketchUp and imported the image onto the ground plane.  As it is now grouped I can edit it keeping only the road. I now do a very quick render and save the image as a PNG file to use in Photoshop. In SketchUp I blocked out rough shapes to represent houses etc, hiding the road and made a quick render,  saving it as a PNG file.

Blocking Out Models in SketchUp

3. I now open these two PNG’s in Photoshop and see how they look, working back and forwards between Photoshop and SketchUp to position the blocks; when your happy make a scene in SketchUp. This step is important to the final output. In SketchUp you can use the tape measure tool to scale your scene.  After modeling your scene and your happy with the way it looks, we move on to the next stage.

Modeling Scene

Modeling Scene

4. I will now unhide the cobbled road in SketchUp and do a quick render.

Quick Render with Cobbled Road

5. Once happy with the scene we can now move on to texturing. I always make a folder to copy the textures and bump maps to. You may need these in future if you ever go back to render the image again, the bump maps are then in a saved file. I almost always tweak textures in Photoshop before placing on a model. Now we have a textured model. I now place a flat plain slightly below the model and apply a cobbled texture to it.


6. From the above image I can see I will need a separate render output of the road because of the shadow you can see below the garden wall on the left.

Separate Render of Cobble Road

7. After combining the two images to remove the wall shadow, we now have the finished render.

Combined Images

8. Now the fun starts. I next opened the file in Photoshop.

Open File in Photoshop

9. Next remove the sky.

Sky Removed

10. You can replace the sky with an image or make your own. I like to make my own so I will create a new layer and apply a light blue color to it, overlaying with a PNG cloud until I’m happy how it looks. I will now replace the image of the cobbled street as I want to use only a small section of it, the small pavement section on the left you see in the final image below.

Sky and Small Pavement Section in Place

11. I now create a new Layer for the vegetation. After I am satisfied with the trees etc., I combine them all on a “vegetation” Layer.

Vegetation Added

12. I will now do the same with a “dirt” layer as above.

Dirt Layer Added

I now have my Layers, Background, Sky, Pavement, Vegetation and Dirt. Being on layers I can edit each layer separately, using curves, saturation etc. until I’m happy with the final scene.

In SketchUp its important to set your scene early on, as this enables you to replace any part of the scene your not happy with; without having to re-render the whole thing. Simply by hiding the rest of the model and then rendering the visible part of the model, you can then combine all these separate little renders in Photoshop.

Final Image

I hope this gives you a useful technique for your workflow in combining small renders into a bigger editable picture, using SketchUp, V-Ray and Photoshop.



Here is a small gallery of some of John’s favorite works. John’s model’s contain just the right amount of detail with some amazing texturing.

The Stone Bridge

Small Village Scene

The School House

Greatham Village Post Office

The Derelict Farm

The Black Smiths Forge

Appleby Station

Yorkshire Village

5 Responses to “The Making of ‘Down the Lane’ by John Higgins”

  1. Kori Slinger on May 7th, 2011 11:58 pm

    I am looking for information on a John L Higgins. I bought a signed printed sketch 12/600 named Nobska Light Woods Hok, Cape Cod. I was looking for more information about the artist. Could this be the same John Higgins? Please let me know.

  2. admin on May 8th, 2011 11:26 am

    I believe it isn’t Kori, the work you see here is by a 3D SketchUp artist John Higgins. All his work is done using Google SketchUp and Photoshop and not in the traditional hand drawn method….

  3. MAHER on July 6th, 2011 7:31 pm

    you are magic man very very nice you have agoolden hands

  4. daniel lee on July 24th, 2011 12:21 pm

    your photo’s are good

  5. Daniel russo on August 22nd, 2011 8:09 pm

    very nice work what rendering program did you do this in….

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