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.
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.
8. Now the fun starts. I next opened the file in Photoshop.
Open File in Photoshop
9. Next remove the sky.
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.
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.
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