Aug 29, 2014

How to Make a Sin City Portrait in Photoshop (Part 1)

How to Make a Sin City Portrait in Photoshop (Part 1)

In today’s episode you will learn how to create a background from scratch in Photoshop. We show you how to edit a sky photo to make it look more dramatic and how to add a city, altering the light levels to match it with the sky.

Creating a Background in Photoshop

Creating a background for a composite image in Photoshop can be very fun, as you can choose every element that appears in your photo. In order to create a Sin City inspired image we need all of the pieces of the puzzle to appear in the same style, so choosing a sky, buildings, and snow for this image is necessary.

The first thing you will need to do is gather background images, for this we recommend Fotolia. Once you have all of your photos together for creating a background it is time to composite them together.

Start with objects that appear farthest from the camera and work your way forwards, in most cases the sky will be the bottom layer, as it is farthest from the camera.

In this episode we show you how to combine multiple versions of the sky together to create a bit more mood. We also show you how to cut the original sky out of the city image and place the buildings over our chosen sky.

The Magic of Clipping Masks

Clipping masks are an essential part of compositing images together. In this episode we introduce you to clipping masks and the best ways to use them in Photoshop.

We add buildings over the background sky but need to make the buildings darker. If you add a curves adjustment layer over everything it will make the buildings and the sky darker. By clipping the curves adjustment layer to the building layer, it will only effect the buildings. The best part about clipping masks is that you can clip many layers back to the original layer.

Creating a Custom Brush for Snow

If you have ever wanted to create snow or rain in an image, it is as easy as creating a custom brush in Photoshop. In this episode we show you how to create random shapes on a new document and turn them into a Brush Preset. From there you will learn how to alter the settings of the brush to add random patterns, making it look more like snow.

Click Here to download the Snow Brush from this episode

Final Image



user image You
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  • user image
    Paul Saxby

    Totally awesome tutorial. I ha always struggled making my own brushes but you explained it perfectly thank You Aaron, you are a genius 🙂

  • user image

    FANTASTIC! I haven’t seen it all yet, but the photo above of Aaron “in the city”, is great.
    Just one suggestion Aaron….ya gotta really be the boss of that gun! Man-up man! Grab that sucker like you mean it.
    Just say’n.

    On another topic, my account disappeared somehow. I signed up again with the same name and account as if the old one had been dropped.

  • user image
    Troy Homenchuk

    Fantastic- as always!
    For clipping I find it fast to position the cursor between the two layers, press Alt and click. I love that there are a dozen ways to accom

    • user image
      Troy Homenchuk

      To accomplish the same thing. Thanks to my cat for bumping me and making me hit the submit button too soon.

  • user image
    Qanea II

    Just watched the episode. Really cool and thank you.
    I’ve always been wondering if it’s possible to create some snow that looks kinda right using brushes. Every brushes on internet which I’ve tried were somehow weird or even snowflakes and stuff.
    There was this method I used to use but I guess the brush is better.
    Thanks Aaron!

  • user image

    I have to give you crap even though I do it too, but it is no longer named the Sears Tower. It was renamed to the Willis Tower.

    But I think it will forever be known as the Sears Tower, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

  • user image

    These tutorials are just fantastic and so professionally done. Makes all the difference. Thank you. I’m new to Photoshop, and even a beginner like me can follow along easily.

    Since you asked for tutorial ideas and Halloween is coming up in a couple months, is there an good way to turn human skin into something Sci Fi or Fantasy like. For example, turning a picture of a person into a metal skin android, or a lizard person?

  • user image

    For years been trying to find the holy grail of a Sin City tutorial, and here you stand before me. cheers

  • user image

    Amazing job again! Totally inspired to start experimenting with compositing.
    Now you mentioned that custom brushes can be used even to create smoke. I’d love to see you do that some time. Smoke to me is still a mysterious thing :).

  • user image

    Very cool as always – I think I see another new projet on the horizon now ! I love Die Hard and many other action films and think I need to get something large on canvas !

  • user image

    Very clear and easy to follow along with – thank you.

    You showed using a black and while conversion filter without saying why instead of just converting the input images. I assume it is so you can change how the conversion later in case you want to change it.

  • djaynaphoto

    Thanks for the help on this!! you guys rock, but you already know that ????

  • user image

    What version of PS were you using? I am using up to date CC & cannot easily follow this tutorial because my screens look different, particularly the section on brush animation & naming groups.