Before we get into the steps to make this image, it is important to talk about major decisions (in general) that assisted the outcome. This image was generated as a conceptual background for the AIAS Pan-American games pavilion. The project was in Toronto, and the dynamic skyline of this city combined with the waterfront site location provided a strong focal point for the graphic.
Be loose! Making a digital hybrid means that you can hit “undo” whenever you like, so if you make a mistake there will be no proof. Now we will work from the background to the foreground.
The foundation for this drawing was drawn by hand. Watercolor washes that blend from one color to another are beautiful and offer great opportunity for drawing diversity as a background. This was was done with the wet-into-wet technique. You can see that the goal was not to paint any details, but to get a wash that (with some imagination) looked like a sky-horizon-ground painting. After scanning and a little brightening (auto contrast, auto tone0, I place it on the first layer in the Photoshop file.
Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and decrease the saturation to -42. If you have an earlier version of Adobe Photoshop (APS), simply use Image > adjustments> hue/saturation (keyboard shortcut Ctrl + U) to edit the image. You might want to use/ create a guideline that will act as the horizon for the perspective and a means of measurement.
Next comes the skyline. In short, I used Adobe Illustrator to Auto-trace a photograph of the site looking west at the Toronto skyline and then imported that into APS in addition to the original image I traced. If you do not have access to Illustrator, a decent substitute will be to use Threshold (under the Image > adjustments menu), but that will take a little more manipulation- you will more than likely have to use curves and a high contrast grayscale version of the image. The auto traced image should appear like a black and white silhouette. Set its blending mode to “vivid light” and place it right above the watercolor wash layer. Position the original image above that silhouette layer and set its blending mode to “screen” . You will have to crop out the “sky‘ background for both image layers and I suggests using a layer mask after selecting the sky area I didn’t want to see. This will allow you to use the same layer mask selection for both layers. As a side note, you may have to scale the original image to align it with the silhouette, and you will want them to be aligned. Notice the depth and highlights that you get to see on the buildings now.
This image to the right shows the brightening of the entire graphic and the various qualities of detail added to the general image
The next few layers up are just content overlays to lend some context, and narrative to the presentation:
An image of a night-time stadium gather set to lighten and scaled to add character
An auto traced image of athletes on a podium in a victory pose 9upper left)
whitespace trees taken from traced three iages and then inverted (to be white) with layer style set to screen and lighten and scaled to appear to be at various depths in perspective.
The longest part of this process is waiting for the watercolors to dry, setting a point where you will consider it finished, and finding the right supporting graphics. Hybrid drawings using watercolor have the advantage of no needing to be "complete" to be finished and impactful.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Enjoy!