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Tutorial Creating Water Reflections

A stepped guide using Photoshop.

  1. eano
    Migrators notice: This is not my work, it is Eano's and I'm sorry for the bugs, I hope I can fix them another time since this one took a lot of time to repost.

    Creating the shot

    Welcome to my second guide, this one will walk through the creation of the shot below from Estelyon. This tutorial uses Photoshop, but I'm sure there are tools in the free program Paint.net that would match PS well. I tried to make this easy to follow, please let me know if you need more info!

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    Choosing The Screenshot
    • The end results are only going to look better if the screenshot is well chosen. It is true that you can manipulate some average shots to make them good, but aim to start with a good looking view with good lighting for the view. If you find a good camera angle, cycle through the different lighting choices, take a few shots with different lighting in the same position for more options. CXL only offer one good full daylight and a dusk and dawn only, I would lose two of the night slots to open up a couple more daylight versions… anyway, enough of that.
    • Depending on how much adjustment you want to undertake, here are some things to bear in mind – If one of those suspension bridges is in shot, be prepared to do more masking between the cables.
    • On a night shot, take a day version; this will make selecting and masking the sky easier. The color range in the night shot is limited (maybe about 5 colors), it will take more effort to make sure the buildings don’t get auto selected here.
    • On a day shot with water, take a night shot, it’s flat shaded, easier to select except that strong shadow. The unrealistic harsh black shadow can make the selection trickier, you could always take a few different night lighting schemes to move the shadow, a lot more work though.
    • If you’re seeking a strong water reflection, take a low shot. This is critical; every object that can’t be reflected on one horizon line (reflection plane) will need a separate cut out layer. I will cover how to deal with this but it is more work!
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    Other Reference Used
    For the shot we’ll step through now, I sourced a suitable sky and a water ripple image, be sure to find an image higher resolution than your source screen shot. The sky shot was chosen because of the strong pink and blue sky which matched the lighting on the models. The buildings have a vivid pink directional light with a blue atmospheric back lighting.

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    The water ripple image was used for nearly all my reflection shots; it is a pretty high resolution image too. It was chosen because of its good contrast properties, the color isn’t important. The image will be used with a different transparency effect to only show the light and dark contrast.
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    Resolution

    I would recommend that the screen shot stays at the source resolution and is the master file, this differs a little from KR153’s technique about importing the screenshot into the sky image, but the principle about matching resolutions remains the same. The main reason being that you will enlarge your city image and end up with a grainier result is the image is saved at a bigger resolution.
    The Shot

    We’ll use this shot, taken at my screen resolution of 1900x1200pixels. The images seen in this tutorial are resized for easier viewing. This shot presents some challenges with the reflection planes, there are a few. As mentioned above, a low shot is easier!
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    Masking

    I will point you to KR153's great sky tutorial, the techniques used are the same, and the methods are almost exactly the same in Photoshop and paint.net. It saves some duplication too!
    In Photoshop, I save the selection off as a mask. When the selection area is live, just hit the grey mask icon which will produce a mask layer. If the transparency is reversed, just press CTRL+I to flip the mask. This mask layer will come in handy later for other layers.
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    Add the sky

    I dragged the sky layer into the master file under the masked city layer. Position the sky to show the most amount of the horizon possible.
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    Bulack likes this.