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The making of Marina

The making of Marina: a tutorial by Mateo Soletic

I hope that this tutorial on my evolving SU post-process techniques proves useful to you. I have received some positive feedback and e-mails from people asking me how this is done. For some time now I have been experimenting on various techniques in the aim of producing high quality CG professional render output, yet one with a subtle brush and line work touch that resembles the natural effect of SketchUp. Should there be more line or less brush it is all a matter of individual preferences, and you can of course experiment Yourself to achieve the best desired effect. Here is then the basic process.

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To be able to follow this tutorial you need to have some basic understanding of a rendering application of choice, exporting and applying materials. A further knowledge of image editing application is also essential. I used photoshop here since it is the most widely used image editing program. In Photoshop I tried to be as detailed as possible for the benefit of less experienced users that don’t use this program on everyday basis.

The Image I started with

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Step 1 – Exporting the Scene

When I am satisfied with my model and composition in SU I set the final scenes for export. Now I need to export two exactly the same scenes so that I can later perfectly overlap them in Photoshop. One is exported with lines textures and shadows File> Export >2d Graphic as a Jpeg. The second scene is exported for rendering. Here I will be using Maxwell render 1.6 but You can use any renderer of choice, just make sure you are exporting exactly the same Scenes/cameras angle.

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To export the scene for rendering I need to Make some slight adjustments. From the plug-in’s Menu >Maxwell render >Export I opened the dialog box set the width to 2000 and height to 1200 pixels checked the show render area box and now I have the exact scene camera angle that will be rendered as the earlier exported SU jpeg image. I also have to fill in some other values such as focal distance and then I am ready for export. The physical sky is on by default so really I want to keep this part of the process as simple as possible.

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I will start the export: File> Export> 3Dmodel , but just before I press the export button I want to make sure that along with the render channel the alpha channel is checked as well. This will save me a lot of time later in Photoshop since I will be using some of my own background images which I find more appropriate for this technique as you will see later on.

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You have probably noticed that I have not  added any Maxwell materials at  this stage. I will do that later in Maxwell Studio. In this technique I don’t have  to be precise since the effect I am hoping to get is not exactly a photo real one but a combination . I will later in my rendering application add some simple default materials such as glass and water to get the bumps and reflections desired.
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Inside the rendering application (Maxwell) you can see that I have the same scene/ camera angle as the exported Jpeg one. Now I will be replacing some key Sketch Up Materials with Maxwell ones, giving them some physical properties, bump maps and reflections, basically just a drag and drop thing , so you don’t have to be a rendering genius to continue but however you should have some basic knowledge of your renderer.

Step 2 – Inside Rendering Application

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Now that I applied all the materials and made any corrections to the settings I can set the scene to render.
Here at the end of my render process I ended up with two images the render and the alpha.

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Now in Photoshop I will be going into some more detail since here it is really  where all the magic happens. First it is necessary to extract the background of a rendered image with the help of a layer mask. Now this is a good time to recap on one of the better ways to do this. I don’t use the renderer on a daily basis so often I have to remind myself to how it is done. I have a small note next to my desktop so Ill just repeat the process below :

Step 3 – Inserting Layers in Photoshop

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Removing the background using the layer mask:
1) Open both images in Photoshop – RGB Render and Grey Alpha
2) Click on the render image and change it from background to layer
3) Add layer mask to it
4) Select and copy alpha image
5) Select layer mask of render layer (Alt – click on it)
6) Paste Alpha into it
7) Right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask
8) Now go to Layer / Matting / remove black Matte

Next step is to import the appropriate sky from my JPEG sky collections. With the command: File >Open> Sky>JPEG . I will convert my sky into a layer tweak it to get the right size and place it behind the rendered image. Now I will Import the Natural SketchUp image.

Now with the rendered image, sky and the imported SU jpeg in Photoshop, first I will adjust the size of the SU image: Image > Image size so that it perfectly overlaps the rendered image. My SU jpeg image was exported at
a maximum resolution at 4000 pixels so now I have to change it to 2000 pixels to correspond to the value of the rendered one. When done I converted the image to layer clicked on it and with command : Select>Select all>Edit >Copy paste the image into the rendered one. I now repeated the copy process with the sky and now I have them all stacked as shown in the picture at the bottom.


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I have my SU image now on top, I just need to move it around in order to perfectly overlap the rendered image. I made the image slightly transparent so that I can see what I am doing. The next thing would be to tweak and move the sky to a desired position. Finally I will insert the PNG palm trees from my tree library. After importing one, I tweaked it down a bit and placed it in a desired position. I needed two so I just duplicated the first one and flipped it along so that it somewhat differs from the first one. You can see the inserted palm trees on the next image of the following page.

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Step 4 – Using the Brush Tool in Photoshop

Using the brush tool my aim is to erase parts of the top SU layer in order to reveal the parts of the rendered image but at the same time to retain some of the brush trace too. For that purpose I choose a pastel brush. You can also use the Watercolor brush or a similar kind. The thing I like about these brushes is that they leave a kind of transparent stroke effect. As I go along I change the size and opacity and even repeat some areas more
than once Now you can also see the size and opacity that I used. This part is really more artistic than computer generated and its all a matter of practice to reach the right effect and the technique that you will be
in the end satisfied with.

page121You can even change the opacity of the top layer in the end if you feel the effect is too strong. I am working directly on the layer but my advice to you would be to work on masks, in case you are not satisfied with the result you can always go back and repeat the process. So finally this is the image that I ended up with.


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Before going on further I would like to point to some artistic advantages that I discovered using this technique. In my opinion and experience the SU natural output for more professional presentations can be sometimes too flat and then on the other hand the rendered image is too photo- real for my taste. I personally always prefer a somewhat subtle artistic effect.

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Step 5 – Adding More Detail

As I feel that there is as yet not enough detail in the scene I will be adding some more to make the scene more interesting. Another small PNG palm tree in the foreground and, first that came to mind was someone reading
newspapers, I did a search for such an image but couldn’t find one fast enough so I found this girl instead, extracted it and here it is..

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My Image now looks like this. If there is still something that needs to be adjusted in between the layers, now is the time to do it before merging all the layers into a single one. I probably will want to add some depth to the
background palm trees so I changed my fill values to about 80 and 65 % respectively.

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Step 6 – Merging the Layers

Now go to Layer> Flatten image and all my layers have been converted into one single image.

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Step 7 – Creating a Color/BW/Sepia Effect

I will now finalize my image with a combination of Colour/Black&White/Sephia effect . This is a variation of an effect used sometimes by photographers and in the movie industry. I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve but not really sure of the final look. So I am going work on adjustment layers. That way I can always come back and tweak the values to get the desired look.

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I will start by adding an adjustment layer of a channel mixer. Layer>New adjustment layer> Channel mixer. You can go to the main tool bar but it is easier to use the little circle of the fly out on the bottom. I could have used the plain desaturization but adjustment layers give us more options. Tick the box monochrome and play with the sliders until you end up with the desired look. When done change the opacity to about 50%. Now you have a combined BW-Color look.

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Now that I created a combined BW/Color effect I will now add a sepia tone to it. I will do that with the command Layer>New adjustment layer>Hue/Saturation. In the box I will tick Colorize and again play with the sliders to get the desired effect. My final values were in this case as shown below Hue- 30 and Saturation- 20 , again we will adjust the opacity of this layer to about 50%.

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For my next step I will duplicate the sephia layer with: Layer>Duplicate layer. I will set the blending mode to Soft light in order to add more tone and get more contrast:

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Next I will set both the layers Opacity and Fill to around 50% or just adjust to personal taste. See the flyout below:

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For the end I will add some contrast with the Curves layer, again it will give me more control than simply a contrast layer. Layer>New adjustment layer > Curves. You can play around a bit until you get the right feel. Finally when I am satisfied with the results I will again merge all my Layers into a single one.

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And this gives me the final result . All I have to do now is to Crop the image so that I get rid of the two transparent lines and place a watermark of my company. And that about wraps it up, I hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial.

The final image.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. huyvu permalink
    April 30, 2009 1:36 am

    useful tutorial , man 🙂

  2. Glenn S permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:59 pm

    I’m sure there have been lots of people viewing this, so please take the time to express thanks if you think that you at least learned something… as I did. Very good, thanks.

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