Create a Night-time View

Jul 12 2011 Extras, Tutorials

As a Digital Artist and self-proclaimed ‘Pixel Pusher’, every so often I’ll get that request from a client to construct an alternate view from an existing image or photo or even create a specific scene from scratch. Ah, but that’s what we do I suppose; create what the eye does not see. One case in point is the “Can you give me a night-time view of this image?” request. And although I may want to reply with, “Perhaps you can get your photographer to take another picture after sundown.“ or “Why don’t you just have your 3D artist set up another shot with night lighting?”, I know the impractically and time it takes to do just that. So in this tutorial I will show you how to create that night shot of an image quick and easy. In this case we’ll start with a daytime bridge image to show a little of the sky, ground and a few objects.

Final Product – What We Will Create

Step 1: Create the Working Layers

Making sure you have your Layers Window open, import your daytime image. Create a duplicate layer and drag it to the top of the layers list. This will act as our reference image so that we can toggle back and forth to check our progress. Rename it ‘original’ and click on it’s eye to turn off the layer.

Next, create 2 more duplicates of the ‘daytime’ layer and place them on top of the original. Name one ‘sunset’ and the other ‘night’.

Step 1

Step 2: Colorizing

Select the ‘night’ layer and under the menu, open the settings window Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.

We will now darken this layer as to simulate a night setting. At the lower bottom of the dialog window, check the ‘colorize’ box.. Move the Lightness slider to the value -70, Saturation to 50, and Hue to 225, and selct OK. This should give us an overall satisfying ‘moonlit’ feel for this layer. Next, turn off the ‘night’ layer for a moment, and select the ‘sunset’ layer.

Open the Hue/Saturation window again and set this later at these settings:

Hue: 35
Saturation: 60
Lightness: -35

Step 2

Step 3: Creating the Dusk Feel

Select the eraser tool. In the eraser settings, set your brush to standard soft round style, Size: 275, Hardness: 0 , Opacity: 40, Flow: 100. Turn the ‘night’ layer on.. Using the horizon as a guide, hold the shift button down and erase a swath across the ‘night’ layer.

The orange ‘sunset’ layer should show behind. This will be our night layer. Go ahead and duplicate both night and sunset layers at this point and merge them to create a consolidated layer to use in the next step. Name this layer ‘nighttime’ Turn off the previous ‘night’ and ‘sunset’ layers and keep them as back-up.

Step 3

Step 4: Light the Scene

With the ‘nighttime’ layer selected, start erasing small areas with the eraser tool, set at various small sizes to subtract from the nighttime layer. What this will do is simulate area lighting by letting the daytime layer show through in the specific spots. For instance, car headlights, landscape lighting in the median, under the trees (uplighting), the lights located in the bollards near the sidewalk railing. Don’t worry about the red tail lights on the vehicles just yet, that will be another layer. If you wish, you can click to enable the daytime view at this point, at the top of layers to see how your progress is coming and to double check the detail you may have missed during the lighting process.

Step 4

Step 5: Adding Lighting Detail

Create a new layer called ‘lights’ and place above ‘nighttime’ layer. Using the Paintbrush Tool, select a small size for detail work.. Next, under color palette, select a ‘white-yellowish’ color to dab-in bright dots for headlights and bulbs etc. For instance you can use color R:255, G:250, B:237. Note: This is where your inner artistic sense comes in handy. Just experiment with different sized brushed and opacity to create just the right lighting atmosphere. You can always undo your step(s) in history if you make a mistake.

When dabbing in light, remember sometimes ‘less is more’. It may sound like new–age heuey but remember you can always add to the intensity of the lighting layer by adding more opaque color and bolder dabs.

Step 5

For the red tail lights on the back of the cars, you can use the same technique as the white lighting layer. Create a new layer called ‘red lights’ and start adding layers of semi-opaque red until the tail lights appear to be glowing. For the red ‘glow’ I recommend a soft brush/low opacity (color R:249,G:72,B:48). And for the red bulb high-light color, I would use a more intense orange-red color such as R:252, G:85, B:46 and increase the opacity.

The basic result should look like this here:

Step 5

Step 6: Adding Further Detail

The preceding steps are a basic a primer on what is possible when you create a night scene using layers. You can further develop this image by adding several more layers, such as yellow tail markers on cars, more up-lighting sources, back ground city lighting and even a star field all using the same methods described earlier. Creating an image like this is usually only as good as the detail you care put into it. But once you’ve done a few like I have, they generally shouldn’t take that long. This last image is a good example with the little extra lighting and details added.

Step 6