Modeling History with Photoshop Written and Illustrated by Konley Kelley Edited by Michael Sullivan Using computer graphics to make visually exciting dioramas of your models ®
Introduction This book represents the blending of two personal hobbies, scale modeling and computer graphics. I will not claim to be an expert or guru at either hobby. I simply enjoy using scale and 3D models to create images that highlight the machines and honor the men tied to these moments in history. I also hope this book will encourage others to explore using digital cameras and Photoshop as a means of showcasing their models. There are an abundance of modeling websites, magazines and books, many of which included photographs of static models or models in diorama. Photoshop is another tool offering exciting ways to exhibit your work. It can also add action to the scene i.e., your planes can fly, tanks can shoot, and ships can battle on the high seas. The drama is totally up to the imagination of the artist. Photoshop can solve some logistic problems, too. A diorama using Photoshop can include models of different scales. An artist can clone one model airplane to make a squadron of airplanes. Models can be repainted and "re-decaled" in Photoshop. Damage in combat can be virtually created without ever scarring the model itself. If a modeler makes a mistake building the model, mistakes can be "erased" in the digital image using Photoshop tools. I have a basic digital camera and no special photography equipment. A Photoshop user can manipulate the lighting, colors, and elements of an image. Frankly, seeing every detail of the model is less important than composing a scene and working to make your models look like they belong in the scene. This requires blurring propellor blades, blurring sections of fast-moving models or distant backgrounds, and adding special effects. Above all, the model should look right against the background. Having created many Photoshop dioramas, background selection and lighting the model are the greatest challenge and something I continue to work at improving in my art. 3D modeling is another aspect of my work. I learned to make 3D models using software called Strata. By using Strata or a 3D landscape software, I have created 3D models and, as it pertains to this book, added a tool for creating backgrounds and adding models that compliment the scale model featured in the image. I firmly believe a scale modeler has the skillsets to ramp up knowledge quickly on a 3D modeling software. What we see in computer games and on film today is truly remarkable and it is a certainty we'll someday see full blown wartime epics created completely in 3D by 3D modelers and artists. Which brings me back to another reason to write this book. It hope a topic like scale modeling and Photoshop will interest a younger generation more in tune with computer graphics than sprues of plastic. Modeling and diorama construction is a time-consuming endeavor yet a genuine way to represent important machines and moments in history. Photoshop is another art form to add to this mix and could bring more kids back to the hobby I enjoyed so much in my youth. My thanks to my friend Mike Sullivan for helping me edit this book and to the Squadron for providing an opportunity for this first time author.Happy modeling and you can "fix it" in Photoshop :) Konley Kelley
Front cover: Academy 1:72 B-17G “Memphis Belle” in action over Carrollton, Texas Back cover: Heller 1:400 Admiral Graf Spee in action off the coast of Rockport, Texas
Photography and Photoshop Where to begin… Quite simply, everything starts with a photograph. This book will focus on photographing your models but I encourage you to take your digital camera and take a lot of photographs. You experiment with these pictures in Photoshop. I used a simple Sony 7.2 megapixel camera for my pictures. I download them to my Macintosh and open them in iPhoto. My family has amassed more than 10,000 photos in the years we’ve had the Mac. I was able to go back several years in my photo library to find pictures to use for this book. This isn’t to say you need Photoshop to create great pictures. The best possible thing you can provide Photoshop is a great picture. My camera next to my Mac G4. My son Kurt in the “Patton” pose. A pier in Rockport, Texas Flowers and gate on the outskirts of London.
What is Photoshop? So what is Photoshop? Photoshop is an imaging editing software. It was created by two brother, John and Thomas Knoll in 1987. The software allows you to edit pixels in a digital photograph. Pixels are the most basic elements of a photograph when it has been digitized. At its most basic level, Photoshop can prepare your pictures for optimal output to print or the web. The tools and options you have in Photoshop appear endless. Professional graphic artist and photographers use the basic to higher-end functions of the software. Like you might react looking at other software for the first time, the interface for Photoshop may look intimidating. Unless you plan to use the software professionally, I would bet you have nothing to worry about. I will include resources for you at the end of this book but the purpose of this book isn’t to turn you into a Photoshop guru. I recommend taking a class. I did that very thing about 15 years ago with a marvelous Photoshop artist, Linda Shepard. Since then I have continually played and experimented with the software until I can use it for most anything I need it to do. My recommendation to you is to buy a lower-end version of the software like Photoshop Elements. And, there is no less expensive way to learn Photoshop than a class at your local community college. While my attention has been focused on using Photoshop with my scale models, this hasn’t limited me to using with with many other subjects. My wife and I both have used the software to make many wonderful images. I find it particularly useful for correcting something that often happens in photography, that one thing that can prevent a photograph from being a keeper. Case in point - we took some lovely pictures of my daughter in a field of Texas Bluebonnets. The picture was great except for one blade of grass that covered her face. With some help from Photoshop, the blade of grass was removed and we have a picture we now treasure. CD cover designed by my wife, Whitney. Dragonfly art using Photoshop filters and paint tools. Katie before. Katie after.
What can I learn about Photoshop from this book? I want to show you the tools I use to manipulate photographs I take of my models. I’ve shown you the interface for Photoshop, now I’ll show you tools from the interface I use to create my Photoshop dioramas. I’ll try to make the details of how it is done simple. The #1 thing I want for your take-away is thinking how you can use Photoshop to create images like this of your models. I started tinkering with this in 1995 and I am still learning tips and tricks to make my work better. There is one other reason to learn and experiment with Photoshop. It can be a lot of fun. My wife and I have used Photoshop to create many interesting images. Many of my images tend to be silly but if they make me laugh, maybe they’ll make you laugh. The possibilities are endless when you learn this software and you may begin to wonder if what you are seeing in print or on the web hasn’t been doctored in one way or another using Photoshop. Photoshop is fun! Katie before. “ Katie Liberty” Miniature Katie. My house with Giant Sequoia. My truck with a squirrel hitcher.
Getting started Digital composite, 1995 Digital composite, 2005 Creating photoshop images using your models is part imagination, part inspiration and a lot of practice. I took my first Photoshop class in the early 1990’s. About the same time, I had begun scale modeling again. I saw the potential of Photoshop to create dynamic scenes using my models.
Having a “stage” to photograph your models is ideal but you can
shoot almost anywhere - inside or outside. Take a lot of pictures! Keep a library of your images. With Photoshop, you can change model paint, decals and add different backgrounds without ever having to pick up the model again to photograph it.
Inspiration The works of great aviation artists History’s Heroes Ken Walsh First Corsair Ace, WW2 Model kit box tops Roy Grinnell Real Warbirds B-17G Flying Fortress “Liberty Bell” Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Addison, Texas Popular omputer-generated art and games So…what is your digital diorama going to look like? What story is it going to tell? Inspiration can be found in many places. Don Greer
Planning the scene The August 1, 1943 bombing raid on the Ploesti oil refineries resulted in more Medal-of-Honor recipients than any mission of WW2. Unfortunately many of the medals were given post-humously. Over a third of the 9th Air Force bomber groups were lost in action. After building the 1:72 Academy B-24D Liberator and adding aftermarket decals, I began planning my scene. This image was inspired by a painting by Tom Freeman. His painting featured Major John “ Killer” Kane’s B-24 “ Hail Columbia” making its bombing raid so close to the ground it had to dodge the refinery smokestacks. After photographing the model, I painted fire and smoke using Photoshop. The smokestacks were rendered in 3D. After placing the model in the scene I used Photoshop paint and smudge tools to paint spinning propellor blades. One photographed bomb became many using Photoshop’s clone tool. Bombs away! Photograph your model Pick a shot and delete the background Photograph a bomb Clone the bomb Digitally paint a background 3D smokestacks Smokestacks and background combined Place model above background layer and paint blurred propellor blades
Photography and lighting Indoor Photographing indoors can be done anytime and with some control. A simple set-up can provide enough content to build your scene. Outdoor Shooting in bright sunlight can be challenging. The white paper helps differentiate the model from the backdrop when cutting out the model in Photoshop. Carefully using the segmented lasso tool, you can delete the background until you have a pure backdrop. Using select inverse, you can grab your model and paste it into a scene. This was shot in my kitchen using a white blanket as a backdrop and medicine bottle lids for support. The finished scene “ Hunt for the Bismarck.” There is nothing easier than a rear shot of a plane against a blue sky. Here the Akagi gets the “front steps” photo shoot treatment. The finished scene is a mixture of models and smoke, water and virtual damage created with Photoshop. “ Sole Survivor”
Backgrounds The background is an essential element of the digital diorama. Your digital camera, the internet, digital imaging and 3D software can capture or create the background you want. Keep a library file of backgrounds. Internet shots *copyrighted vs. public domain issues apply. Just be careful! From my camera 3D landscape software
Compositing Compositing is the placement of your models after you have cut the undesired background away using Photoshop’s segmented lasso tool. One of the advantages of a diorama made in Photoshop is the ability to mix model scales. Here a 1:32 Academy BF-109E is prepared for the diorama. Here the 1:48 Monogram Spitfire (with kit decals for ace Douglas Bader) is shown partly in the kitchen and partly in the sky. The kitchen is deleted from the scene using the polygon lasso tool. Think about where to place your aircraft in the dogfight. Put them there, add a backdrop plus effects and the Battle of Britain takes flight again.
Layers Think of Photoshop layers like a 7-layer cake. One layer sits on top of another layer. As you plan your scene, think about what will appear in the background and what will appear in the foreground. In this “Battle of Midway” scene, the water is the background layer. From this point I built the scene from the “ground-up” as you might say. One cool feature is the opacity tool. It allows you to see one layer behind another layer. Using the lasso tool, you can cut something out from one layer so the other layer can show through. This was done in the case of the Akagi’s bridge. I wanted the fire and smoke to be behind the bridge. Other elements can be added in a layer without being permanently “painted” on another layer. The “rising sun” is its own layer and “artist’s choice” i.e., this decal did not come with the model kit.
Layers (broken down) Make your models: IJN Akagi, Dauntless Select, treat and place your background. Place the Akagi Paint the Akagi’s wake. Paint smoke and and crop out bridge. Paint fire and crop out bridge. Place the hero aircraft, SBD Dauntless. Paint a blurred prop. Clone and scale distant Dauntless. Paint AA fire / flak. Add “rising sun” to deck of Akagi. Add text.
Special Effects Creating blurred propellors Painting smoke and fire. Adding muzzle blasts and shell casings Painting a ship’s wake. Creating virtual destruction
Other cool tips and tricks Virtual airbrushing By adding another layer, you can repaint your model over the original image. In the case of the Tiger tank, winter camouflage was a perfect foundation to paint a multi-color camouflage. By setting the opacity of the layer at a lower percentage, you can see details of the model under the new paint job. Improve your decals Some kits come with very crude decals. With some web research, you can locate better noseart (in this example), save it and prep the nose art with Photoshop to be printed on decal paper. Most decal paper can be found at a local hobby store and printed on an inkjet printer. Experiment with 3D software Many of the principles for building a scale model are the same for building a model in 3D. Give it a try. Software is becoming less expensive and more user-friendly. Learning 3D will expand your modeling toolset and can offer more options for your digital dioramas. Decals can be used for 3D modeling Some decals sheets are arguably works of art. One of my favorite kits is the “snake” Stuka. Before applying decals to the scale model, I scanned and saved them on my Mac. Photoshop can prep the decals to be used as texture maps for your 3D model. Real or 3D?
Case Study: “Bismarck” The story of the Bismarck has always fascinated me. This fearsome warship dealt a heartwrenching blow to the British people when it sunk the HMS Hood in battle. But, the fate of this mighty ship was sealed after pilots flying obsolete biplanes attacked the Bismarck with torpedoes. One torpedo struck the ship in the rudder disabling her so the British Navy could catch up and sink her. I was able to combine the best parts of my hobbies and immerse myself in the Bismarck story. My “Bismarck project” began with a Tamiya 1:350 Bismarck kit. With web research and the model as visual reference, I constructed a 3D Bismarck. The next step was to acquire the Tamiya 1:48 Swordfish kit. I was dying to create a Photoshop diorama using my 3D Bismarck and Swordfish model. The image is a combination of a 3D ocean scene made with Bryce, the 3D Bismarck and the Swordfish model. I took several pictures of the Swordfish at different angles so I could scale the aircraft to place several in the scene. I added the ship’s wake, flak and splashes from shell hits using Photoshop paint tools. I’ve created other images using 3D models, such as a PBY, and recently an Airfix 1:600 scale model of the HMS Ark Royal to continue telling the Bismarck story. Eventually I’d like to build more British ships such as the HMS Hood, Prince of Wales, or King George V. Sink the Bismarck!
Gallery Following are some of my favorite Photoshop dioramas. On my website, I have them broken down into two groups “Aces in 1:48 Scale” and “Famous Bombers in 1:72 Scale.”In these images, the foreground “hero” aircraft is always 1:48 scale (fighters) and 1:72 (bombers). I used a variety of Photoshop tools and techniques to create the images. For each image, I will describe something specific I did to create the scene. I will also give you some background on the model kit and actual aircraft. If the image is that of a famous aircraft or aircraft flown by a famous pilot, Plus, I will include background on what prompted me to create the scene and what the scene represents. I hope you enjoy the gallery images. These images were created over the last several years. In some cases, the diorama was made before a companion model was made i.e., I created the hero aircraft and designed the scene – I revised the scene sometime later when I built other aircraft (or ships) for the background. That is the magic of Photoshop. These dioramas can be revisited and updated. As a Photoshop user, you are also continually learning more about the software. When you learn a new technique, you can revisit your images and make changes.
This image was first made with 3D triplane as the victim of the Spad’s guns. After finishing a model of a Fokker DVII, I replaced the triplane. The pilot figure came with his head turned to the right which worked for the diorama. I added smoke and fire effects with Photoshop paint tools. “ America’s First Ace” features a Hawk 1:48 Spad and a Revell 1:48 Fokker DVII. “ America’s First Ace” 1:48 Hawk Spad XIII, 1:48 Monogram Fokker DVII
This is a good example of cloning. Photoshop has a cloning tool. I use it on every image. Most frequently I use it to cover parts of a model with other parts. For example, I clone sections of a model’s surface to cover an area obscured by the propeller blades. After that is done, I paint the blurred props of the plane. The Heinkel was “cloned” using another process. Using the segmented lasso, I cut out the surroundings in a picture of the Heinkel. When the Heinkel background was deleted, I selected the Heinkel and placed it in the scene. I used the copy/selection tool to copy the Heinkel several times until I had a squadron. One Heinkel, the aircraft being shot down, is a unique picture in order to present the aircraft in a dynamic pose. The other Heinkels are maintaining formation so the same aircraft can be duplicated. “ Battle of Britain” showcases an Academy 1:48 scale Hurricane flown by British ace Stanford Tuck. Stanford Tuck……. “ The Battle of Britain” 1:48 Hawker Hurricane, 1:72 Matchbox HeIII
Heinz Bar… “ Red 13” 1:48 Monogram Me-262, 3D Scratchbuilt B-17G Flying Fortress
Johnny Baldwin “ Typhoon Attack” 1:48 Monogram Hawker Typhoon, HO Scale German Military Train
“ Battle over Guadalcanal” 1:48 Monogram P-39 Airacobra, 1:48 Tamiya A6M2 Zero This is a good example of “re-decaling” your model using Photoshop. The zero is the model kit with markings for Japanese ace, Tetzuzo Iwamoto. His aircraft is featured in another digital image. With Photoshop clone and paint tool, you can change the markings for an aircraft. So, one zero can become any aircraft and, in the case of this image, an aircraft being shot down by the hero aircraft. The beach scene was created using Vista Pro. The software generated palm trees for the island landscape. “ Dogfight over Guadalcanal” features a Monogram 1:48 P-39 Airacobra flown by American ace, Bill Fiedler. Fiedler, a pilot in the “Cactus Air Force,” has shot down a Tamiya 1:48 A6M Zero.
“ Shangri-La” 1:48 Tamiya P-51B, 1:32 Monogram FW-190A Focke-Wulf This is a good example of lighting your scene. I found a cloudscape on the internet with pinks and orange hues brought on by a setting sun coloring the clouds. After placing my P-51B and my Focke-Wulf, I added smoke and fire to the FW-190 spinning out of control after falling under the guns of the Mustang. I blurred the prop on both aircraft – a much more simple operation when you are viewing the aircraft from the a rear-facing angle. Using Photoshop’s color palette, I selected a pinkish hue much like that seen on the clouds. I lowered the opacity of my very large feathered brush to 20 percent and painted over the aircraft. Now they looked more at home in the scene in a wash of the same colors painting the clouds. “ Shangri-La” features a Tamiya 1:48 P-51B flown by famous American ace, Don Gentile. Gentile named his aircraft Shangri-La and painted an…..
“ The Navy’s Top Ace” 1:48 Hasegawa F6F-5 Hellcat, 1:700 Tamiya USS Essex CV-9 and 1:700 Tamiya USS Cushing DD376 This is a good example of an “unfinished” Photoshop diorama. I positioned the 1:700 scale carrier in the scene with the 1:48 scale Hellcat flying above. A few months later, I completed a 1:700 destroyer. I painted it in the same “dazzle” camouflage scheme (Measure 21) as the carrier. The destroyer gave me the opportunity to “add to the fleet.” I photographed the carrier and destroyer from the same angle. Because I saved the assets from the first digital image, I placed the Hellcat with the blurred prop and complete the scene. “ Top Navy Ace’ features a Hasegawa 1:48 F65 Hellcat flown by the leading Navy ace of WW2, David McCampbell. David McCambell…
“ Mig Alley” 1:48 Academy F-86F Sabre, 1:48 Monogram Mig-15 This is a good example of making a background work for your image. After seeing an image painted by aviation artist Roy Grinnell, I went to work on my digital image of “Mig Alley” using scale models. The background was created using Vista Pro, a software that creates 3D landscapes using topographical maps. I created the background for this image using a map of Aspen, CO. The software give you the option of terrain, I chose not to include trees or grassy areas. I chose to show dusty brown mountains as they might look from aircraft in a life and death dogfight high over the North Korean landscape. I used Photoshop paint tools to create vapor trails, engine glow, shell casings, muzzle blasts and damage to the Mig-15. “ Mig Alley” features an Academy 1:48 F-86F Sabre flown by top Korean ace, Joseph McConnell.
“ Wulf over Russia” 1:48 Tamiya Focke-Wulf Fw-190A, 1:488 Accurate Miniatures IL-2 Stormovik This image was inspired by a painting by Iain Wylie. It features a FW-190 flying to camera after shooting down a Stormvick. After I made the FW-190, I considered making the image with smoke trailing from an aircraft outside of the frame. But, after acquiring the Trumpeter 1:48 Stormovick, I built the kit and added it to the final image. The background was created in Bryce and the snow and smoke effects were painted with Photoshop tools. I posted the image on www.aircraftresourcecenter.com and credited Iain Wylie with the inspiration. A few days later Mr. Wylie wrote me complimenting me on my work.
“ Warrior of the Rising Sun” 1:48 Tamiya A6M2 Zero, 1:32 Monogram F4U Corsair
Resources Learning scale modeling Learning Photoshop and 3D modeling
Credits Michael Sullivan Konley Kelley and family