I was riding the bus into work last week and as it approached Porter Square, the sun was casting some amazing light accross the area. This experience got me motivated to illustrate the new station design as seen from further down Massachussetts Avenue. I love working on these types of images because of the amount of textures and details involved. I also think these types of images are important because of the emphasis that is placed on the context and how the new design fits within the fabric of the area.

I was able to put this image together in a day, but so much of my time went into the details. Because there are so many elements to this image, I needed full control over the composition and positioning of the camera and light. This meant a lot had to be modeled in 3D. Luckily I could recycle elements from my other illustrations including the axon from the last post. Once the 3D was in place, most of my time went into Photoshop inserting textures and building up details.

1. Base Model and Rendering

Sketchup Line Work
V-Ray Clay Model Rendering
V-Ray Base Rendering

For this image, most of the core elements were modeled including street infrastructure and context buildings. I didn’t have any site photos from this exact view angle nor did I take any at the correct time of day (busy week at work). This was fine though because the more I had in 3D, the more control I had over the placement of things like cars and street infrastructure.

2. Composition

In images that are pulled back like this, I love giving the sky a ton of real estate. If you cut the image into thirds, the skyline sits at the lower 1/3rd of the image. The horizon sits at the lower 1/6th of the page. All this means that the sky will become an important part of the image. Elements like street lights and bus cables can be dramatized by allowing them to break the skyline and cut across the page as you will see later on.

3. Sky and Texture

I spent a long time looking for the right sky and I am really happy with the one I found. The clouds are not overly dramatic, and there is a nice overall gradient from warm to cool. I also used Google Earth to collect street and sidewalk textures to help give things a little wear and tear.

4. Trees and Entourage

I went with fall foliage because I was worried to much green would steal some of the warmth of the early morning scene. Plus, the orange and yellows play well with the bright red of the new station design. For entourage, I placed just a few, but making sure they were all back-lit.

5. Cables

There are electric buses that run up and down Mass. Ave. which means cables everywhere. Power lines can sometime ruin the atmosphere of the image, but in this case, they add some really nice movement and texture. It took some trial and error, but I was finally able to Photoshop them in such a way that they work compositionally. It can be tricky to insert cables in Photoshop along with all of the attachments and fixtures, but they ended being my favorite part of the illustration.

6. Final Image

I didn’t do anything crazy with the toning. I just added a hint of light to the left, played up the glare, and increased the saturation. Some images, I will spend hours playing with tones. For this one, it happened relatively quickly.