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    Using Photoediting to Enhance Ingame Pictures

    For those of us who enjoy showing what we have accomplished in CJs or in the Forums, I thought it may be a good idea to form a tutorial. I am no professional at photoediting, but after much experience, I have gained a decent amount of knowledge that I thought would be a good idea to share incase you are new to the concept. You don't have to be an expert either to understand this tutorial. If you find that this is hard to follow, PM me and I'll do my best to help you out. Just remember though that photoediting is sort of the icing on the cake and really isn't essential to provide amazing pictures. Remember to enjoy the game, and if photoediting feels like to much of a burden, its not a necessity.





    Getting to Know the Basics:


    What you get out of this tutorial is what you put into it.

    -Knowledge of how to navigate through your photoediting program (I'm using Photoshop CS5 64-bit for this tutorial)

    -Creativity and Patience, Don't overdo the effects and make your picture unique through them.

    -Yellow Pause Thingy Remover

    Ok, so now that we have that down, let's start with the basics. Pictures taken ingame appear in "C:\Users\-----\Documents\SimCity 4\Albums" for Windows users (Not sure about Mac, sorry). To take a picture, minimize the menu completely and click Ctrl+Shift+S. Simcity 4 provides several frame sizes for you to take pictures with. I reccomend you use either the full screen frame or the frame size right before it (5 Spacebar Taps from the full screen frame). Why? These two frames automatically size images at 1024x768 (Full Screen) and 800x600 (Frame Size Before). Since the maximum size of pictures you can post onto Simtropolis (and many other forums and sites for that matter) is 800x600 pixels, you are set to go. This is helpful to the reader who doesn't want to strain their eyes looking at smaller pictures. You can resize smaller resolutions to a higher resolution, but this may distort the image or cause blur.

    Resizing Images:

    The first thing we want to do is to understand how to resize an image before we upload it to an image hosting site (e.g Imageshack). This prevents the grey "Resized to _%, was (-x-) Click to Enlarge" border from appearing around our pictures that are not 800x600.

    1. Open the image that is larger than 800x600.

    2. Click Image-Image Size...



    3. Change the Width to 800. If you have the "Constrain Proportions" box checked, you will see the height automatically adjust proportionally. Otherwise type 600 in the height box.


    4. Click OK and then File-Save (Or Save As if you wish to keep the original size and make the resize a new image)

    And that's it! Not bad right?

    General Photoshop Knowledge:

    1. You should know that if you place an image, place a shape, create a new layer, etc. while editing an image, you will need to flatten it out (right click background layer

    2. Don't overdo image editing. Oversaturating or making an image to bright can hurt the eye instead of please it.

    3. You should upload only images in jpeg format. Png formatted images can increase page loading times. Since the game naturally saves ingame taken pictures in png format, please use File-Save As-File Type-JPEG for ALL images you upload.

    Touching up on Images:

    So now that we know how to make all our images the same size (unless you crop your images which can change the dimensions), let's look at other things we can do to make our image more generally appealing. We'll start with the basic ones.


    -Brightness: Changes the levels of white emitted in your picture. Play around a bit with it and find an appealing amount.

    -Contrast: Changes the levels of black emitted in your picture. I personally enjoy increasing the contrast a bit in almost all of my pictures.

    -Levels: Not sure how to state this one. Crossing the white and black slider can turn the image negative. Mostly only handy when photoshpping mist in rainy pictures.

    -Curves: Adjust Brightness, Contrast, and Levels all at the same time.

    -Exposure:Adjust the amount of light your picture was taken in. I don't mess to much with the exposure slider, but sometimes I move the gamma correcton slider a bit in my day pics.

    Before (No Gamma Correction-Raw Image from Game)


    After (Gamma Correction)


    -Vibrance and Saturation: Adjust the levels of all color emitted. I wouldn't mess too much with these, but a little bit more (or less) vibrance always looks great.

    -Hue: Changes the definition of your colors. Red pixels can turn purple and green ones can turn yellow by a simple adjustment of this slider. I don't reccomend you do it at all though if your going for a realistic feel.

    -Color Balance: My favorite ones to adjust. You can make day pictures look like morning or sunset ones. You can also change the atmosphere the picture creates.

    Before: (Raw Image from Game)


    Adding some Yellow: (For that sunny afternoon effect)


    Mixing the Red and Magenta: (For that early morning -dawn- effect)


    Mixing the Red and yellow: (For those sunset shots)


    -Black and White: Turns all colors into black and white hues.

    -Photo Filter: Changes the Amount of a specific color emitted

    -Channel Mixer: Adjust hues individually

    -Invert: Inverts colors into their negative form

    -Posterize: Gives a poster resembling feel to pictures (somewhat of a propaganda creator in my opinion)

    -Threshold: Adjust the detail provided in black and white pictures

    -Gradient Map: Applies a semi-transparent gradient to your pics.

    -Selective Color: Adjust the color-balance of a specific set of color tones

    -Shadows and Highlights: Adjust several aspects of your picture at once here.

    -HDR Toning: Adjust several aspects of your picture at once here. You can accomplish great pictures using some of the preset options alone.

    -Variations: Get selectable previews of color balance adjustments until you are satisfied.

    There are many more options available. I reccomend experimenting with the Dodge, Burn, Sharpen, Blur, and Sponge tools available on the left hand column. You can also perform many adjustments by using a paint brush on a low opacity (transparency-solidness) setting. The more you experiment with these tools, the more efficiently you'll be able to use them.

    Let's go through a step by step process so you can get an idea of how to use photoediting programs. This will be the beginner tutorial where we go over the basics and add some special touches here and there.

    Beginner Tutorial:

    So we have this picture of a train passing by some farm fields in a fall setting. The picture itself isn't all that great (not much that's interesting), but with some photoediting we can make it alot better.


    First Thing I want to do is to raise the contrast. We want to bring out those fall colors.


    Changing the Gamma and Exposure a bit, I recieve the desired effect, but the train loses some of its textures, no problem of course.


    I change to the Burn Tool at an exposure of 87% and a brush size of 37.


    I then touch up on the train to make it a bit more textured and darker. After 2 coats, the train looks much better.


    Now what's better than a sunset train ride? :P


    We can use the blur tool at a very small exposure setting to reduce some of the grain and give it a softer look.


    I think that's enough. Time for the before and after shots!





    The editing itself only took me about 5 minutes, but I've become better at photoshop over the months. This may take 30 minutes or more depending on how good you can follow. If it takes a while don't worry, you can always take a break and come back later (or quit) if you don't feel your enjoying this. That being said, let's move on to the Intermediate Tutorial!

    Intermediate Tutorial (1):

    Here we'll go a explore Photoshop's tools a bit more and even add some special effects to our pictures. The only part that is harder is that we will have to set a goal so that we can touch up on the picture according to our goal.

    In the Intermediate Tutorial, you'll learn how to add rain effects (from drizzles to heavy rain), fog, lens flare, motion blurs, and designs to your pictures. This will provide you a sturdy base to start editing pictures with.

    Let's Begin! Here we have another raw image.


    We'll open it up in photoshop. I want to add a light rain and make it a bit more dull with some of fog. This way we can make the picture seem a bit more interesting, let's begin with giving it a more dull feel.


    Now we can edit the color balance to kill any remaining bits of out of place color.


    So far so good. Here I will introduce the filter section. The filter section provides several filters that you can use to enhance your images such as posterization, watercolor filter, glowing edges, and several other effects. For this image, we only need Filter-Distort-Diffuse Glow...


    Take note of that I don't want any grain to be added and am using a very light glow for the fog.


    Alright, so now we need some rain. I made my own rain overlay which can be found here:

    Rain Overlay

    Save the image (a temporary spot such as your Desktop will do):


    Go back to Photoshop. File-Place...Then navigate to where you saved the picture and place it into Photoshop.


    You should recieve something that looks like this:


    We'll use the Screen Filter to get rid of the black while leaving the drizzle unharmed. Right Click on the image and select place to get rid of the crossing diagonal lines.



    Select the (paint) brush tool and "attempt" to paint over the layer. You will be asked to rasterize it. Click OK.


    Now we are free to edit the layer (placed image, in this case the rain) as we wish without changing the look of the background layer (foggy beach picture). I'll raise the brightness to make the drops more visible.


    Although the water doesn't look to bad, I want to add another effect to it. Let's find a nice overlay from Google. Using the same steps as the rain, we can place the overlay into photoshop. I'll cover all of the existing water up with the new overlay:


    Then I'll select the Lighter Color filter.


    Set it at a 30% Opacity,


    Select the (paint) brush tool, make sure you still have the water layer selected. Rasterize it by clicking the image with the brush tool.


    We can then select the Clear setting at an Opacity of 100.


    I then clear all areas of the overlaying water that overlap with the shore, rocks, waves, cattails, etc. Notice that I've duplicated the layers on the bottom right. You can do this by right clicking on a layer and selecting "Duplicate Layer" You can then move the duplicated layer around by holding Ctrl and moving your cursor. I used this because on the left of the overlaying waves was a slight blue tint I wanted to get rid of. I realized that was the hard way. You can just make the layer black and white by going to Image


    The image is then flattened and finished.


    But of course I have to add in two more cents.




    Before and After anyone?-I realize now the effects were a little overdone.



    And that concludes the first section of the Intermediate Tutorial.

    Intermediate Tutorial (2&2.5)

    Here we will examine the motion blur and lens flare filters.

    First we'll start off with this picture of a car by the water. I want to make the setting more sunny and more tropical.


    Thus, I will adjust the brightness and contrast first.


    Then we can make the picture a bit more yellow, this is always a good photoedit tip for pictures taken in bright sunlight.


    And then a little bit more colorful:


    Time for the Flare! Although I don't like using the Lens Flare filter alot, it can help when trying to naturally brighten up an otherwise rather low lit picture.


    Under the following settings:


    And then I'll adjust the Shadows and Highlight settings to make the trees brighter.


    That is all! I think further editing would be overdoing it...





    And that concludes this part. Now we'll look at motion blurs. So we have this nice picture of a high-speed train passing by a snowy setting. The only thing is, the train doesn't look so high-speeed...


    First we'll touch up the image:


    Make it a bit more cyan to give it somewhat of an icy effect:


    And now we'll duplicate the layer in order to start working with the motion blur:


    Filter-Blur-Motion Blur...


    And now we'll make sure it is in the direction of the moving train by setting it at an angle of 63.


    And then we'll select the brush tool with a size of 25 at 100% Opacity and change the mode to "Clear".


    Running this over the entirety of the train, we erase the section of the motion blur layer and recover the original background layer for the train alone. The surroundings still remain blurred.






    I may have brightened it up a bit too much but anyways...Now we'll flatten, save as, and finish. This concludes Intermediate (2).

    Intermediate Tutorial (3):

    In this part of the intermediate tutorial the only thing we'll really cover is how to use the (paint) brush tool effectively.

    So we start with this standard picture in the suburbs. Since the trees are in their seasonal winter setting, I want to add effects that would make the picture seem as if it were a snowy Christmas Eve.


    We'll start by making the picture a bit darker (since winter nights aren't very bright) and raising the contrast so the original lighting still shows through the darkness.


    Now we can reduce the exposure and gamma correction to make it reflect the winter season a bit better.


    I then lower the saturation and vibrance to make the christmas lights on each house (that I'm about to add) stand out more.


    I choose a very small brush size (2 pix) at an Opacity of 35%.


    Using different colors with the same brush settings, I add some lights to this house.


    And then the next one as well, the process is already beginnning to get a bit tedious.


    I took a break by only adding white lights to this house. Not everyone puts up colored lights...


    Added some to the other side of the street. One house only has lights on the bushes.


    More were added to the houses on the top left.


    And then to the ones on the right of the intersection.


    Many lights were added to the houses at the bottom to finish the lighting.


    Now for some snow! I like this texture...


    We'll place it with the settings "Lighter Color" and at an Opacity of 78%


    The snow had some colorful edges. After rasterizing, I decided to put a black and white filter on it.


    And then adjust the brightness so that it fits in better with the surroundings.


    Next, I add finish it off with a nice little subtitle before flattening and saving.






    And with that, we conclude this section of the tutorial.

    Advanced Tutorial:

    In this tutorial, we will cover;


    -Special Effects

    Let's start with Mosaics! First we need to understand some basics:

    Full size Mosaics are composed of 800 by = 600 pictures. Mosaics are pictures that are vertically aligned over the same area. We can align these pictures by taking them with a common area that we can use to overlap the pictures.

    So Here we have one picture:


    And Another:


    We open the first one up in Photoshop:


    Go to Image-Canvas Size...


    And then make the height at least 5x Bigger:


    So it then looks like this:


    We then "Place" (File


    Set the layer to a temporary "Hard Light" Filter and Align the Pictures. Zoom in to make sure they are aligned perfectly.


    Switch the layer back to Normal After this. Rasterize it.


    Then Crop the Picture like so:


    Now we do all the editing...I'll tell you the last few steps to making the mosaic after the editing.

    So I go to google images and find a couple of explosions that I like...


    And then place them using the method shown before. I used the clear mode on the brush tool to blend it in. After Flattening, I then added some green and yellow tints and reduced the saturation to make it more depressing.


    I have made a New Layer and then Clicked Filter-Render-Clouds. The Opacity of this layer is 31% on Vivid Light.


    I added Fireball Effects...The result is not as great as I would've liked but it's not terrible...


    Using a texture off of google, I made the rotors spin. The layer was set to multiply and free transformed (Edit-Free Transform) to make it fit with the angle.


    Using another picture off of google, I made some rockets.


    I think that's good enough. This tutorial was supposed to help you to learn about mosaics, so let's get back to that...


    Go to Image


    The information here is important, it tells me I only need to use two vertically aligned pictures since the height is less than 600 times 2. Instead, I need one 800x600 picture and one 800x404 picture. I can crop out these portions of the picture and then upload them separately (one on top of the other) to form the mosaic. So we select the crop tool and set the width and height to 800x600.


    Crop the area.


    And save the 800x600 area we just cropped to a temporary folder.


    Clicking Ctrl+Alt+Z once or twice should take us back to the full mosaic. Set the Crop dimensions to 800x404 this time and crop out the bottom part.


    Save this as something else. Now we can upload it to ST by using the following format:No spaces in between.



    Please note that if your mosaic pixel height is greater than 1200 (involves more than two 800x600 pictures) than use this method:

    1.Crop out top 800x600 pixels: Save As: Click Ctrl+Alt+Z until you get back to the full mosaic

    2.Crop out top 800x1200 pixels: Crop out Bottom 800x600 Pixels: Save As: Click Ctrl+Alt+Z until you get back to the full mosaic

    (if needed)3. Crop out top 800x1800 pixels: Crop out Bottom 800x600 Pixels: Save As: Click Ctrl+Alt+Z until you get back to the full mosaic

    (if needed) 4. Crop out top 800x2400 pixels: Crop out Bottom 800x600 Pixels: Save As: Click Ctrl+Alt+Z until you get back to the full mosaic

    5. Keep going until the last section of the mosaic is 800 by(less than or equal to) 600 pixels. Then use the method above...

    So Before:






    That's it! Your good to go. Now for Part 2, the special effects section!

    Here we have a dogfight. (Yes this image is raw as well) Let's spice up the action!


    First adjust the brightness and contrast...


    And then the Color Balance...


    I'll make it less vibrant so it gains a more formal look...


    And then I created a New Layer, Filter


    Duplicated the background layer and added a motion blur to the duplicate. I used the brush tool on clear mode to recover the previously blurred planes.


    And then I'm done!





    And with that we conclude the tutorial. If you stuck with me until the very end I thank you. Please remember that photoediting should not be abused. Do not photoedit pictures and claim you have created something that really doesn't exist. Use it only to help get the point across that you want people to recieve when looking at your pictures. I've actually never used GIMP before, though I hear its a great tool. I am not familiar with the interface, but I think the concepts in this tutorial will still apply. Thanks and I hope this was helpful.

    P.S If there is any formatting error or something that comes up, please don't hesitate to let me know. I had some trouble with the formatting of the tutorial (like less than and greater than symbols and some other stuff).

    User Feedback

    THANK YOU!!! I waited for a long time for someone to explain how to do war scenes and you did perfectly. Not only it will help me, but will help others as well. :)

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