How to Create a Desolate Post-apocalyptic Atmosphere in Photoshop
In this tutorial we will use textures and lighting adjustments to create a Post-apocalyptic atmosphere in London. Rather than teach you how to blow up the tower bridge and add zombies crawling from the aftermath, this tutorial will focus almost entirely on creating a desolate atmosphere.
So lets get started, open up the Tower Bridge stock photo in Photoshop.
Next place the grungy clouds texture on a new layer above the Tower Bridge photo, filling the whole document.
Set the Blending Mode of the clouds to Soft Light, and adjust the Levels slightly until you're happy with the amount of detail you can see on top of the original photo.
As the cloudy texture is quite subtle and blends with the original photo, we don't need to do a precise mask. Simply use the Eraser tool to clear some of the unwanted clouds on and around the water.
Next up, is the grunge wall texture. Place it in the document, above all the other layers.
For the grunge texture we will be using a mask, so hide the grunge wall temporarily and press Q to enter Quick Mask mode. If you fill the whole document now with black, you will see a red overlay indicating which areas will not be included in the selection (all of them at first).
Grab the Brush tool with a soft round brush and the foreground color set to white and start erasing areas of the red selection. Focus on revealing the bridge and some buildings in the background.
Pressing Q again to leave Quick Mask mode with leave you with a selection.
Select and show the grunge wall texture, and create a Layer Mask to Reveal Selection.
You should have something that looks like this now. The more time you spend on the mask, the better the result you will get. But it's okay to just have a rough outline of the bridge.
Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and adjust the Levels until you are happy with the result.
Step 10 (Optional)
If you want to add some destruction to scene, use the Clone tool and a rough brush to erase certain areas of the bridge.
Now we will improve the lighting by adding a new Gradient Fill Layer from a light to darker shade of orange.
Set the Blending Mode of the gradient to Color, and adjust the Layer Opacity until happy with the results.
Next, let's add some stormy rain to the scene. Create two new layers and fill them both with high contrast noise.
Apply a Motion Blur to the first noise layer.
Apply another Motion Blur to the second noise layer, but this time adjust the angle and strength slightly.
Set the Blending Mode of both blurred noise layers to Soft Light. This should create a strong rain effect.
For some finishing touches, apply a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
And a Levels Adjustment Layer (or whatever adjustments you feel it needs)
And there we have it! By simply adding textures and adjusting the colors and lighting, we have a post apocalyptic atmosphere effect. Of course, if you really want it to look believable you should also erase the people on bridge (or pretend they're zombies) but this tutorial was intended to create a spooky atmosphere. And the techniques learned should be applicable to almost any photo manipulation.