Photoshop tutorial: Turn a city into a dinosaur illustration

Andy Council has made a name for himself transforming street scenes into prehistoric monsters – here’s how the illustrator does it


Andy Council has created a fair few dinosaurs in his time – made up of various towns and cities. His most recent, based on the Crouch End area of north London, is his most detailed yet. 

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Commissioned by a Crouch End resident, Andy toured the area looking at the local sights before creating the beast. Using The Crouch End Dinosaur as an example, Andy explains how he uses colour to create balance and add depth to pieces, and how simple layers of shade are used to add weight and definition. These techniques can be applied to any hand-drawn line work.

Go to for more on The Crouch End Dinosaur.

Time to complete

3 weeks


Adobe Photoshop

Step 1


I took dozens of photos of local landmarks in Crouch End as drawing and colour references. These included pictures of buildings taken from many different angles (you’ll see why in a bit). I also noted their location so that people who knew the area would see a level of accuracy in the finished piece.

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Step 2


I worked with the person commissioning the piece to create a very rough pen sketch of the dinosaur. We agreed on a diplodocus shape as the best form based on the road layout. Building locations were noted and plotted in according to approximate geographic location and to fit to the shape of the creature. For example, the semi-circular window of the Hippodrome was chosen to be the eye.

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Step 3


I collated all the photos and used them to make a series of pen sketches of the key landmarks. I often ended up drawing the same landmark a few times from different views to figure out how best to fit each in to the piece (hence the need for photos from different angles).

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Drawing the buildings before starting on the final illustration helped me to work out parts that could be simplified, as only the key details of a building are required when it is done small.

Step 4


Using the preparatory sketches for reference, I drew a pencil version of the final dinosaur over three sheets of A4. I sent this to the client for review before inking the line work and scanning. I then cleaned up the image in Photoshop, removing paper join lines and stray pixels.

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Step 5


I used the Background Eraser Tool (E) to delete the white areas and keep only the black line work. I then duplicated the layer. I kept the top layer for line work and the other for colour. Using the Paint Bucket tool (G), I started off by adding roads and green areas for the back and belly of the beast. This was to balance the piece and break up the brown of the buildings.  I used the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick out colours from my photos.

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Step 6


On my line work layer I coloured the lines of buildings in the distance in varying shades of grey. These went from dark grey in the foreground to light grey in the distance.  This was to add depth to the piece and make the dinosaur stand out. The colour fills on these buildings were done in lighter shades to also add depth.

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Step 7


High-rise buildings in the City were coloured in light grey blues as they are on the horizon and reflect the blue of the sky. On a new layer behind the line and colour work I added the sky using the Gradient tool (G). I used a very pale blue-to-white vertical gradient.

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Step 8


I placed a new piece of paper over the top of my drawing and drew an outline of the areas for shadow. This was scanned in and filled in black using the Paint Bucket tool (G). I then copied and pasted it into a new layer above the line and colour work. Once positioned correctly, I adjusted the opacity of the layer to get the desired shadow effect.

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About the artist: Andy Council


Andy Council is a Bristol-based Illustrator and street artist. He has exhibited internationally and his work can be seen in Bristol’s new M Shed museum. Andy’s style is a highly individual amalgamation of architecture, structure and character; rendering intricately detailed compositions of imagined creatures composed of iconic objects. Cities and dinosaurs feature prominently in his work.

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