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Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter

Adding snow to the background trees


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Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter

with David Mattingly

Video: Adding snow to the background trees

Now the mountains are looking snowcapped, but we still have these green trees in the background, and we're going to get rid of them with some painting. With the custom brush that we created in the previous lesson selected, let's zoom in and take a look at these mountains. While painting into the mountains, we want to reinforce the direction of the light. The light is coming from the left, so the left side of the mountain should be brighter and the right side should have more of that shadow color. Make sure white is loaded into the foreground color picker, and let's scribble some tone into these background trees.

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Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter
1h 48m Intermediate Jul 03, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, well-known author, teacher, and illustrator David Mattingly demonstrates his production-proven matte painting techniques and shows how to turn a summer daytime scene into a wintry nightscape using Photoshop and After Effects. David shows how to take a plate, or a still shot from a film, and alter key elements to change the season and time of day. Using advance digital matte painting methods, David removes all of the greenery from the mountains, fields, and trees, and covers them with snow. Then he replaces the sky, and adds realistic touches such as chimney smoke, icicles, and night-lit windows. In the final chapters, you'll discover how to create an animated scene that cross-dissolves between the two versions.

Topics include:
  • Making precise selections using the Color Range command
  • Controlling reference material through layer masks
  • Creating custom brushes
  • Painting snow, icicles, and trees
  • Painting through a high-contrast matte
  • Replacing the sky in an image
  • Animating smoke and falling snow
  • Reformatting and rendering a scene in After Effects
Subjects:
3D + Animation Illustration Video Digital Painting Compositing Visual Effects
Software:
After Effects Photoshop
Author:
David Mattingly

Adding snow to the background trees

Now the mountains are looking snowcapped, but we still have these green trees in the background, and we're going to get rid of them with some painting. With the custom brush that we created in the previous lesson selected, let's zoom in and take a look at these mountains. While painting into the mountains, we want to reinforce the direction of the light. The light is coming from the left, so the left side of the mountain should be brighter and the right side should have more of that shadow color. Make sure white is loaded into the foreground color picker, and let's scribble some tone into these background trees.

I don't want to paint every individual tree; I just want to break up the pattern of the hillside so that it looks like it's covered with snow. You need to think about how trees would capture snow. The underside of the branches would be showing through and it wouldn't be a solid snow cover. This sort of custom brush is really good for painting this kind of textured surface. It doesn't allow you to get really nitpicky, but you just have to concentrate on the overall look of the area. I want to load in a selection to contain my painting as I'm working, so Command+Click or Ctrl+Click into the layer icon preview for the Mountains layer.

I want to paint into this flat area on the side of the mountain to give it more of a broken-up snow-covered feeling. Even are I'm working very fast and loose, I'm paying attention to the form of the mountain and how the snow would fall down the sides of the mountain. Wherever there are trees on the mountain, I'm assuming they would catch a little bit more snow than the bare hillside. And the snow would probably be lighter on the parts of the hill that have a more extreme vertical angle. But even on a vertical hillier side, wherever there's a tree, the snow would still be caught by the branches.

As I work, I'm constantly varying the size of the brush on the fly to give the form some variety. At this point I also want to turn down the Scatter so that I get a more solid line. I'm going to go up here to Transfer and raise the minimum Opacity on the brush. That way the marks will be darker and more solid. Anywhere that I've got a big flat area like this, I want to break it up. I've got all of these trees on the ridge line that I need to go over.

I want to be careful to follow the growth pattern of these trees as I paint, because I plan to cross dissolve between the summer and winter versions in After Effects. If I don't pay attention to the growth pattern, when I cross dissolve between the two versions, there will be a pop and you'll know that there's a difference between the two landscapes. I'm just basically scribbling here, and in fact, I find when you're painting this sort of organic surface, if you stop and think about it too much, the painting well start to get stiffer and less natural looking.

If you relax and just let this flow, it will probably look more natural. When I first made the transition from being an analog to being a digital artist, one of the things I didn't like about Photoshop was that there was no inherent texture in the brushes. Fortunately, each new version of Photoshop introduces better ways to get a textured mark. These large flat areas tend to be kind of problematic. As I'm scribbling, it becomes apparent there's a pattern of lines and I do want to avoid that.

Some of that distinctive patterning can be avoided by continuously changing the size of the brush as you work. I do want to jump around and work on different areas of the painting so that I don't get too focused on any one section. Custom brushes are a real boon to the digital artist, and I pay a lot of attention to designing new brushes for each project that will handle specific tasks. I'm fascinated by custom brushes and I'll often check out other artists' brushes on the Internet, when they offer them, to see if they're doing something I haven't thought of.

I think the brushes that are least useful are the ones that contain large images--for instance, brushes that consist of large scanned images of insects or demon skulls. I never find those particularly useful. What I want is a brush that brings texture to your painting, not introduces a large image. Now I am going to sample the shadow side of this mountain and start painting to reinforce the direction of the light. I definitely want the right side to be darker and not have a white line on the edge.

Same on the top of this ridge line; it's nice if this right side is a little bit darker. And I am going to sample white again and break up this slope, indicate a little bit more snow falling down the side of the mountain. You can see I'm also constantly sampling off of the painting to get a slightly different tone. It's important to keep slightly varying the colors you work so that the tone doesn't go dead in any area. Now I'm basically copying all over the place, fixing any little areas that jump out at me as needing more snow or little bit more shadow.

It's important to not constantly work zoomed in on your painting and to periodically zoom out to see the overall effect that you're getting. Working to close in gets you concerned about the tiny details, but it's the overall look and feel that you really need to be concerned about. That pretty much finishes up the background mountains. In the next lesson we'll do a little bit more work on the foothills and then we'll start winterizing the chalet.

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