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Covering greenery with snow

From: Digital Matte Painting: Changing a Scene From Summer to Winter

Video: Covering greenery with snow

There's still a lot of green showing at the front of the house. Part of this was taken care by the snow layer, but it still looks like there's not enough snow on these foreground shrubs. I want to see the shrubs more clearly, so I'm going to turn off my Snow layer, and I'm going to loosely marquee around all of this greenery in the foreground. I want to be loose about this. I know I'm going to have to paint a lot of this stuff, so I don't need to get a terribly detailed selection.

Covering greenery with snow

There's still a lot of green showing at the front of the house. Part of this was taken care by the snow layer, but it still looks like there's not enough snow on these foreground shrubs. I want to see the shrubs more clearly, so I'm going to turn off my Snow layer, and I'm going to loosely marquee around all of this greenery in the foreground. I want to be loose about this. I know I'm going to have to paint a lot of this stuff, so I don't need to get a terribly detailed selection.

Now I'll press Command+Shift+C or Ctrl+Shift+C to Copy Merge and copy that selected area out. This should be placed on a painting layer, so Command+Shift+V or Ctrl+Shift+V to paste it in place exactly where it was copied out of. Then press Command+U or Ctrl+U to open up the Hue/Saturation dialog and desaturate the area. Then I'm going to add a curve to it and pull the white point way in and raise the midpoint, and now it looks a lot more wintry, just from the get-go.

Let's turn the snow back on. And I think I can even curve that more. I want to merge that into the rooftop layer, so that I don't get too many layers going at once. Press Command+E or Ctrl+E and then hit B to get the brush and I'm going to select that Foliage brush that I used to paint the mountain side. That seems to work really well for painting organic things like this. And with white loaded in, I'm going to go through and paint in some of these tree branches.

I'm paying attention to how the snow would stick to the tree. And I'm going in and adding snow to the top of the shrubs. I am back to scribbling, but I am paying attention to the form of the shrubs and trees. I'm looking at the top of this tree and it looks like it's got a big blob of snow on it. I'm going to take the Eraser tool, or hit E on the keyboard, and erase into the layer to give me a more realistic tree profile.

Press B to get back to the Brush tool and continue to add snow to the branches. This is in real time, so forgive the occasional silences. I'm going to add some additional spacing to this to give myself more texture as I paint. I want the brush to be a little bit larger, so I'm going to hit the right bracket key to raise the size in one-pixel increments. Now I can go into this lower area and paint a heavily textured shrub.

The great thing about Photoshop's custom brush is is it allows you to produce a brush with a lot more character and roughness to it than the default soft round brush. When I was a young artist still working entirely in analog media, I only wanted to work with pristine brushes. My favorite at the time was a brand- new Winsor & Newton #3 red sable brush. When I started working at Walt Disney Studios, I had a chance to observe the working habits of Peter Ellenshaw, the great matte artist, and the father of my mentor in matte painting, Harrison Ellenshaw.

I was surprise to find that Peter didn't favor pristine brushes. In fact, some of his favorite brushes were, to my mind, rather ratty. He often used brushes with uneven edges and bristles that stuck out to the side and were well past their premium shelf life. When I asked him about it, he told me he preferred them because they offered more character to the brushstroke, more texture. And that's what a properly constructed custom brush can give you a brush with lots of character that can produce happy accidents as you work.

I want to paint more of a join at the base of these shrubs so I don't get this hard broken-up edge. I'm grabbing some of the snow shadow color to add to the base. That smoothes out the join between the plants and the ground. I've to got to do the same on all of these left-side shrubs, so I'm going to grab some of that bright snow color. And it's easiest to just hand paint these. It will go very quickly. Again, you've got to stay loose on this stuff.

If you think too much about it, you'll get a much less natural organic look than if you just let your hand flow. I have a little tree to deal with down here. With the foreground plants completely covered with snow, it's time to work on the background trees, and we'll do that in the next lesson.

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