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Learn to create new worlds, both fanciful and totally realistic, in our series on digital matte painting in Adobe Photoshop with David Mattingly, a matte artist for many groundbreaking motion pictures such as Tron and I, Robot. In this installment, he shows you how to set up your palettes and workspace, tone the underlying plate, create silhouettes in your background, and paint in light and other details. Plus, learn to paint waterfalls, smoke, and other elements that make for fascinating movie backdrops.
The next step is to tone your plate, so that the environment more closely matches your idea for your castle concept. I have in mind a castle on on a sea of lava. But right now, this beautiful Caribbean coastline looks very little like that. By toning the plate, I'm going to change this blue ocean into a more threatening red volcanic environment. Turn off the hill that you extracted in the last section, so, we can work on the overall plate. You should start by adding an Adjustment layer.
Adjustment layers are added by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the Layers window that looks like a circle with white at the top and black at the bottom. Adjustment layers offer you most of the controls available in the top menu under Image Adjustments, like curves, levels, hue and saturation and many more. However, Adjustment layers are different from regular image adjustments, in that they are non-destructive. Choose Curves from the Adjustment Layers menu.
The Curve Adjustment layer appears in the Layers tab, and the Curves window appears in the Properties tab. If you don't have the Properties window open, choose it from the Window drop-down menu. We'll use the Curve Adjustment layer as the first pass on toning our plate. You want to make the plate darker overall. So, in the RGB curve, pull the white point down. That crushes all of the bright whites in the water.
Next, click on the middle of the curve and pull down. That darkens all of the mid-tones in the plate. I want to make the plate redder, and get rid of the bright blue-greens of the ocean and the sky. Go to the color channel selector at the top left of the curves window, and select Red. Now, you can adjust the red channel of the plate individually. Since we want the plate to have more red, we will click in the center of the red curve to add a point and then pull up. Anytime you pull up on a curve, it adds more of that color and also lightens the plate.
Next, select the green channel from the Drop-down menu. When we pull down on the green curve, we'll both add the complement of green, which is red, and also darken the plate. I'm also going to pull down on the white point at the top of the green curve, in order to darken the white caps of the ocean. Then pull down on the middle of the curve a little more. The plate is looking very violet and we need to add some yellow to counteract that. Go up to the Channel selector again and select the Blue channel.
To add yellow to the plate, you need to take away blue. So, pull down on the middle of the blue curve, then pull down on the white point of the blue curve to add more yellow to the white caps. If you switch back to the RGB drop down, it shows you all of the adjustments you've made to all of your color channels. Using only this single Adjustment layer curve, we've gone from this to this. Next up, we're going to use layers set to different transfer modes to further tone this plate.
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