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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.
We're about to embark on this five part tutorial, where we'll create a matte painting over the plate we just prepared. But first, we're faced with the dilemma every artist encounters. What are we going to paint? You need a basic concept for your castle before you start work on your matte painting. Different artists have different approaches on how to get their ideas down. So let me share mine with you. I like to do a number of different ideas before I start a project, spending anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour on each one. Here are a few examples of what I did before I started this video series. Don't worry, I'll slow way down after this and walk you through it step by step. But the important thing is don't settle for your first idea. Try out a few before you start work on your final. These sketches here took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. If an idea is going well, I'll spend a little bit more time on it. If it looks like a dog, I'll cut my loses and start on another one. Two other things that I want you to think about while you're working on your concept sketch.
First I want you to design your castle so that it is set at an angle to the viewer. Let me show you what I'm talking about. Many students when coming up with their castle concept will create their castle so that it is looking straight onto us like this. There's a problem with this view. The castle is very flat and it shows no dimensionality. While working on your concept, I want you to think about showing two sides of your castle. An angled view of a scene will almost always be more interesting than a flat view.
So paint your castle at an angle, something like this, where you see a right and left face of your structure. I've just drawn these two examples using lines, but while painting your concept sketch, I want you to avoid line and think in terms of mass, at least while starting the sketch. Most great matte artists I have known are paint pushers rather than drawers, meaning they don't generally draw outlines of their projects, but rather develop the masses in paint, something like this. In nature, edges are defined by tone rather than line. We want our map painting to look as photo realistic as possible. So concentrate on thinking in terms of mass rather than line while doing your concept sketch.
With those ideas in mind, let's start working on our painting.
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