Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3: Tone
Illustration by John Hersey

Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3: Tone

with David Mattingly

Video: Downward-facing surfaces

In this section, we're going to darken all downward-facing surfaces on our castle. Downward-facing surfaces will generally be darker on both the light and dark sides, since they would be receiving less reflected light from the sky. There are two obvious downward-facing surfaces on this castle that we should take care of first, the undersides of the front and side bridges. The underside of this front bridge is on the light side, even though it would really be quite dark underneath it, so first, we need to remove it from the light side, by painting into the layer mask.

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Watch the Online Video Course Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3: Tone
1h 18m Beginner Sep 19, 2013

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After you've perfected your perspective drawing, the next step in the matte painting process is to layer in tone: the master tool in the matte artist's arsenal for establishing a fully formed structure. David Mattingly, a matte artist for many groundbreaking motion pictures, takes a black-and-white drawing and shows how to use the five elements of light—dark sides, light sides, cores, cast shadows, and final darks— to paint the surfaces and create a realistically shaded environment in Adobe Photoshop.

This course is part 3 in David's Digital Matte Painting Essentials series. Go back to part 2 to recreate the castle drawing he uses in this course, or if you simply want to learn more about form, you can use the example provided in the exercise files.

Topics include:
  • Selecting the silhouette
  • Find the dark sides and light sides in the drawing
  • Using mask-holding layers
  • Examining the light and dark sides of rounded surfaces
  • Looking at the cores
  • Adding cast shadows
  • Separating surfaces with final darks
  • Adding ambient occlusion
Subjects:
3D + Animation Design
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
David Mattingly

Downward-facing surfaces

In this section, we're going to darken all downward-facing surfaces on our castle. Downward-facing surfaces will generally be darker on both the light and dark sides, since they would be receiving less reflected light from the sky. There are two obvious downward-facing surfaces on this castle that we should take care of first, the undersides of the front and side bridges. The underside of this front bridge is on the light side, even though it would really be quite dark underneath it, so first, we need to remove it from the light side, by painting into the layer mask.

Load in the Underbridge mask holding layer, and select the mask for the light side layer. Select black from the color picker. Choose that soft brush, and set the opacity to 100%. And paint into the mask. This blocks the light side layer from lightening the under side of the bridge. With the same selection loaded, select the Cast shadow layer. Make sure you have that same medium grey in your color picker. And add a general gradient as the bridge curves around from the light to dark side.

Then for the deepest part of the underside of the bridge, paint into the Final darks layer. Now you can really see that transition from dark to light under the bridge. Let's do the same for this little bridge to the side tower. Paint into the underside of the bridge, where it wouldn't be getting as much light. What other downward-facing surfaces do we have on this castle? We have all of the fine details on the ellipses of the towers that we can go through an add a bit of tone.

Load in the towers one Mask holding layer and let's zoom in on the towers. These towers currently look under formed for their level of complexity. So toning the undersides of them will help out a lot to show off the detail. You're adding the underside tone on both the light and dark sides since it's being applied on a separate layer. The tone on the dark side will look darker because it's laying over a darker base.

Skip around all over your castle, looking for any surfaces facing away from the sky, and darken them up. Load in your towers two in details Mask holding layer and make you are still on your FinalDarks layer. And now, we can take care of these two remaining top towers, and then we've got these little detail points on the dome, go through and quickly knock in the underside tones for them.

That finishes those up. Let's load in the dome and side towers Mask holding layer. Notice how this dome top immediately looks more three dimensional with just a little bit of additional toning. I need that towers two in detail Mask holding layer again to finish up these points.

And the underside of these flame holders should be darkened. Now that does it for downward-facing surfaces. Next up, we're going to add Ambient Occlusion darks as we come close to the end of this form section.

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