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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.
With the light side clearly defined, now it's time to start finding some of the interior forms on the castle. Open up the brush window. I like to use a brush with some roughness and scatter on it when drawing internal forms to make the line more interesting. Select a dark color from the composition that will show up on both the light and dark side. And let's start finding the edges of the interior forms. Delineate where the tops of these walls are.
As before, you can click, hold the Shift key and then click again and Photoshop will draw a straight line in between the two clicks. With that shortcut, you have a built in ruler for drawing straight lines. When drawing horizontal or vertical lines, you can hold down the Shift key and drag and Photoshop constrains the brush to a 90 degree angle. Now you can define the entrance to the castle. This box is extending out from the front face and will contain the doorway.
This area where the back of the bridge meets the castle needs some definition. Then figure out a little bit more about what the forms on the front of this bridge are doing. You don't have to be terribly precise while doing this part of the project. Here you are finding the positions of the internal forms. And as you can see, I sometimes make two or three slightly different lines as I try to find where a surface would be.
If you're doing a traditional analog painting of a castle like this, you might start by doing a line drawing of the structure. We will be working out the formal perspective with the line drawing in the next section. But for this concept phase, we're basically doing the reverse of the analog process. Here, we started by finding an interesting silhouette and only then start drawing the internal forms. Once you have found out where a form should be, like this castle entrance, that Square brush is good for knocking in the dark side. And looking at this, I feel like the bridge needs to be in front of these rocks not right on top of them.
So I'm going to extend it down a bit. Now that more of the interior forms of the castle have been found. It's time to add some shadows and darken the areas where the three tiers of the castle meet. That way the edges will start to be held with tone rather than line. For the final piece to look photographic, none of the edges should be defined with a line. So even in this concept phase, it's a good idea to start to think about separating edges with tone. I want to darken the area behind this side tower.
So I'm going to make a selection with the Rectangular Marquee tool, invert it and then hide the selection Cmd or Ctrl+H. Darken behind the tower so it stands out from the castle wall. Invert the selection again, so you can paint on the actual tower. With a big, soft brush, paint in a shadow. Since this tower is behind the castle, it would be in shadow. Even at the dark side of this tower. There should be another little flame holder on this left face of the castle. Go back to that big soft brush.
Here I'm adding some more dark tones on the castle to even out these forms. Switching back to this Square brush, I want to redefine the tops of these walls and even out these tones that have gotten kind of lumpy.
With a slightly lighter tone, I'm finding the back sides of these castle structures. I'm going through and cleaning up the top of these castle walls. I plan to add some decorative detail in just a minute. But I want 'em nice and clean before I do that. I'm almost done, but I want to skip around and clean up things that are still bothering me, like the top of this castle dome. And also darkening the area behind each tier of the walls on the light side.
And darkening the front of the bridge a little bit. The underside of the bridge still needs to be dealt with. I'm going to go a head and marquee that off so that I can add a nice soft tone to show where it's curving away from the light. That finishes roughing in the interior forms. Next up we're going to add some decorative crenelations to the castle.
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