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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.
Setting up the Mask Holding layers in the last two lessons was the hardest part of this section. Now we get to use them to first tone our towers and domes, and then finish lighting the castle. Which should be easy and fun with all this prep work done. Lets do the light side of the towers first. Load in the selection for the towers, one mask holding layer, by command or control-clicking into the layer or thumbnail preview. You won't want to see the selection while you're working, so command or control H to hide the selection.
Then select your light-side layer. One danger with the mask holding layers is that when you're loading them, you can sometimes accidentally select them, and then you'll be working on a layer with zero visibility, and scratching your head trying to figure out why your paint strokes don't show up. With the light side layer selected, select the same middle gray we used before, somewhere around 150-150-150 in the RGB readout. Then select the gradient tool.
The default gradient tool is the linear gradient tool, which gradients from the foreground to the background color by default. You want to choose the fourth one over, the reflected gradient tool, which gradients out equally from both sides. Also, by default Photoshop has the gradient set to foreground to background. Click on the gradient editor and sleect the second option, foreground to transparent. If the options shown in your gradient editor are different from mine.
Click on the gear in the upper right corner and choose Reset Gradients to reset the options to the default. And then make sure foreground to transparent is chosen. Lastly, set the opacity of the gradient tool to 50%. This will allow you to take a couple of swipes at the gradient and build it up. So now we're ready to start adding gradients to the light side of the towers and domes. Let's start with this top tower in the center.
Hold down the shift key and drag from the right side of the tower to the left. The shift key forces the gradient to be vertical, straight up and down like the tower, giving you a nice, clean rounding of the tower. Since you have the opacity set to 50%, you'll need to give each tower several sweeps building up the tone as you go. With each tower seperated from the others, you don't have to worry about the gradient spelling over on to the towers next to it.
The gradient tool won't do it all. It's only good for our first pass. The fine tower tops will require the brush to tone them correctly. Choose a soft round brush and make it smaller to get the narrow, pointy tops. You'll need to do resizing of the brush on the fly by Ctrl+Option or Ctrl+Alt. Dragging left to right to make your brush larger for the big parts of the towers and smaller for the points.
I missed this one tower top and I'll do it entirely with the brush. You can go through and perfect all of the towers with the brush, using what the gradient did as a base. And let's clean up these little smokestacks at the front. That's everything in this mask, let's load in towers two in details. These two towers need to be toned. They were broken out into another layer to avoid touching the other towers.
These little details on the dome need to be toned with a very fine brush. Then the same with the details on this side tower. Add a little bit of tone on the underside of these flame holders. The one surface that hasn't been done yet is the dome. Let's load in the selection for that.
This is a complex surface that will take some finessing with the brush. So start with the large brush to tone the wide base. Start building up the tone keeping the rounding of the large form. Then reduce the size of the brush to do the pointed top following the contour of the point. And that's it for the light side of the towers and domes. The mask holding layers made it easy and very controllable.
In the next lesson, we'll add the dark side of the same forms.
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