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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 your castle silhouette blocked in now, you want to set up a basic light and dark side on your castle. Since you worked at a 100% opacity on your silhouette, you can command or Ctrl click into the layer thumbnail preview for the Silhouette layer to load its selection. Press Cmd or Ctrl+H to hide the selection, but keep it active. If you're hiding a selection for the first time, Photoshop will ask you if you want to hide Photoshop or hide extras. Be sure to choose Hide Extras. Load the base color from you sillouite into the foreground color picker, and then choose a lighter version of that same color.
With your brush selected, choose Overlay from the Mode menu at the top of your interface. Make sure that you have a soft, round brush selected, and Transfer turned on and set to Pen Pressure in your Brush panel. Now, paint into the silhouette to start finding the forms in your castle. You don't need to be accurate in this pass, you're just roughly defining the light side. Reusing the overlay brush because it allows you to build up tones slowly.
We based the light color we're painting with on the dark tone of the silhouette, and in overlay mode, it lays down a nice rich color for your light side. This soft round brush is ideal for blocking in the towers and domes, so, go ahead and indicate the light side on all of them. Since we're building up the tones, your light side may get a little spotty. But don't worry about that, we'll unify the light side color in minute. With the light side very roughly blocked in, select that square brush again.
Select that red ochre color that the overlay brush gave you, and then go up to the top menu and set your brush mode to Normal. Now you can start clearly blocking in your light side, discovering where your surfaces meet at a 90 degree angles. At this point in the process, it's good to think of your castle as being constructed from basic geometric forms, like boxes and cylinders. Don't get involved with the fine details yet. On each corner of the castle, I plan to add bastions.
Basically large square boxes that anchor each corner of the walls. How this front bridge attaches to the castle still has to be worked out. This castle is going to have three layers, so, block in the light side of his middle tier. At this point in the process, I'm discovering the edges of the forms where the castle turns from the light side to the dark side.
Clean up the soft edges on this side tower. The square brush makes it very easy to do that. In fact, it's impossible to get a soft edge with the brush. Go through and finish up all of the hard edges on the form. Switch back to that round brush to work some more on the towers and domes. You want to add a nice curvature to this dome, and obviously the square brush won't work for that. Switch back and forth between the round and square brush to correct problems as you see them.
Add a little flame holder to the right side of this bastion. These front towers should have square bases. So, again, that square brush is good for that. The front edge of this castle still needs to be cleaned up, and it can be a little wider. That soft round brush is good for cleaning up the dark sides of these towers.
Make sure they're rounding nicely. It still isn't clear how this bridge attaches to the front of the castle. So, return to that square brush to do a little more work on it. Then painting the underside to show how it curves around. There are still a few adjustments to be made, figuring out how the castle intersects the ground and how wide the front should be. That's looking pretty good with the light side of the castle clearly defined. Next up, we'll start painting the forms in the structure on both the light and dark sides.
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