Digital Matte Painting Essentials 4: Texturing
Illustration by John Hersey

Levels and Curves anatomy


Digital Matte Painting Essentials 4: Texturing

with David Mattingly

Video: Levels and Curves anatomy

Photoshop has lots of marvelous Color Correction First, there is a graph of the image you are So you can see this image has no whites in it, but it And you can see the Level's histogram shows the same thing, so just remember the Levels and Curves also have the same sorts of controls.
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  1. 1m 51s
    1. Introduction
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 44m 5s
    1. Why did we wait so long to use photographic textures?
      1m 55s
    2. Prepping the form study for texturing
      5m 32s
    3. Transfer modes
      9m 4s
    4. Color basics
      4m 45s
    5. Creating a stone texture
      3m 26s
    6. Adding the dark side's base texture
      3m 57s
    7. Adding the light side's base texture
      3m 40s
    8. Rounded textures and the Warp tool
      6m 33s
    9. Websites for matte painting reference
      5m 13s
  3. 30m 12s
    1. Creating a photographic crenellation
      7m 30s
    2. Creating a line of crenellations
      3m 27s
    3. The Vanishing Point tool
      4m 54s
    4. Adding crenellations using the Vanishing Point tool
      3m 4s
    5. Trimming the crenellations
      7m 9s
    6. Adding back sides to the crenellations
      4m 8s
  4. 29m 36s
    1. Levels and Curves anatomy
      5m 26s
    2. Camera Raw
      3m 33s
    3. Using Levels and Curves
      4m 55s
    4. Color correcting individual RGB channels
      3m 19s
    5. Toning the base castle
      5m 35s
    6. Toning the crenellations
      6m 48s
  5. 32m 25s
    1. Adding photographic elements
      4m 19s
    2. Distorting the dome and rectangular faces
      5m 18s
    3. Relighting the dome
      5m 59s
    4. Color correcting the dome
      1m 52s
    5. Adding more photographic details
      5m 57s
    6. Relighting the new details
      3m 50s
    7. Color correcting the details
      5m 10s
  6. 51m 33s
    1. Extreme color correction
      3m 36s
    2. Adding a photographic sky
      6m 27s
    3. Adding background mountains
      5m 32s
    4. Integrating the details
      7m 30s
    5. Collapsing layers and more details
      5m 13s
    6. The final paint layer
      6m 28s
    7. Lights and glows
      7m 16s
    8. Smoke and flames
      9m 31s
  7. 33s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Digital Matte Painting Essentials 4: Texturing
3h 10m Beginner Nov 07, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

A crucial step in building a realistic digital matte painting is texturing your scene. This course shows you how to add light, color, and texture to a basic form using photographic references and the tools in Adobe Photoshop. Author David Mattingly starts the lessons where Digital Matte Painting Essentials 3 left off—with a fully shaded 3D form—but you can also jump straight into this installment to learn more about texturing. Start now to learn how to add crenellations, color correct your form, distort and relight photographic textures, and add glows and special effects that make your painting convincing.

Topics include:
  • Preparing your form study for texturing
  • Adding dark and light side textures
  • Making rounded textures with the Warp tool
  • Creating photographic crenellations
  • Using Levels and Curves for color correction
  • Adding photographic elements
  • Relighting details
  • Adding glows, smoke, and flames
3D + Animation Design
David Mattingly

Levels and Curves anatomy

Photoshop has lots of marvelous Color Correction tools, many of which are aimed at automating the color correction process, and they're all located in the Image Adjustments menu. Here we have Brightness and Contrast, Vibrance, Color Balance. There's lots of them. However, as a matte artist, you'll primarily be using only three of these tools, Levels, Curves, and Hue/Saturation. The keyboard shortcut for Curves is Cmd or Ctrl+M. Levels is Cmd or Ctrl+L. And Hue/Saturation is Cmd or Ctrl+U.

Levels and Curves have a lot of controls in common. You can do many of the same things in both of them, so let's take a a moment to talk about the anatomy of levels and curves. First, there is a graph of the image you are working on in the middle of both called a histogram. Here it is in the middle of Curves, and then it's darker and more squashed in Levels. The way the histogram works is that it shows the white tones of the image on the right side and the dark tones on the left or horizontally.

Then vertically it shows the amount of each tone in the image. So you can see this image has no whites in it, but it has a big spike on the dark side as indicated by this hump in the histogram. And you can see the Level's histogram shows the same thing, so just remember the whites to the right, the blacks to the left and the amount up and down. Levels and Curves also have the same sorts of controls. In the upper right corner of Curves is the White point and the White point in Levels is this slider on the right.

Same with the Black point. The lower left point in Curves is the Black point, as is the left slider in Levels. In Levels, there's a slider for the Mid-tones, but in Curves there's no preset control point, you just click on the line in Curves to set up a new point wherever you want one. If I click in the middle here, I can have the same control I have with the slider in Levels. The biggest advantage of Curves is that you can set points anywhere along the line, in the shadows and highlights for instance, and modify only that tonal range.

Levels doesn't offer that sort of detailed control. So you can think of Levels as a cruder tool, like a sledge hammer. Well, Curves can also be a sledge hammer. It's capable of doing very detailed work, like a scalpel. The truth is, is that when you become more experienced in Color Correction, you'll use Curves almost exclusively. Levels has another set of controls at the bottom called Output Levels, which are not available on Curves. If you pull in this left slider for the Black output level, you will lighten the image overall.

You can get the same effect in Curves by pulling up on the Black point. In Levels if you pull the White output point to the left, it darkens everything, and you can get the same effect in Curves by pulling down on the White point. Before we move on to work with Levels and Curves on an image, let's take another look at the histogram. It can tell you a lot about the image you're working on. For instance, in this image we see that there are no pure whites. That tones only start to occur about an eighth of the way across the histogram. Also, you can see that the blacks are all clumped up on the left side, which probably indicates that this picture was either poorly exposed or badly scanned.

When you see the tones running into the edge like this, it means that detail has been lost in the dark areas, and they will be completely black. So this image will not be an optimal piece of reference, since you'll never be able to recover the detail in the dark areas. Let's take a look at the photo this histogram represents. It's this Scottish castle. You can see there is no pure white in the picture. Even these clouds are slightly toned. The real problem shows up when you look in these dark areas.

These are completely black, with no detail. A better quality photo would retain that detail. It doesn't mean you can't use this as photo reference, it just means that the histogram gave you a heads up about potential problems with it. One last thing in this section. Be aware that any time you make a Color Correction to an image you are throwing away information. Let me do a ridiculous Color Correction on this photo just to make a point. Open up Levels, and pull the White point to the left and the Black point to the right.

Press OK to accept it. This probably isn't a Color Correction you would ever make to an image, but even a much less drastic move throws away some information. Now, reopen Levels and take a look at the histogram. You can see that there are now gaps in the histogram indicating that the relatively smooth gradiation in the original photo is gone. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since you'll be adapting the photo reference for your project and that requires that you change the original. But it's worth remembering that any Color Correction you make to an original throws away some of the information in it.

Next, we're going to open a picture in the Camera RAW format and talk a bit about why Camera RAW is such a great format for matte painting reference.

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