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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.
We did two regular cast shadows in the lesson, but now we're going to explore a special kind of cast shadow, a shape shadow. Shape shadows contain the shape of the object that is projecting them, and they are among the most interesting shadows you'll have on a project. An obvious example of a shape shadow would occur where the shadow of this bridge was projected onto the wall behind it. It would contain the pattern of the crenelations on top of the bridge along with the curve on the underside of the bridge.
The shadow would show that curve along with the interesting zigzag pattern at the top. If you look at the crenulations at the top of the bridge, they're complicated by the crenulations at the back. The pattern is not clear so I'm going to use the powder of the crenulations from this side wall since they are more clearly defined. I'm going to set my feather back to zero, and lasso around a section of these. And then intersect that with the lower wall mask holding layer.
Move that selection over to the area where we will be using it. Then go to the select menu and here is a command that a lot of artists don't know about, but is really useful. And that is transform selection. Normally, when you transform a selection with Cmmd or Ctrl+T, you're transforming the pixels contained in that selection. When you use this command, it ignores the content of the selection and just transforms the selection itself.
You have access to all the commands that are in the regular transform. So, right-click in the Transform box, and choose Distort from the drop-down menu. Pull this edge down to match the angle of the light we marked before and pull this side abit. Double check the angle of the sun and make sure that yours matches, then adjust the number of crenellations that show up to taste.
We're guessing on this rather than plotting it, but if your guess is reasonable, no one will challenge you. Then press return to accept it. I don't have the shape of the underside of the bridge in this selection, so once again we need to make a reasonable guess. Match the shape of the lower part of the bridge and now we have a selection that will work for this shape shadow. Make sure you are on the Cast shadows layer. Clean up this corner where the selection goes beyond the wall, and fill the selection with that medium gray. We have a very sharp shadow again, so let's select it a little bit beyond where it originates, and press Cmd or Ctrl+F.
This runs the last filter that you ran, again, and in this case, that was the gaussian blur. Blurring it the same as the door way shadow, four pixels. Move the selection a little further away from the bridge and then hit cmd or Ctrl+F again to make that selection further out, even softer. And do that a couple more times to really soften up the edge of the shadow. Now we have a nice softening of the shadow as is moves away from the object casting it.
Then load in the Dark side selection and press delete to clean up the shadow. Then take a big soft eraser and and erase a just a bit of it to whitening the shadow as it gives it most reflecting light And that's our first shape shadow. Where would there be other shape shadows in this project? Another obvious one is on this side tower, which would probably be shadowed by this top wall. Again, we're guessing about this, but the observer doesn't have an exact plot of the sun So they probably won't catch you faking the shadows unless you're terribly off the mark.
I'm going to grab these crenelations that I think would cast the shape shadows and intersect it with the top wall. Then pull that selection down to where we need it and choose select, transform selection then right click in the transform box. Choose distort. And distort it to match the angle of the sun. (BLANK_AUDIO). We still have a lot of the side in light and that would be in cache shadow, like everything below this shape shadow.
To the left of the wall, everything here would be in cast shadow, except maybe the top of this tower. So, I'm going to make a guess on the tower by projecting down this top wall, and select that are. This back bastion, but not this side tower, would be in shadow. So I'm going to select it. Then, looking at these top towers, these would be shadowed by the dome. So project down the angle of the sun, and select those areas.
Would all of these crenelations on the dark side be in shadow? I think the light would angle in, and hit these first two crenelations on this side. So I'm going to leave them out of the selection. On the upper wall the same thing, these first two would be getting light. Since the dome is round it wouldn't block as many (UNKNOWN), as the walls, so I'm going to leave three of them in the light. Remember, cast shadows only occur on the light side. So, intersect this rough selection with a light side layer, and now you have a selection with only the light side elements that would be in cast shadow.
Make sure you're on the cast shadow layer, and fill it full with that medium gray. This little section of shape shadow on the side tower is too hard, so, select it, the shadow is quite far away from the layer projecting it, so it could use a large gaussian blur. So either open the filter and choose 10 pixels, or press Cmd or Ctrl+F to run the filter a couple of times. We're almost done with the shadows, but one problem remains.
Cast shadows will be among the darkest shadows on your project, generally darker than the rest of your dark side, and as dark as your cores since they're getting less reflected light than the dark side. However, our cast shadows here are actually lighter than the dark side because they are being applied on top of the light side so we need to stop the screening of the grey on the light side where the cast shadows are occurring. Load the layer selection from your cast shadows layer and then select your light side layer.
Go down to the Layer mask icon at the bottom of the window, that looks like a card with a hole in it, and click on it. This applies a layer mask to the layer, which you can see if you option or Alt-click on the preview for the mask. Wherever it's white, the original layer shows through. Where ever it's black, it blocks the layer from showing. We actually want the exact opposite of what we have now. So select the mask, press Cmd or Ctrl+A to select all, and press Cmd or Ctrl+I to invert the mask.
Where ever the cast shadows were, the light side layer was blocked from taking effect. Now your cast shadows are as dark as your dark side. You can even open up the levels control, Cmd or Ctrl+L, and darken them a little bit more. Next up, we'll add some additional shadows to further separate the surfaces of the castle.
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