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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.
Before we get started with our concept painting, I want to have you optimize your Photoshop work space for matte painting. If you haven't changed your work space in a previous session, Photoshop defaults to the Essentials work space. You can go up to the right corner of the interface, and look through the Drop- down menu to see the various preset work spaces that Photoshop offers. The painting work space is a good starting place for creating a special matte painting work space. So, go ahead and choose that one from the menu.
Your painting work space may look slightly different from mine, depending on what options were chosen in a previous session. Your work space should be optimized, so that the windows you use less often are hidden. If you decide you need a certain window that is not visible, you can always go up to the top menu, choose Window, and then the window you need. In the painting work space, there are a lot of windows open taking up space that you don't need. So, first close swatches. I will encourage you to do all of your color picking using the heads-up color picker instead. Then close Navigator.
Navigator can be helpful if you were getting lost in a document, but I don't generally keep it open. Also, close the brush presets. We will set up a lot of custom brushes while working on this project, but I'll show you a more convenient way to access your brushes. There are three states for your windows. One is open on the side, like we have this Layers window. The second state is tabbed, but not open. I like to keep the Layers, Channels, and Paths all together in one open window.
The third state is iconized, like these four icons to the left of the open windows. If you click on the icon, it reveals the larger window, and you can access the control options there. The window stays open until you close it. Either by clicking on the arrow in the top right, or by selecting another icon. You can also tear them off when you want a free floating window. If you decide you want to move one of the iconized tabs into an open window, you can drag and dock them to the desired location.
When you see a blue line when docking, you will create a new open window separate from the other open windows. If you get a blue box that goes around the entire selected window, that will add that window as a tabbed choice. Let's get rid of some of the iconized windows. I don't use the Clone tool very much in matte painting. And when I do, I access it through the Tools window on the left on the interface. I also don't use the tools preset. So, close that one.
You'll want to have the brush window iconized on the side, so that you can adjust the custom brush attributes on the fly. You'll want to have the History window iconized along with the Actions window. The other windows I like to have open are the Info and Properties windows. Go up to the top menu and choose Window > Info. In this case, both the Info and Properties windows opened at the same time. Drag the Info window above the window that had Layers, Channels, and Paths in it, and when a blue line appears drop it. If the Properties window is not already open, go up to the Window menu and choose it.
Tab it right along side of the Info window. So, your final setup for your matte painting work space should be like this. The top open window should be Info and Properties. The bottom open window should be Layers, Channels, and Paths. The iconized window should be Actions, History, and Brushes. With your work space set up, be sure to save it under a special name. I'm going to call mine matte painting work space. Go ahead and choose your keyboard shortcuts and menus to save them also.
That way, if I choose another work space to do some special work, I can always get my matte painting work space back by going up to the upper right corner and choosing it from the Drop-down menu. In this lesson, you learned how to set up a work space specifically for matte painting, and how to save that work space for future use.
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