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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 the rectangular shapes on the castle set up, now we're going to add some domes and some towers using a different custom brush shape. We're going to start with a Round brush from the Photoshop Brush Picker. And then open the Brush window to make some modifications to it. First, we want to turn off transfer because we want to paint at 100% opacity again. If the line that your brush is producing has lumps in it, you can decrease the spacing. You'll also want to turn this into an ellipse by adjusting the roundness of the brush.
Pull down on this top control to elongate the circle, then rotate the angle 90 degrees so that the ellipse is upright. Then return to that document we used to create our Square custom brush to use as a scratch pad. This Elliptical brush makes it easy to paint elegant rounded dome shapes. Return to the main plate and let's paint a large round dome on top of the castle. If you build up each side of the dome, you can maintain reasonable symmetry as you work.
Next let's add some towers around the dome. If you hold down the Shift key, you can maintain the verticality of the tower. And then go back on subsequent strokes and give them a slight angling-in on each side. Now paint in two front towers; these will be symmetrical to the entranceway of the castle. If you look at the toolbar window, you can me switching back and forth between the Brush and the Eraser on the fly, using the B and E keys. I'm going to pick that Square brush again so that I can add a base to that front tower.
As I'm painting with either the Eraser or Brush tool, you'll see lines that seem to pop on. That's because I'm clicking at the starting point for my line, holding down the Shift key, then clicking again. This draws a straight line between the two marks and is a great way to paint the tower sides. Then add a couple more towers on top of the castle, this time on top of the dome. Add one more behind the dome.
I'm going back over all the towers to get them a similar thickness. I'm envisioning a side tower that attaches to the main walls of the castle on the left side of the structure. I'm thinking this one will have a square top to contrast to the round towers already on the castle. Holding down on the Shift key, paint the top spire of the tower, then paint each tapering side and fill in in the middle. Return to the document we created to build our custom brushes. Create a new layer that we can work on.
Now draw using the Lasso tool. I want to create an elegant rounded tower top like those on St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow or on the Taj Mahal in India. Fill this selection with black. We've only done half of the tower so clean up that left side so we can duplicate and flip it. Then select the whole tower half. And then Cmd+Option or Ctrl+Alt drag to duplicate the selection. Press Cmd or Ctrl+T to invoke the Transform tool. Then right click in the Transform box and select Flip Horizontal. Holding down the Shift key, scoot that symmetrical left side right on top of the right side.
I'm going to add a little bit to the base of the tower top using the Rectangular Marquee tool. The tower looks a little wide to me right now, so I'm going to select the entire tower and transform it horizontally. Select the whole shape, getting in a s tightly as you can without cropping anything off. Choose Edit > Define Brush Preset. And name the brush tall tower top. Open the Brush window and adjust the spacing.
By adjusting the roundness parameter, you can turn this tall, elegant tower top into a squat, fat tower top all using the same custom brush. Now return to the main document and load black into the foreground color picker. So that we can see the tower tops as we paint them in the dark sky at the top of our composition. I want this top most tower a little squatter, so I'm going to adjust it in the brush window. Then click once to add the tower top. The next tower top should be taller and thinner so I'm going to adjust the roundness parameter again.
Then resize the tower top and click to add it on this tower. Then add another tower top to the left of it. This far left tower is a little too tall so I'm going to erase a bit of it before I add the tower top. I want these front tower tops to be even taller, so I'm going to adjust the roundness again. Click to add that front tower. I'm going to zoom out to check the silhouette. By using the same custom brush shape multiple times in different variations while creating the castle silhouette. We're adding a unifying design element that will help the castle come together as a whole.
That completes the castle silhouette. Since we worked the whole time at 100% opacity. If you Cmd or Ctrl click into the layer thumbnail preview. You'll get a clean selection that we'll paint into in the next lesson to establish a light and dark side on the castle.
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