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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 plate toned in the environment prepared for your castle, it's time to work on the silhouette. I want you to paint the raw form of the castle, not worrying about any of the details of the light or dark side to begin with. The first thing your viewer will perceive when they look at the castle is the silhouette, and it should tell you a lot about the castle does and what sort of person lives inside of it. If it's made out of soft round forms, that's going to be a nonthreatening castle. On the other hand, if your castle is made out of sharp spiky forms, your viewer will immediately get an idea that this is a completely different kind of castle.
Rather than trying to paint everything at once, I want you to break the castle down into understandable chunks. In this first section, we're going to worry about only the rectangular or the square edged forms that make up the base of your structure. First, create a new layer and name it silhouette. Next, you want to create a custom brush shape that will help you in the painting of your forms. I'm seeing my castle as mining this ocean of lava for energy, and it should have a solid square base.
So, I'm going to create a custom brush to paint my rectangular forms with, that's just a square. Go up to the top menu and choose File > New, and create a new 8-bit document that's 500 pixels by 500 pixels. We're going to use this as a work space to create and test our custom brushes for this project. Make sure black is in your foreground color picker, and the Rectangular Marquee tool selected. Then hold down the Shift key to constrain the selection, and click and drag to create a square. Go to the top menu and choose Edit > Fill.
Fill it full of 100% black. And with the selection still active, go up to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. Name this square, then return to the plate, press the B key to access the Brush tool. And we're ready to start painting the silhouette. From the top Brush menu, select the New Square Brush. I want my castle to be built out of a dark burnt orange colored stone. So, I need to select that color to paint my silhouette.
Hold down on the Cmd+Ctrl+Option +Click or Alt+Shift+right-click to access the heads up color picker. Then choose the orange from the outside ring, and then pull into the center square to choose a darker less saturated color. First, I want to paint the base of the castle. These are going to be the walls that surround the structure, and it needs to sit on the hill. To draw straight lines, I'm clicking, then holding down the Shift key and then clicking again. You can re-size the brush on the fly by Ctrl+Option+clicking or Ctrl+Alt+right-clicking and dragging right and left.
You should paint at 100% opacity on the silhouette. If you're getting a varying opacity in your brush, go to the Brush panel and make sure that transfer is unchecked. If transfer is checked, your brush will vary in opacity depending on how hard you press your stylus. Also make sure that brush tip shape is selected in the menu, and then turn down the spacing on your brush. If spacing is set too high, you'll get jagged edges on your brush. Now, finish up the base of the castle and make sure it's completely opaque. Keep your fingers on the E and the B keys, so, you can switch back and forth between the Eraser tool and the Brush tool.
Load that square brush into your Eraser tool. And now, you can refine the edges of this outer wall. By working at full opacity, you can add and subtract from your forms using the brush and eraser. I'm envisioning this castle as having two more upper walls, and I'm going to quickly block those in, each time treating them as big cubes. Now, paint that left side of the cube and fill it in. And then I'm going to cut in on each side with the Eraser tool, and then make the brush larger and add that third level.
And that finishes up the tiered base of the castle. I want to add a bridge that extends out from the front of the castle and has it's footings on these foreground rocks. It'll be dramatic to have lava coming out of this castle and cascading over this bridge, down into the sea. Now, connect the footing with the castle, but don't let it intersect the horizon. Add a rounded support on the front of the bridge, to make the transition more attractive. And then with the Eraser tool, continue refining the shape of the castle.
The front of this bridge should have two symmetrical heat venting stacks. And they should be perched on two blocky forms at their base. Continue to find two misshapes using the Eraser tool. Then go around the castle and refine the edges by cutting into them. All the time, considering these as basic geometric forms that will ultimately make up the more complex castle. Now, adding all of these finishing touches, I'm completely all of the square forms.
In the next section, we'll deal with rounded domes and the towers that will make up the final silhouette.
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