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With that review of color correction using curves, we're ready to color correct the elements in the painting. Our castle is still a bright plaster gray, and doesn't resemble our castle concept much. Lets turn off the crinelations for now. They're a different color than the base of the castle, and they'll need to be color corrected separately. We want to apply a non-destructive adjustment layer to the castle with the stone texture applied. This Castle All layer has the untextured castle from the Form project on it, and the layers above it all add the stone texture.
We could collapse the textures down so that everything was on one layer. But I want to show you how to do a mass color correction on a group of layers that will do the same thing without losing flexibility. Select all of the stone wall textures along with the base castle we prepared before and press on the group icon at the bottom of the window while holding down the Shift key. That places all of these layers in a group. Call the group Castle Base Texture. Turn off the form group. It had all the elements from your form project and, if you leave it on, it will create a fringe of white around the castle once you have color-corrected the textured version.
We're going to use a non-destructive adjustment layer for toning the castle. But I want to talk a bit about working non-destructively. Some matte artists prefer to work completely non-destructively or never apply color correction directly to a layer. I began my career painting traditionally, working on glass with physical paint. Where, every stroke the artist added to a matte was for real and couldn't be taken back unless you painted over it. In some ways, I think artists have lost something. Especially in spontaneity and directness, when you never have to make a final decision on any element.
Working entirely non destructively also results in huge file sizes. And projects with so many layers it gets nearly impossible to tell what layer is doing what, or find any element. This is counter to where the industry is moving, but I will often work directly on simple layers for the sake of keeping my project more manageable. Like I said, this is a matter of workflow, and you may want to work completely non-destructively in your matte paintings. So, back to toning our castle base.
Make sure that you still have the castle base texture group selected, go down to the bottom of the layers window and from the adjustment layers window, choose Curves. You can resize the curves window to taste, if it comes in too small for you. Now pull down on the white point. oh, it's darkening the entire project, clearly not what we want. To restrict the curve to just the castle, hover your cursor on the line between the adjustment layer and the castle based texture. The cursor turns into a box with the downward pointing arrow.
If you Option or Alt click on the line, the curve adjustment layer is now inset from the layer below it. It has a downward-pointing arrow showing it is using the layer or group below it as a clipping mask. A clipping mask uses the layer below to mask the layer above, which is particularly handy when confining color corrections like this. Now the adjustment is made only to the castle and the texture layers at that group below it. Let's open up our original castle concept to use as reference for color correction, I have all of my windows tabbed, but if I untab the concept, make it smaller and then untab the project we're working on, I can now see both of them at the same time.
The first move we made pulling down on the RGB curve was a good one. It darkened the castle. Next we want to turn the castle red. You might think pulling up on the red curve would be the obvious move. But that lightens the castle and we want to darken it. So, let's try pulling down the white point of the green curve. That doesn't look so good, it now looks like a huge maroon castle. But, if we select the blue curve and pull down on the white point, it adds a lot of yellow to the maroon, turning it more like an amber from our concept.
Now if anything it's a little too red and still a little too light. So this time select the red curve and pull down on the white point and a little bit in the midtones. That both darkens it and neutralizes the red. The thing I want you to think about, is that the curve you probably thought we'd use to turn the castle red, the red curve, was used only to remove red from the castle. So if you want to colorize an element, especially if you're making it darker, consider removing the opposite color, rather than adding the primary color.
The castle now looks pretty close to our concept sketch. So let's close that file. Tab the castle back in place, and turn on and off the curve adjustment layer to see the effect of the move. Pretty dramatic. Take note that if we set the curve dropdown menu back to RGB, we can see all of the curves that make up the adjustment, and you can revisit them any time you want to revise your castle, even if you have closed and reopened the file. Next up, we'll tone the crenelations so that they sit in with our castle.
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