Create a landscape in the style of Matte Painting in Photoshop

In this lesson you will learn how to create a visual concept for animation using drawing using the matte painting technique.

Study of

Learning is the perfect start to a new project. This step is very important and will pay off as you begin to create the drawing. Personally, I pay special attention to the atmosphere, as this early on gives me ideas that I can implement in the process.

In our case, I want to focus on a relaxing calm mood. I like sunsets and sunrises, and I have the pleasure to watch them every day from my balcony. The pink and blue colors that the sky turns to inspire me.

Also, indirectly, I was inspired by the cartoon “Panda Kung-Fu”, perhaps because we’ll be drawing concept art for the cartoon.

Additional materials

The preparation of references is an important step in creating such an illustration.

Spend enough time to find the best photos. Usually, it takes me 3-4 hours.

The photos listed in the archive below, we will use only as references for the proper study of the figure.

1. Create a sketch

Someday the time will come when I can create my work without using a draft and clearly represent the desired result.

In this case, I thought out in advance what I wanted to get in the end, and began to make different sketches, stopping at that.

2. Create a background

Step 1

We start by placing the references on top of the outline.

It is best to start work from the background and gradually work out the other details. Naturally, this approach will be convenient not for everyone and not for every work it can be applied, but it seems to me that by creating the background first, then it will be easier to apply light, which depends on the mood of the picture, the surrounding elements, etc.

Step 2

Decrease Opacity (opacity) reference to see what the final version might look like.

Step 3

Next, we must cut out those reference areas that we need in our work.

This can be done with several tools, but in our case we will use the fastest and easiest – Quick Selection tool (W) (Fast selection).

Select the desired element, invert the selection with Ctrl + Shift + L and press the Delete key.

If you want to keep the original layer, use a mask. Then you can at any time to restore this or that area of ​​the photo, using the usual brushes.

Step 4

To adjust the colors, we will use Image – Adjustments – Curves (Image – Correction – Curves).

I think this is a very powerful and flexible color correction tool. In dropdown menu Preset (Channel) you need to select the desired color channel: Red (Red), Green (Green) and Blue (Blue).

Example: if the picture is red and you want to add blue, you should decrease the red level and increase the blue level.

In our work, the red channel must be higher in order to give the pattern a pinkish tint.

Step 5

After setting the curves, we will apply Vibrance (Vibration) to increase the saturation of the picture.

Install Vibrance (Vibration) on +19, and Saturation (Saturation) – by +8.

Step 6

Let’s now focus on working out the sky, and then back to the mountain.

To draw the sky, we will use a large soft brush (B) and two colors:

  • # 737d9f for the top
  • # 737a95 for the bottom

Step 7

With the help of blue we will draw the ground. This area will be in the shade.

We will follow the principle of “warm light – cold shadow.” It seems to me that the blue color is most successfully combined with the warm pink shade that we have.

For drawing you can use any brush. There is nothing complicated about it and, unfortunately, there are no secret techniques that can simplify the process.

Apply coarse strokes, adjusting the contrast and brightness of the shade.

Step 8

Now above we can add the mountains that were previously cut.

Step 9

In this step we will paint over the entire picture. Use any brushes that are best for your work. It can be both standard Photoshop brushes, and downloaded from the Internet. I call this process “stitching”, because, in fact, we sew the individual elements of the picture together.

At this stage, I also added black cinematic stripes above and below.

Step 10

The light that illuminates the mountain falls on the right side. To make the picture realistic, we will add a soft glow in this place.

Select the color #ffbaac and use a large soft brush to put a spot in the upper right corner. Then set the blend layer mode to spot on Lighten (Replacing light).

3. Create an average plan.

Step 1

Now we will draw the mountains on the middle ground. To do this, use the color of the shadow – blue.

Use a hard brush. We select a warm pinkish hue and carefully outline the border of the mountains to create the effect of contour light.

Step 2

Select the color #ffbaac, above the layer with the mountains in the middle plan create a new one and set its blend mode to Screen (Lightening). We work with a brush in this place.

Step 3

Create another new layer and change its blend mode to Screen (Lightening). Select color # 963912 and activate a large soft brush (B).

In the upper part of the mountains in the middle plan we add small details.

4. Draw the foreground

Step 1

Next, we need to insert a reference that is most suitable for creating the foreground.

Using Quick Selection Tool (W) (Quick selection), select the desired fragment of the photo.

Step 2

With the help of curves adjust the color and contrast.

We must achieve a bluish tint to create a cool shadow.

Decrease Brightness (Brightness) to make the picture darker. Also reduce the channel Red (Red) and increase the channel Blue (Blue).

Step 3

Using the same brush, draw the mountain. To preserve the style and harmony of the picture, use the eyedropper (I) to select the colors that you used before.

Step 4

It seems to me that in the right part of the illustration there is not enough light. Choose a suitable brush and paint over the sky with it. We use the color palette we have, but slightly increase the brightness of the colors to achieve the desired effect. This should improve mountain lighting.

You can use the tool Smudge Tool (Finger) to smudge too rough patches.

Step 5

Slightly increase the brightness of the picture using Curves (Curves).

Step 6

Select color # 23324C and a large soft brush (B). Lightly paint the foreground and reduce Opacity (opacity) layer up to 71%.

Step 7

Once again we increase the brightness a little.

Step 8

Choose a suitable shade and refine the sky in those places where you see flaws.

Step 9

In the lower right, we will add a tree. Choose a suitable reference.

Now I will tell you how to cut a tree with small foliage. Keep in mind that this method is not suitable for every photo.

  • Go to the tab Channels (Channels) and select the channel Blue (Blue).
  • Duplicate it.
  • Hit Ctrl+Alt + L to open Levels (Levels).
  • Move the sliders until the entire tree with the leaves is filled with black (the areas we need are blacked out).
  • You can use the pipettes under the button. Options (Properties) to select the darkest shade of light and the lightest of dark.

Step 10

Without closing the panel Channels (Channels), immediately after editing the levels, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the thumbnail of the blue channel copy.

Step 11

As a result, a selection will appear. Go back to the layers panel and select the layer with the tree.

Now we have the selection of the desired area. Next we will create a mask. Invert the selection (Ctrl + Shift + I) and press the button Add layer mask (Add layer mask) at the bottom of the layers panel.

If you do not need a mask, create a blank layer above, then merge (Ctrl + E) it with the layer with the cut out tree. Thus, we get a layer with a cut tree without a selection and a mask.

Step 12

Activate Quick Selection Tool (W) (Fast selection). Then click on the button Refine Edge (Refine edge) on the top panel with tool parameters.

Step 13

Refine Edge (Refine Edge) is a terrific tool that can improve highlighting. In the window that opens, install View (View) to black to clearly see the work. Move the sliders until the result satisfies you.

Step 14

Refine Edge (Refine Edge) does an excellent job with the task, but besides him I use Layer – Matting – Defringe (Layer – Edge Processing – Remove Border). This tool allows you to get rid of a thin white stroke on the edge of the cut object.

Width (Width) set to 3 and click OK.

The value depends on how many pixels you want to crop. Defringe (Remove the border) can be applied more than once, until you achieve the desired result.

Step 15

Create a new layer and press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E to merge all visible layers on a separate one.

Take Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) (Rectangular selection) and select the parts of the picture containing the color with which we should paint the tree. In our case, this is the mountain in the foreground.

  • Copy (Ctrl+C) selection and paste (Ctrl + V) it on a new layer.
  • Remove the merged layer, since we no longer need it.

Step 16

Please note that the current layer with the desired color is called Layer 39 in me. Remember this, as I will refer to it further.

We need a fragment of color in order to apply an interesting technique that automatically selects the appropriate color, brightness and contrast for the tree.

  • Make sure the tree layer is active.
  • Move on Image – Adjustments – Match Color (Image – Correction – Choose color).

The result is a dialog box Match Color (Pick color).

  • In the dropdown list Source (Source) choose our working psd-file (of course, previously saved on your computer).
  • AT Layer (Layer) choose our layer with cut flowers (I have this “Layer 39”).

As a result, the tool will select colors, contrast and brightness and apply it to the tree.

If the result does not look like you expected, you can experiment with the settings.

Step 17

Select color # 1F304F and use a soft brush (B) to paint over the area behind the tree.

This is necessary to create a fog effect and separate the tree from the background. Please note that the layer with fog should be under the layer with the tree.

Step 18

Select color # 2b3c68 and use a soft brush to paint over the bottom of the image (on top of the mountain and tree).

  • Set the blending mode of this layer to Lighten (Replacing light).
  • Decrease Opacity (opacity) up to 28%.

This will give a light haze effect. If necessary, you can adjust the opacity.

Step 19

It seems to me that in the middle there are not enough details in the middle plan. Open the reference with the forest and select the area marked in red.

Cut out this area and change its blending mode to Soft Light (Soft light) with an opacity of 87%.

With the eraser (E) we delete the extra areas and with the help of Smudge Tool(Finger) rule rough areas.

Step 20

Now add vegetation on the left side of the image. Cut out the area highlighted in red in the screenshot below. Repeat the process of cutting the tree, as described above.

Step 21

Having finished with the previous step, we create a correction layer. Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Curves (Layer – New adjustment layer – Curves).

  • Decrease Brightness (Brightness).
  • Increase the blue channel.
  • Reduce the red channel.

Step 22

Add a new adjustment layer – Levels (Levels). Output Levels (Output levels) set to 5 and 113 (convert this layer to a clipping mask so that it affects only the tree, and the adjustment layer should be directly above the layer with the tree).

Step 23

Add an adjustment layer Hue/ Saturation (Hue / Saturation). Install Hue (Color tone) at -2, Saturation (Saturation) – +49.

Step 24

Tree with the right to be diluted with new parts. Cut a new piece of vegetation, which is highlighted in red in the screenshot below. Then use Curves (Curves) to adjust its color.

Step 25

Select the color # 132f4a and use a soft brush to paint the tree.

  • Set the layer blending mode to Lighten (Replacing light).
  • Opacity (Opacity) reduced to 12%.

5. Final stage

Step 1

It’s time to add the final touches.

Create a new layer and merge all visible layers (Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E). Then the resulting layer is duplicated twice (Ctrl + J).

Apply filter to first copy Filter – Other – High Pass (Filter – Other – Color Contrast).

  • In the window that opens, install Radius (Radius) at 2.1 and click OK.
  • Set the layer blending mode to Soft Light (Soft light).
  • Adjust the opacity of the layer to your liking.

(This will add sharpness to the picture, but, most importantly, do not overdo it with the effect.)

Step 2

Right click on the second copy and select Blending Options (Overlay options).

Find the parameter Channels (Channels), turn off channel B and click OK.

Next, hold down the Shift and slightly move the copy horizontally.

This will create a chromatic aberration effect that is present on real cameras.

Step 3

Now we have to add noise that will enhance the effect of the film, as well as combine all the elements of the picture together.

  • Create a new layer above all previous ones.
  • Move on Edit – Fill (Editing – Fill).
  • Parameter Contents (Content) install on 50% Gray (Gray).
  • Mode (Mode) set to Normal (Normal).
  • Opacity (Opacity) – 100%.

We added a layer with a neutral gray tint.

Step 4

Move on Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter – Noise – Add noise).

  • Install Amount (Quantity) by 10%.
  • Distribution (Distribution) – on Gaussian (According to Gauss).
  • Activate Monochromatic (Monochrome) and click OK.

Step 5

Set the layer blending mode to Soft Light (Soft light). Adjust Opacity (opacity) to your liking. In this case, I set it to 50%. Make sure that the noise is not too much and it does not spoil the work.

Congratulations, you’re done!

Thank you for reading the lesson. I hope you learned something new for yourself and take advantage of it in your work. Creating a drawing is a real challenge for any artist, regardless of the level of skill, so do not forget to practice and improve.

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