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Making Of 'Stranded'

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Date Added: 21st January 2010
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Fig. 01


Some of you may remember that I wrote a tutorial about painting basic landscapes with Painter in Issue 24 of 2d Artist. Well I was also recently asked to write a "Making Of" for one of my more matte painting style image creations, "Stranded" (Fig01), which was also handled in Painter. Hopefully you've already found some joy in playing around with the first collection of tools which I introduced in the previous tutorial, and I hope that you will in turn find this "Making Of" inspirational.

Figuring out which were my favourite tools in Painter took me around three months, and I like to stick to the ones that I have found to be my favourites. But please don't hesitate to try out new tools in your own work; after all, each to their own!

In this little "Making Of" I'm going to discuss the importance of colour schemes and composition, as well as what happens to parts of environments that are in the distance. These are all elements that I dealt with in this piece and I would like to share my discoveries with you in the hope that it will help you to take a new look at your own work, as well as the world around you.


I'm going to start by focusing on types of landscapes. In general, there are two types of landscapes: the first is the kind that is seen as a standalone illustration, which means that the illustration has to be interesting enough to keep the viewer entertained on its own; the other is the "supporting" kind, which is used to give any kind of character a space to exist in.
"Stranded" (Fig01) was created for Ballistic Publishing's "Matte Painting 2" book and is actually one of the few paintings that I have immensely enjoyed working on!  I was listening to a song about a zeppelin while painting and was pretty much finished after just six hours.  Happily, I sat back and observed what I had just done and had problems actually believing just how much fun I had had with it. So I looked for a matte painting forum to share my joy with other matte painters ... and was immediately told that what I had done was "rubbish", because it was in the wrong format and there was too much hand-painting. Being blamed for painting too much by hand is something that has never happened to me before. My approach to matte painting may seem a little "old fashioned" to some, but maybe this way will suit you and your own style of working, so let's see...


"Stranded" is a matte painting that features photographic white houses in the centre of the piece. These photographic houses - the so-called base pattern - are surrounded by hand-painted fields, trees, and a stranded zeppelin. To keep this painting interesting, but without focusing on the zeppelin too much, I decided to place the viewing point high up in the air.  This made it possible to show lots of different landscape variations that can keep the painter interested while working, and hopefully will also keep the audience interested, too.

The painting itself can easily be split up into three parts: the lowest part, which is closest to the viewer and so features darker colours; the middle part, which directs the attention to the stranded zeppelin near the houses and so features lighter colours; and the sky part, which is directly connected to the middle part because everything seen in the distance is starting to absorb the horizon's colour (Fig02).

Fig. 02

Colour Palette

The palette of "Stranded" is pretty colourful. It features less saturated colours from almost the full range of the rainbow, which helps to keep it interesting. Colour variations allow you to create depth and they can also help to direct the viewers' eyes to certain things. While the clouds are held in a pinkish-white, the sky is bright blue and so this creates a colourful contrast. When clouds form up so massively, blocking the sun and absorbing some of the horizon's colour, it can create the feeling of an upcoming or descending danger, such as a thunderstorm.
The zeppelin and houses are also held in a whitish colour palette, which is enriched by greyish and brownish tones. This immediately makes them pretty interesting because they stick out from the much darker ground that surrounds them. To direct the viewers' eyes between the clouds, houses and zeppelin, it was necessary to light up the location around the houses, too. Hopefully this will draw the viewers' eyes back and forth between the zeppelin and the clouds and will prevent them from jumping somewhere else or leaving the picture entirely (Fig03).  

Fig. 03

continued on next page >

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