Making Of 'The Castle'

Welcome to a new matte painting tutorial. This tutorial is photoshop based. I'll try to describe the main steps in creating a matte painting. Before you start it's recommended that u know some basic painting techniques, at least basic sketching, because most of the time you'll have to fit in the right pieces.

Now let's get started.

1. First we do the sketch to have a clear idea on what it should look like. For my painting I already had an idea about the look so I went searching for reference material. Open google, search images. I selected about 20 images. It's very important to feel the matching possibilities of your reference images. These are the main photos I choose to start with.

2. I started working on the background, choosing an environment image. The resolution I work with is 1600/640. It's not a typical format but I like working on a wide screen.

3. To fill the empty space in the image I have 2 alternatives: to look for a similar image and combine them (bad choice, it would last forever) or to paint the rest of the image, using the colors from the picture picked with color picker.
in the left side i'll have the castle, therefore i will not waste any time with details, all i need is the chromatic to be similar. (I fooled around a little bit and I drew a few elements that are not related to the subject in any way, just for fun :P)

4. Next step: The sky. Over the initial sketch, i added the clouds, with a transfer add (usually a bad choice, but in this case it acted well:))
The clouds are photographed by me a while ago (A very good idea would be to take your camera with you wherever you go:) Then I added the main element in the background, in order to establish my scale.

4. Now comes the retouching stage.

I established a sunset mood and for that, i need 3 adjustment layers:
- Hue/Saturation so I can decrease the image's saturation (in the evening time, the elements are more desaturated)
- Levels so we can decrease the lightness.
- Color balance to get a shade of blue, typical to this time of day

6. And the result:.

7. At the moment, we have too many blurry edges, and this messes the image quite a lot. So, let's paint some vegetation. We pick the color of each layer and we paint the edges. I use 2 brushes quite often, one for the overall image (which i use for almost everything) and the other one for vegetation. Lots of people have the tendency to use soft edged brushes, big mistake. That's good for fog, light etc.

8. And the result:

9. Now we start to enlighten a bit the areas that are directly exposed to sunlight. In order to do that i use the same "universal" brush with a color dodge transfer and decreased opacity, sometimes 9, even 10.

10. And the result:.

11. Next comes the castle.
The problem I encountered here was a distorted perspective.
One of the methods used to solve it when it comes to buildings is to cut it to pieces and to bring it to the perspective you need, using distort or perspective tool. In this particular case i cut it in 2 pieces.

12. Did the exact same thing with the base structure the building is set on. Copy/Paste, Transform/Distort.

13. Be careful at depth. The elements in the foreground are darker than the ones in the background. Here's an example:

14. Then i introduced the connection element: The bridge. The shape it cropped from a photo (see 1st post) and the pylons are painted.

15. Next comes the scene's enlightening part.
There are more methods to do it, but the one i find best is next. Duplicate the layer, apply a deep brightness/contrast to it, a color balance in order to make it look like sunlight, then start deleting parts of it with the same universal brush so that you only keep the bright parts.

Here's an example:

16. And the result:.

17. Same with the rest of the elements.

18. The structure of the bridge seems too depressing, so i took different elements from the castle's structure and multiplied them.

19. The stairs in the left mix up the proportions, they are too big compared to the castle's dimensions, so we cover them:)
I also added some angels :))

20. Next in line come the ending post production, I added some plants at the base of the structure, and i lighted the pylons, and here it comes:

21. Last retouches:

Save the file in a .jpg format. Open it as a new project, apply a sharpen filter, duplicate it, apply a desaturate filter, then a high brightness/contrast and gaussian blur, then transfer with add or linear dodge (whatever fits)

22. And here it is:

Who wants to make it 3D?:D

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