Advertisement: Click here to learn how to Generate Art From Text
In this tutorial, I will talk about the step by step process from concept to finish of creating a production shot. To do a cinematic scene with matte painting technique, it is necessary to have clear visual communication, and I will cover the basics of lighting and digital painting in Photoshop.
This is the final image of the project that captures the mood and storytelling.
Brainstorming & adjusting photo
Firstly, I brainstormed the story and set it in Japan. The story was about an ex-Samurai who wanted to get revenge on his family after the war. After setting up the basic storyline, I then searched for a preferred photo as a base from the Japan photo pack purchased on Ben Mauro’s Gumroad.
I then adjusted the overall perspective of the photo, and removed the unwanted objects in the photograph by using texture brush and the Lasso Tool. I wanted to hide the wires and street lights in my drawing as the storyline was set during an ancient time.
Select a photo as a base and subtract unnecessary elements in the photo by using brushes
Modifying Saturation & adding elements
As I wanted to create a melancholy feeling, I lowered the saturation and brightness of the original photo and picked a sky that fit the environment scene. After adjusting color grading and adding other elements like the gate and some damaged wood structures on roof to make it look more ruined, I continued on.
Adjust the overall mood and continue adding more ideas into the drawing
Dry Brush in Filter Gallery
As the foreground was missing, I added more rocks and a path to lead the eyes to the gate. In most photos, there are many noises or details. Therefore, it is necessary for you to paint over the top. Photoshop’s default dry brush is a time-saver. I highly recommend it. I set the brush size at 5 or 10, depending on the end result, to reduce texture noises.
Using the Dry Brush in Filter Gallery to reduce noise
Adding more grass & mud
So far it was a bit dull, so I added more dry grasses and wet mud around the area, showing some shadows in the puddle. I changed the saturation of each photo as soon as I dragged it in. I didn’t pay attention to the hard edges and focused on bringing the ideas together.
Add as many ideas as possible into the drawing and adjust the overall composition and mood
Blending pathway with other elements
I kept on fixing the grasses and adding tiny rocks and mud to blend the pathway a bit more. It is good to try out different solutions. However, I had to remember the road that led to the gate. It should not have too many obstacles. I also added more color to the drawing by capturing the skylight in a puddle.
Continue fixing the drawing and adding more details
Adding details & background
As the story setting was in Japan, I added more Japanese cultural elements in, such as lanterns and roof decorations. I thought the silhouette of the architecture was too calm at this point. To make the image look more dangerous I used sharper edges, and I broke down the roof tile. The mid-ground is packed with details. The background should be simplified, and the focal point (the gate) should be the only thing in the image.
To show the leading lines that eyes follow in the composition
Refining overall composition
Since the image was too balanced, I put a spooky tree in front to break the rule. Twisting the tree shape to demonstrate that this place was not safe and to create an uncomfortable feel. After that, I kept on refining the overall composition, modifying edges and interactions between objects.
Refine details further, adding and subtracting elements
Using Blend Mode
I used Multiply in Blend Mode in the last step as it is easy to make the drawing look dirty. As the sky was a bit too bright, I used a soft brush to lower the brightness down. Adding mist around not only can separate the foreground and mid-ground, but also bring the overall composition together.
Create an immersive environment by adding mist around
Color grading & lighting
I kept on working on the previous step to add more mist, sharpening the details at the focal point and blurring out the details for the rest. Since red is a signal of danger or warning, I added some red lights in a subtle way. To double check the overall mood, I added one more layer on top filled up with black and turned it to Color Blend Mode. This step is essential for checking the grayscale and value, from the background to mid-ground and foreground.
Tweak the lighting and details in grayscale
Characters & birds
To fulfill the storyline that the Samurai was about to take revenge, ready to go into the unsafe place, I added the characters with swords. For the birds, they are always good to be directional lines to lead eyes and to give artwork a feeling of movement.
Adding characters in a scene can provide better storytelling
When you want to change the original image to another color or hue, this function is the best. There are many happy accidents with this, so it is better to explore and do experiments. Go to Adjustments under Image section, and you can see Match Color. The next step is to choose the source which is the file you are currently working on, and then click on the layer underneath by choosing another image color you prefer.
Two steps demonstrating how to use the Match Color function in Photoshop