Photoshop tutorial: Fantasy digital matte painting

Professional digital matte painter Sarel Theron shows you how to create an epic, Hollywood-style scene that recreates the fabled Lost City of the Incas in incredible detail with the liberal use of the Clone Stamp tool.

Since the birth of cinema, movie- makers have created stunning special effects by combining still matte paintings with live-action film. Matte painting techniques were once closely guarded secrets that never left the big studios.

Today however, with the aid of modern personal computers, creating epic Hollywood-style matte paintings is finally within everyone’s reach.

For this masterclass, professional matte painter Sarel Theron reveals the process and insider secrets of matte creation.

Using reference images and Photoshop’s Clone Stamp tool, he focuses on the creation of a 2D digital matte painting, from beginning sketch to final work.

For an image of this complexity, you should expect to spend 24 to 32 hours illustrating it. In this masterclass we will re-create a mythical version of the ancient Inca city, Machu Picchu, also known as the Lost City.

Step 1
Open a new document by going to File > New and create a blank canvas of 5,700-x-3,900 pixels. You'll need this image from iStock. Hold down Command (Mac) or Control (Windows), and click-&-drag the photograph of Machu Picchu as it appears today into your new document. Place the photo in the centre of the canvas, then move it to the bottom right.

Step 2
Use a large soft eraser to remove the photograph’s sky and then create a new layer named ‘Outlines’ above the photograph. We will now start extending the original plate. Select a soft standard brush of about 30 pixels and start drawing in the general outlines of the new scenery that you are going to add.

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