Photoshop tutorial: Fantasy digital matte painting

Step 14
With the texturing completed on the left foreground mountain, select ‘Layer 4’ (your new photograph layer). Press Command/Control+B and set your midtone balance to red +10, yellow -10. Select your ‘Right foreground mountain’ layer and paint in the textures using the sunlit part of the texture palette to render the highlights.

Step 15
For the penultimate step, select your ‘Middle ground’ layer and clone in some of the stone textures on your original plate over the cliff edge where the waterfall will be. Paint in the waterfall using a small brush, then lock your layer and use a large soft, low- opacity brush with a light blue/grey colour to create a misty water vapour atmosphere at the bottom of the falls.

Cover the nearer ruins with vegetation and add a few trees. Create your trees by drawing in the trunks and branches, then select an existing area of vegetation and clone it over the tree branches to create the leaves. Finally, delete ‘Layer 4’ (your new photograph layer).

Step 16
Lastly we need to rebuild the ruined city and restore it to its former glory! For the pyramid, I used the Polygonal Lasso tool to select the base of the larger building. I then copied and resized it four times and stacked the layers on top of each other.

You’ll need to do a fair amount of retouching with the Healing Brush, Clone Stamp tool and paint brushes to get the city looking habitable again. As a final step you can add a few adjustment layers on top of the image as well as a universal layer blend mode to set the overall mood.


If you need to quickly adjust the size of the Clone Stamp tool (also known as the Rubber Stamp tool) you can use the same shortcut as with regular brushes. Pressing [ makes the Clone Stamp smaller, and pressing ] makes it larger. Pressing the number keys 1-9 changes the opacity in 10 per cent jumps.

Who: Sarel Theron is a 32-year-old digital matte painter based in South Africa. Having studied illustration and fine art, he honed his painting skills in the more traditional mediums of oils and acrylics. “When I eventually took the digital road, I found that these techniques gave me a solid foundation and advantage, especially with regards to form, perspective, composition and use of colour. He works mainly in Adobe Photoshop.
Software: Adobe Photoshop
Time to complete: One day
On the CD: All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.

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