Create a Scenic Matte Painting in Photoshop


Get a free year on Tuts+ this month when you purchase a Siteground hosting plan from $3.95/mo

In today’s premium tutorial we will learn how to use matte painting techniques to create a beautiful landscape from several stock photos using Photoshop. Let’s get started!

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

Create a new document, 1920 x 1200px at 72 dpi. Download the Sky image and place it on the canvas as shown below.

Step 2

Now, burn the right side of the sky as shown below. Use the dodge tool on a low opacity to add a light source on the left.

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance and apply the following settings.

Step 4

Create a new layer and use the clone tool to add some water in the bottom-right area as shown in the selection below.

Step 5

Add a Curves and Color Balance Adjustment (Layer > New Adjustment Layer), then go to the adjustment layers, right-click and choose "create clipping mask," so they will be applied only to the layer they are a clipping mask of.

Step 6

In a new layer, paint in two boats, to add some detail.

Step 7

Create a new layer and add this stock image as shown below. Extract it as shown below. I used a small eraser brush and placed it in the water.

Step 8

Now apply a Levels (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels), Color Balance (Layer > New Adjustment Layer >Color Balance), and Brightness/Contrast (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast) Adjustment. Then use the dodge tool to softly highlight the left areas of the rock to add some light.

Step 9

Create a new layer and use a Cloud Brush to paint in front of the mountains we just created.

Step 10

Choose a hard brush and paint some lines as shown below on a new layer.

Step 11

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and adjust the settings until you have a result similar to that as shown below.

Step 12

Grab this stock image, cut out an area as shown below and place it as shown. Then use the dodge and burn tools to add some shading.

Step 13

Now apply a Levels, Color Balance, and Selective Color Adjustment as shown below.

Step 14

Paint in some clouds again as shown to cover part of the mountain.

Step 15

Download this stock image, extract it, and place it on your canvas, as shown. Use the dodge and burn tool to add some shading as shown.

Step 16

Now apply the following adjustments.

Step 17

Paint some new clouds on a new layer on the bottom-left.

Step 18

Cut out the forest texture and place it into the image as shown. Burn the right side.

Step 19

Apply the following adjustments to the forest texture.

Step 20

Create a new layer, paint it with a green similar to the water's color, right click on layer and create a clipping mask, reduce the layer's opacity at 50%.

Step 21

Now add some adjustments without using clipping masks, this means they will be applied to all layers below them. Here we used a Photo Filter, Curves, Hue/Saturation, Gradient Map, and Color Balance. Set the Gradient Map’s layer blending mode to soft light with an opacity of 87%.

Step 22

Select all the adjustments by Cmd/Ctrl + Clicking on each one of them, right click after you selected them and choose "create group," rename it "adjustments,” click on it and reduce its opacity at 46%.

Step 23

Let’s create some other adjustments over the group, use the following settings. Use Curves and Vibrance.

Step 24

Make a new layer and choose Image > Apply Image, use Cmd/Ctrl + T and change the perspective as shown.

Step 25

Use the clone tool again to fill in the empty areas, as shown.

Step 26

Download this image and place it on the big mountain, erase the bottom part with a soft small brush so it will look like it's covered by plants.

Step 27

Apply the following adjustments and use the dodge tool to apply highlights to the area as shown.

Step 28

Download this image and add birds to the upper part of the nearest mountain.

Step 29

Add more clouds in front of the mountains as shown.

Step 30

Create a new layer, go to Image > Apply Image and burn the red selected parts of the water.

Step 31

Make a selection with the rectangular selection tool, create a new layer and fill it with black or a dark blue.

Step 32

Use curves to create a softer atmosphere (no clipping mask, we want to apply it to all layers).

Final Image