In this tutorial I'll show you how to create a fantasy landscape matte painting named "Eagle's Land".
We'll start this tutorial by sketching out the concept/idea, and then combine some stock photo references in Adobe Photoshop. Throughout this tutorial you'll learn how to use adjustment layers, masking and brushes, as well as how to manage the color and atmosphere to achieve a beautiful result. You'll also learn how to work with groups, create lighting, pay attention to details and more.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial:
1. Sketching the Idea and Finding the Photo References
first step is sketching your idea to plan out what you're going to
create. Use a tablet pen and draw it on a
canvas. You can draw it on paper using pencils and scan it to your computer if that's
familiar for you. My idea is to create a beautiful landscape with
medieval elements, covered by a misty atmosphere and illuminated by the
sunlight. I made a rough sketch in black and white, and then added some
In the sketch, the main light source appears from the upper right of
the scene. It's very important to define the light source right at the beginning, so that you can manipulate properly later.
Finding decent photo references is not an easy task. It's very important to find images with appropriate perspective, shadow and light. Here are the photos I've chosen for the next stages.
2. Adding the Base Landscape
In Photoshop, create a new document of 2200 x 2200 px and fill it with white.
Open the landscape image. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag it into our white canvas and convert this layer to a Smart Object.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color and change the Yellows settings.
Drag the sky 1 image onto the top of the landscape.
the second icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a mask to this
layer. Use a soft round brush with black color (soft black brush) to
remove any hard edges and blend it smoothly with the background:
3. Adding the Mountains and Rocks
Open the mountain image. Select the mountains area with the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).
Add this selected area to the top of the landscape.
a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to blend the mountains
with the background. The aim is to make the mountain layers appear
further and higher than the existing landscape, and it will help to create a depth of field. You need to vary the brush opacity while masking to get
a better result. You may notice that these mountains should look
blurrier and more faded compared to other elements, as they're at a
greater distance from the viewer.
an adjustment layer and set it as Clipping Mask to match the mountains' color
with the background. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue
Saturation and drag the Saturation value down to -86.
the rock image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to select the rock
area and add it to the bottom right of our main image where the knight
and his horse will stand. Use the Free Transform Tool
(Control-T) to rotate the rock a little.
There is an unwanted shadow at the right corner of the rock. To remove it, make a new layer above the rock one and remember to set it as Clipping Mask.
On the rock layer, select a part of the rock surface with the Lasso Tool.
Control-C to copy this selection. Highlight the new layer and
press Control-V to paste the selected area to the indicated
Use a layer mask to blend the copied part with the surface and hide the unwanted shadow.
a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and decrease the Master Saturation value
to -61. Also remove the blue cast at the edge of the rock by bringing the Blues Saturation value down to -82.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer and increase the Red and Yellow values of the Midtones.
Add a Curves adjustment layer to darken the rock as it's too bright compared to the background at the moment.
this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the front of the rock
that catches the light from the sky. You can see the result on the layer
mask and the result of the picture.
Create a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100%, and fill with 50% gray.
Use the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 20–30%,
to refine the light and shadow of the rock. Use the Dodge Tool to
brighten the front and the edge, and the Burn Tool to darken the back.
You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay
4. Adding the Mist
Add the sky 2 image to the bottom of our working document and set this layer between the mountains and the rock layers. We're going to use it to create the mist.
Add a mask to this layer, and use a soft black brush to soften the hard edges and reduce the mist intensity.
Make a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to change the mist color to a warmer one.
Make a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to increase the visibility of the mist. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the mist above the trees/plants area.
This step is to create a distance between the rock and the base landscape and increase the depth as well as the atmosphere of the scene.
5. Combining the Knight and the Horse
Open the knight image. The knight in this image looks as if he's ready for a battle, whereas we want him to stay calm to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. It was too hard to find a photo with a similar pose to the one in the sketch, so I decided to combine several photos to get what I desired.
First use the
Polygonal Lasso Tool to select the knight and the back of the horse, and then
press Control-J to duplicate the selected part into a new
layer. Make a new layer between the extracted knight layer and the
background, and fill it with the color
the horse image. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (or any tools you're
familiar with) to select the horse and drag it into the knight image.
Place this layer under the knight one and use Control-T to scale
it down to a suitable size.
Use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) for the horse layer, and set Saturation to -55 and Lightness to +1.
Add a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to brighten the horse.
a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Soft Light 100%
and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool and the Burn Tool to refine the
contrast of the horse: lighten the shadows and darken the highlights.
a new layer and use a soft round brush with the color
#e6e6e6 to paint
on the shadow under the horse's head to lighten it a bit more. Change this
layer mode to Soft Light 100%.
back to the knight layer. Go to Edit > Puppet Warp and drag the points
on the arm and the sleeve down onto his thigh. The aim is to make his
arm look as if it's holding the bridle (we'll add it in the next steps).
a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100%, and
fill with 50% gray. Apply the Dodge Tool and the Burn Tool to the sleeve
and coat to refine the shadow/light there.
On a new layer, use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40% to paint the shadow of the sleeve.
a new layer and active the Clone Tool (S), remembering to check the option
All Layers. Use this tool to clone over the hole between the sleeve
and the coat which is created after applying the Puppet Warp.
the bridle image. Take the bridle only using the Polygonal Lasso Tool
and add it to the horse in the knight document. Use the Warp Tool (Edit
> Transform > Warp) to tweak the bridle a bit to fit the horse's head.
Add a mask to this layer and use a hard black brush to remove any unwanted details.
a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to change the color of the bridle.
Change Saturation to +20 and Hue to -17 to get a similar color to the
a Curves adjustment layer to darken the bridle a little. On this layer
mask, use a soft black brush to erase the darkening effect on the areas
which are dark already.
two new layers on top of the layers. On the first, use a hard round
brush with the color
#3f1d20, and on the second use a lighter color
#a1403c) to paint the missing bridle part which the knight is holding in his hand.
a new layer and use a hard round brush with the color
#f8f8f4 and the size
about 2–5 px to paint more hair for the horse's head.
Make a new layer and use a hard round brush with the color
#decab7 to paint the tail of the horse.
#f8f8f4) and paint the lighter hairs of the tail.
Make a new layer under the bridle one, and use a soft black brush to paint the shadow of the bridle on the horse's head.
off the background and the fill layer, and then press
Control-Alt-Shift-E to merge all visible layers into a
6. Adding the Knight and his Horse
Move the knight into the landscape document, and place him onto the rock.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer for the knight (set as Clipping Mask) and change the settings of Reds and Cyans.
Add a Color Balance adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) and change the Midtones values.
Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the back of the knight and
horse. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to
erase the front of them as they're illuminated by the sunlight.
a new layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to Overlay 100% and
fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to brighten the front of the
knight and the horse, and the Burn Tool to darken the back.
a new layer under the knight one. Use a soft black brush with the Opacity about 40% to paint a small soft shadow under the horse's feet.
Name this layer "shadow 1".
determined the light source to be from the upper right of the scene, so the
knight and the horse should have a shadow behind. Make a new layer under the
shadow 1 one, and hold down the Control key while clicking the
knight thumbnail layer to load its selection.
Fill this layer with black (Shift-F5). Go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.
On this shadow layer, use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to select a hind leg, and then right click this selection and choose Layer via Cut.
these two layers to Smart Objects. Use Control-T to distort
these shadow parts to fit the position of the correlated legs.
the Opacity of these shadow layers to 50%. On each shadow layer, go to
Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 4 px.
a mask to the shadow layer of the cut hind leg, and use a soft black
brush to erase the area that overlaps the other leg's shadow.
Use a layer mask to reduce the opacity of the top of another shadow layer:
7. Adding the Castle
the castle image. Use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to select the castle and
drag it into our landscape file. Put the castle on the top of a misty
Add a mask to this layer, and use a soft black brush to erase the hard edges and make it fade into the mountain.
a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to darken the castle.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to erase the upper of the
castle, as it should be brighter than the lower.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and decrease Saturation to -66.
match the contrast of the castle with the mountain, go to Layer >
New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick a color from the misty
#bec2c5). Lower the Opacity of this layer to 60% to make the
castle blend smoothly with the scene.
8. Adding the Eagles
the eagle 1 image. Select the eagle using the Magic Wand Tool and add
him to the left side of the image. Flip him horizontally by using Edit >
Transform > Flip Horizontal.
Press Control-J to
duplicate this layer. Move the duplicated one to the lowest edge of the
foreground and enlarge the size.
On the duplicated eagle layer, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 8 px.
all the eagle layers selected, and then press Control-G to group them. Change this group mode from Pass Through (default group
mode) to Normal 100%. To remove the blue cast on the eagles, create a
Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on top of these layers. Choose the
Blues channel and change Hue to +49, Saturation to -75 and Lightness to
Because the group mode is changed to Normal 100% (no Pass Through), this adjustment layer only affects the layers within this group (the eagle ones).
Create a Color Balance
adjustment layer within the group, and alter the Midtones settings by
increasing the Red and Yellow values. On this layer mask, use a soft
black brush to reduce the effect of this adjustment layer on the bigger eagle
wing in the foreground.
Use a Curves adjustment layer
to brighten the eagles. On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to
erase the lower part of the eagles to balance their body contrast (the upper
is brighter, the lower is darker).
Make a new layer
above the smaller eagle layer (set as Clipping Mask), change the mode to
Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray. Use the Dodge Tool to brighten the
tail and the Burn Tool to darken the belly.
eagle 2 image. Isolate him from the background using the Magic Wand
Tool and add him to the top of the sky, above the castle.
Use a Curves adjustment layer (set as Clipping Mask) to brighten the eagle.
Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and change the Cyans settings to reduce the cyan cast on the eagle wings.
9. The Basic Color Adjustment
a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of the layers, pick the
#d3ce97, and change the mode of this layer to Soft
Create a Color Balance adjustment layer, and change the Midtones and Highlights settings.
Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick the color
#2e2001. Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%.
Use a Curves adjustment layer to darken the scene.
this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the contrast of the
upper part of the scene, mostly on the mountains, trees, and eagles.
10. Adding the Sunlight
a new layer on top of the layer, and change the foreground color to
#2c1602. Take a soft round brush and paint on the top of the scene where
you've aimed to make light. Change this layer mode to Linear Dodge
On a new layer with the same mode, use the same brush to paint on the trees, mountains, castle and the eagle in the middle.
the brush color to
#dccdc0 and start painting the light on the front of
the rock, the knight and the horse. Also use the same brush to paint on
the tree, the castle, and the sides of the mountains which catch the light. Alter this
layer mode to Overlay 100%.
Change the brush type to the light rays and the color to
#fdf3ea. Choose the brush you like and paint it on the canvas.
Use Control-T to distort the light a little, and place it in the sunlight area.
a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to erase any undesired
light rays, such as on the back of the mountains, the middle eagle, and the
To soften the light a bit, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 6 px.
11. The Final Adjustment
Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer and pick the colors
#2c1602. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%.
On this layer mask, use a soft black brush to reduce the Gradient Map effect at the sides of the scene.
Make a Channel Mixer adjustment layer and change the Red settings.
this layer mode to Soft Light 50%. On this layer mask, use a soft black
brush to decrease the effect of this adjustment layer on the sun area and the
back of the rock.
Create a Selective Color adjustment layer and change the values for Yellows, Greens and Neutrals.
Make a Vibrance adjustment layer to enhance the color.
Use another Selective Color adjustment layer to add some blue/magenta to the scene.
Make a Photo Filter adjustment layer and pick the color
Create another Vibrance adjustment layer to boost the colors.
On this layer mask use a black brush to remove or reduce the effect on the areas you feel oversaturated.
Congratulations, You're Done!
Here is the result you should get with this tutorial. I hope you've found it useful and learned some new techniques. If you have any question or idea, feel free to leave it in the comment box below.
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