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Members Area Tutorial: Create an Advanced 3D Matte Painting Using Sketchup and Photoshop (Part 2)

Members Area Tutorial: Create an Advanced 3D Matte Painting Using Sketchup and Photoshop (Part 2)

This tutorial is a mammoth, and actually our longest, most in depth tutorial on record! It’s great to welcome Caroline to the team, and I’m sure you guys will learn a lot from her.

This tutorial was simply too long to post as a single post, with around 200 images and 57 incredibly detailed steps. As a result we have split it into two sections.

Part 1 was published earlier this week (you can access the preview for it here)and taught you how to construct a complex building structure from scratch using the free software Google Sketchup. Part 2 today shows you how to take the 3D Sketchup model and use advanced matte painting techniques and advanced Photoshop skills to turn it into a realistic final scene.

Let’s get going!

A note from Caroline:

In this tutorial you’ll find out how to use a “sketch” created in a 3D application as the foundation for a matte painting. To create the 3D template we’ll use a nifty little program called Sketchup. Most 3D programs have a very steep learning curve but Sketchup, which was designed with 2D artists in mind, can easily be learned in as little as an hour or two. Best of all, Sketchup is free!

After we’ve created the 3D sketch, we’ll take it into Photoshop and turn it into a matte painting using photo manipulation techniques and some simple brush work.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Step 21

First of all we’ll load the brushes and the color swatches we need for this project into Photoshop. Start Photoshop if you haven’t done so already and choose Edit>Preset Manager from the menu. The first dialog you see should be the Brush presets. If not, press Ctrl+1/Cmd+1 to make it so. Next, click the Load button, navigate to the folder where you downloaded the Brushes 01.abr file and double-click on it to load the brush set into Photoshop.

Still in the Preset Manager press Ctrl+2/Cmd+2 to switch to the Swatches panel. Click Load and find the Colors  file. Double click on it to load the color swatches.

Click Done to close the Preset Manager.

We’re now ready to start on the matte painting proper.

Step 22

Press Ctrl+N/Cmd+N to create a new file which is  2000×2880  pixels at 300 dpi. Set the Color Mode to Lab Color and the bit depth to 8 bit. The background contents should be set to Transparent.

We’ll work in the Lab Color mode for two reasons. Firstly, it’s device independent so it doesn’t matter on which monitor it’s viewed or on which printer it’s printed, it will always look the same. Secondly, unlike in RGB mode, in Lab Color mode the grayscale levels are separate from the color levels, which means that it’s much easier to keep light and dark values under control without changing the colors in the process. If you’d like to know more about Lab Color mode, you  might want to have a look at this short tutorial.

Step 23

In the next few steps we’ll prepare the canvas so that we’ll be all set for the work ahead. Some of the work is a little tedious but it’ll save us a lot of jumping back and forth later on.

First of all, load the Template.png that you exported from Sketchup into the new document by choosing File>Place from the menu. Find the Template.png  file and double-click it to place it in the new document as a smart object. When placing the file the Free Transform mode becomes automatically active because Photoshop guesses you want to resize the smart object to fit the document, which is indeed the case.

Enter the values shown below in the Free Transform option bar and press Enter to fit the Template onto the canvas.

Step 24

Create a new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N/Shift+Cmd+N) above the Template layer. Rename this new layer “Front walls”. Next, select the areas in the Template layer on either side of the building. I used the Pen tool (P) to do this, but you can use any selection tool you feel comfortable with.

Save this selection as an alpha channel by choosing Select>Save Selection from the menu. Type “Front walls” in the Name field and click OK to create the alpha channel.

Make sure that both the selection and the Front walls layer are active and press Shift+F5. When the Fill dialog appears, choose 50% gray from the Contents list and press Enter to fill the selection with this color. Press Ctrl+D/Cmd-D to remove the selection.

Double-click in an empty space next to the Front walls layer’s name. When the Layer Style dialog appears, Click on the Stroke option to activate it and enter the following values:

Step 25

To save some time later on, we’ll create an alpha channel for each piece of the composition. This is very repetitive work and to make the process a little faster, I suggest that you assign shortcut keys to the Save Selection and Load Selection menu options.

To do this, choose Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts from the menu. When the dialog pops up, make sure that the Shortcuts For: option is set to Application Menus. Find the Select folder and click on the arrow in front of it to open it. Next, scroll down until you see the Load Selection and  Save Selection entries. Click on Load Selection to activate it and press Alt+F1/Opt+F1 to assign that shortcut combination to the menu option. Click on Save Selection  and press Alt+F2/Opt+F2 to assign the key combination to that menu option. Then Click the Accept button followed by clicking OK to close the dialog.

Alt+F1/Opt+F1 is now assigned to the Load Selection menu option and Alt+F2/Opt+F2 to the Save Selection menu option.

Select the top portion of the back  wall, press Alt+F2/Opt+F2 and save the alpha channel as “Back wall top”.

Proceed to select the remaining areas and save them to alpha channels one by one as shown below.

When you’re done you should have 16 alpha channels, including the Front walls channel we made earlier.

That’s the end of the preview!

About the Author:

My name is Caroline, I currently live in the Netherlands and I am a computer programmer turned graphic designer. I have been drawing and painting since I was allowed to hold a brush. Very recently I decided to make a life-long dream come true and to start up as an independent artist and designer. I hope you enjoy this tutorial. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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