Create a Dark and Mysterious Landscape Matte Painting with Photoshop

Create a Dark and Mysterious Landscape Matte Painting with Photoshop
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a dark and mysterious landscape using a range of photo manipulation techniques. You’ll learn how to combine different stock photos into a cohesive scene, create a misty atmosphere, adjust color, work with lighting, and more.

What you’ll be creating

We’ll start this tutorial by creating a rocky scene using a landscape and some rock images. We’ll also vary the rock opacity to generate a depth of field. Later we’ll add the statue and knight and blend them using adjustment layers, masking, and brush. Then we’ll create the misty atmosphere using a color fill layer. Finally, we’ll adjust color, refine the contrast, and enhance the lighting effect. You’ll need Photoshop CS2 or newer to follow this tutorial.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop with the following settings:

Step 2

Open the landscape image. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag it into our white canvas and place it, as shown below:
Click the second icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel to add a mask to this layer. Use a basic, soft brush with black color to erase the sky and the rock and leave only the ground visible:

Step 3

I used an adjustment layer with Clipping Mask to reduce the ground saturation. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation:

Step 4

I used Color Balance to add some red to the ground:

Step 5

I used a Curves adjustment layer to darken the ground:

Step 6

Move the rock 1 image to the right side of the scene using the Move Tool.
Remove its background using a layer mask:
Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally using Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Move it to the left:

Step 7

Make all the rock layers selected and press Cmd/Ctrl+G to create a group for them. Change this group mode from Pass Through to Normal 100%. Make a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer on the top of the rock ones to desaturate them:

Step 8

I used Curves to darken the rocks:

Step 9

Place the rocks 2 images behind the rock 1 ones and lower its opacity to 50%. Set this layer under the rocks 1 group.
Use a layer mask to remove the hard edges and the rock on the right side:

Step 10

Duplicate this layer and move it to the right a little. Use a layer mask to remove the rock at the left and lower the opacity to 40%:

Step 11

Add the rocks 2 images to our working document again and flip it horizontally. Move it to the top right of the image and lower the opacity to 20%.
The various opacities of the rock layers will add depth to the scene.

Step 12

To make the left rock (rock 1 ones) look a bit different from the right one, I used a rock part from the rocks 2 images. Place it onto the top of the rock:

Step 13

Open the rocks 3 images. Place it in the middle of the scene, between the existing rocks and lower the opacity to 20%. Set this layer under the rock 2 group.
Add a mask to this layer and erase the sea and the rocks at the two sides, leaving only the middle one visible:

Step 14

Drag the rocks 3 images again into our working document and lower the opacity to 30%. Use Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform it as shown below:

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15 comments on “Create a Dark and Mysterious Landscape Matte Painting with Photoshop”

  1. Jenny, thanks once again for sharing your amazing vision. I have several of your tutorials and they are just fabulous. Best wishes for continued success!

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