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 rocks opacity to create a depth of field. Later we’ll add the statue and knight and blend them together 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.

knight30-final

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop with the following settings:

knight1

Step 2

Open the landscape image. Use the Move Tool (V) to drag it into our white canvas and place it as shown below:

knight2

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:

knight2a

Step 3

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

knight3

knight3a

Step 4

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

knight4

Step 5

I used a Curves adjustment layer to darken the ground:

knight5

Step 6

Move the rock 1 image to the right side of the scene using the Move Tool.

knight6

Remove its background using a layer mask:

knight6a

Duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally using Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Move it to the left:

knight6b

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:

knight7

Step 8

I used Curves to darken the rocks:

knight8

Step 9

Place the rocks 2 image behind the rock 1 ones and lower its opacity to 50%. Set this layer under the rocks 1 group.

knight9

Use a layer mask to remove the hard edges and the rock at the right side:

knight9a

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%:

knight10

Step 11

Add the rocks 2 image to our working document again and flip it horizontally. Move it to the top right of the image and lower the opacity to 20%.

knight11

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 image. Place it onto the top of the rock:

knight12

knight12a

Step 13

Open the rocks 3 image. 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.

knight13

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