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Create and Animate a Sci-Fi Themed Matte Painting With Photoshop and Nuke – Tuts+ Premium Tutorial

In television and movies, artists are often asked to create short animated scenes that only appear on the screen for just a moment. In this tutorial, we will show you how to create a sci-fi matte painting portraying a fleet of starships orbiting a planet using Photoshop. We will then show you how to animate that matte painting using an application called Nuke.  Let’s get started!

Speed Art Video

This speed art video demonstrates how the Photoshop aspect of this tutorial was done from beginning to end.

Final Animation

This video shows the final result of the Nuke portion of the tutorial.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial. Please download them before you begin.

1. Document Setup

Step 1

OK let’s get started by making our new document and setting a size for it.

Step 2

Now let’s open the base of our image with this render I prepared for you, and bring it over our document on a new layer.

Step 3

Use the scale command to resize the image as shown.

Step 4

And also rotate the image slightly as shown.

Step 5

Next make the background a layer and fill it with black; then go back to the renter layer and use the magic wand to make a selection of the sky.

Step 6

The magic wand excludes some parts as the bright sun here so just use the lasso tool to add to the selection.

Step 7

And also zoom in tighter over the edge to check for other missing sections and add them also.

Step 8

Once you have everything, access the refine edge tool and adjust it as shown here.

Step 9

Then inverse the selection and make a mask for the layer.

Step 10

OK let’s continue by selecting the gradient fill tool and select the gradient shown here from the gradient file.

Step 11

Then simply in the background layer drag a gradient for our new sun.

2. Planet and Windows

Step 1

Continue by opening this other image, and copy and paste it on a new layer as shown here.

Step 2

Access the distort command and modify the layer as shown here.

Step 3

Then we need the elliptical selection tool to drag out a huge circle over our image; so you will have to zoom out quite a bit as shown.

Step 4

Right click on the selection to access the Transform Selection command, then scale the selection even more as shown here and position it as shown.

Step 5

Zoom back in and position the selection as shown here, then save the selection.

Step 6

Once we have saved the selection let’s do some warping on the planet as shown here.

Step 7

And then load the saved selection.

Step 8

And now simply with that selection active create a mask for the planet layer.

Step 9

OK great, now make a selection of the planet mask and then create a new layer.

Step 10

Then select the gradient tool again and keep the blue gradient we used before.

Step 11

Drag a very big gradient as shown here and then scale it up just slightly bigger than the planet.

Step 12

And now let’s apply some Gaussian blur to it as shown here.

Step 13

Set the layer mode to screen and then create a mask for the layer. Grab your brush tool with black and select this soft round tip at a very big size.

Step 14

So mask off as shown here to eliminate the atmosphere from the darker side of the planet.

Step 15

Let’s adjust a bit further the look of our planet, so create a levels layer clipped to the planet and adjust it as indicated here.

Step 16

That darkens the whole planet so now we have to mask off the levels layer so it only affects the shaded part. Then we reduce the opacity of the atmosphere layer and we make sure we have its mode set to screen.

Step 17

OK let’s move on, create a new clipped layer for the ship render as shown here and then grab the polygonal lasso tool to define the edges of the foreground windows.

Step 18

Then select the bush tool with a light blue color and the brush tip shown here.

Step 19

Paint along the selection to define some random light inside the ships windows.

Step 20

Next, select the eraser with the brush tip shown here and erase slightly as shown over the windows.

Step 21

Repeat the same for the lower level, and that is it you have a good technique to cover the foreground windows on the piece.

...and that's the end of the preview!

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