By Saby Menyhei

This guide goes hand in hand with our Art Guides. Each pack is created by a different artist who also creates the cover image. This article is designed to guide you in creating your own artwork. Enjoy!

Download the PSD and Images used in this article. Then follow along and recreate it, or make your own!
Download the Rocky Alpine Assets and PSD!

What is the story being told in your cover art?

I didn’t really come up with a story to begin with, I just started creating and let things flow. The concept unfolded as I went along and I found my stride with it. I let the images in the pack inspire me! (Check out the pack here!) I grabbed the images that I liked the most and then I went from there. As I started putting together the pieces of the puzzle I had all sorts of ideas - I wanted to put futuristic buildings here, have a character there; I was overflowing with possibilities. The last touch to the story was the little droid I added. By that point it was clear that the hero character is heading towards a secret base hidden in the mountains with his robot companion.  

"...I just started creating and let things flow. The concept unfolded as I went along and I found my stride with it. I let the images in the pack inspire me!"


Step 1 - Plate

I started by choosing an image that would serve as the base of the matte painting.  I selected this particular image because I liked the road leading into the distance, the lighting conditions and the rich textural detail of the picture.  For this DMP I have decided to replace the sky, the foreground and other parts of the original plate and I will show you how through this tutorial!

The initial image base

Step 2 - Collecting Elements

I needed some more elements for the piece so I collected more images from the Image pack that fitted my needs. I needed additional mountains for the background, a Hero mountain and some new foreground elements. Luckily there is a lot of variation in the pack and I was able to find everything I need.

Collecting the necessary Element Assets

Step 3 - Rough Composition

I took all the elements and created a rough composition to see how the final image would take shape. I removed the sky and other small parts of the plate to start with. I then dropped in the mountains and replaced the foreground too. At this stage I leave the color as is, and will apply the color correction further in the process.

Roughly assembling the final composition

Step 4 - Grading and Refining

Replacing the sky changed the mood drastically and quickly sets the tone for the rest of the composition.  At this stage I have started grading the elements - I always use curves to make sure the colors and tones sit together nicely. The aim, as always; was to create one cohesive image. I replaced some other elements of the original plate as well as removing a big chunk of the foreground.

Adding atmosphere to the image through grading

Step 5 - Sketching

When I felt that I was almost done with the landscape I decided to design some buildings to add to the image. This was always in the back of my mind and was always the intention. This is why I put the Hero mountain at the end of the path; the composition leads the viewer’s eyes towards the buildings. This sketch served as a blueprint for the 3D modeling process that came next.

Sketching in rough CG elements

Step 6 - 3D MODELING

I took some creative liberties and didn't follow the original sketch religiously, but the end result came pretty close as you can see. I love to play around and improvise, but to make sure that I do not go too far off the original concept I used my sketch as reference.

Step 7 - Layout

I quickly blocked in the landscape so I could position my modeled buildings in the correct 3D space. For the lighting and rendering I used Arnold. I dug up an old vehicle render that I had made a couple of years ago (based on the design by the wonderful John Seru) and added it in.

Positioning the 3D elements

Step 8 - Integration

After I rendered out my elements I had to integrate them into the landscape. AOV’s are very useful here. AOV's are just the extra layers you can render out with a 3D render. These are things like specular pass, reflection, depth pass etc. I always use passes like depth and specular to make sure my renders are blending in perfectly.

Integrating the 3D elements seamlessly

Step 9 - Adding Detail

Now for the finishing touches. I continued to refine the image and added extra detail here and there. Some bits are painted from scratch - like cables connecting the structures or the little droid in the foreground

The finishing touches

Step 10 - Final Image

As the last step - an easy but important one - I applied the final grade, film noise and lens distortion to achieve a more photographic look. When you do this it's important to keep it subtle and not over do it.

The Final product

There you have it!  Go and download the Image pack and see what you can bring to life with this tutorial's help!

Thanks again!

Saby Menyhei
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Download Saby's PSD and the assets used to create this image.