Create a Snowy Night Landscape Matte Painting

Matte painting is an essential skill to learn from any serious digital artist or Photoshop user. Not only does it allow you to produce beautiful out of this world outcomes, but it teaches you core skills such as correct image blending and photo manipulation.
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a snowy night landscape photo manipulation featuring a northern lights sky. You’ll learn how to combine many stocks together and blend them seamlessly, work with layer groups and Smart Objects, create stunning lighting effects and more.
Final Image

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

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Step 1

Create a new document and fill it with white. I choose the size of 1300×800 px but you can start with bigger size. Press Cdm/Ctrl+Shift+N to make a new layer and hit G to active Gradient Tool. I use Linear Gradient with white color and #2f6d7f. Drag a line from top to bottom to get result below:

Step 2

Open ‘starry sky’ stock. Use the Move Tool to drag it into our main canvas, place it at the right side of our canvas then right click this layer and choose to ‘convert to Smart Object’. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to resize it as shown below:

Change the mode to Screen 100%:

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to make another selection on ‘starry stock’:

Drag it onto the left side of your canvas, convert to Smart Object and change the mode to Screen 100%:

I name these layers as “stars 1″. “stars 2″.
Step 3

Apply a layer mask to each of your star layers and use a 50% opacity black brush to blur some parts of the star fields. You can see how I did it on the mask of these layers:

Result on picture:

Step 4

Open ‘background’ stock. Isolate the mountain and foreground and place it in our main document. Convert to Smart Object and resize with Cmd/Ctrl+T:

Use a layer mask and soft black brush to blend the top of the mountain at the middle part with sky:

We only use the background of this stock because its foreground is not suitable with a snowy track (we’ll see in a future step).
Step 5

To change color and brightness of this background, I use some adjustment layers with Clipping Mask. Go to New Layer-New Adjustment Layer-Color Balance:


We have result:

Step 6

Open ‘foreground’ stock. Take foreground part and position it at foreground of our main picture after converting it to Smart Object and resizing: