advanced photoshop

Key tips for working as a matte painter

Posted in:
General, by Rebecca Greig

Being a professional matte painter is a varied and challenging career and breaking into the industry can be just as challenging. Here are some great tips to get noticed and produce your best possible work

Key tips for working as a matte painter
  • Perfect your matte painting portfolio

If you want to be noticed and ultimately hired as a matte painter, then you need to build a solid portfolio of work.

Max Dennison, a matte painting veteran, advises that “It doesn’t have to be an official production of work, but it must be matte painting, and it must not exhibit a slavish use of photographs.”

He adds that the best piece of advice he can offer to any aspiring matte artist is “to practise and paint as much as possible.”

It is much better to show off a simple painting that exhibits a thorough understanding of painting. For example invisibly removing a building from an image and replacing it with something completely different, is much better than having a city in the sky of extraterrestrial coven or landscape.

You should be showing your matte painting skills rather than you ability as an imaginative concept artist.

As with any portfolio, make sure everything that you include in it is your absolutely best work.

Key tips for working as a matte painter

  • Learn the basics, then keep learning

Once you have gotten your first commission, it’s important to remember that no matter how outlandish the subject is, the basic rules of composition and persepective still apply. In fact, they might even be more important than ever.

Along with light and mood, composition is one of the most important aspect of any piece of artwork.

The basic rules of composition haven’t changed for centuries, so it’s helpful to take time and study them before you begin. Once you learn how apply these rules, and they become second nature, then you will gain an incredible freedom and flow to your work.

In order to maintain high-quality artwork production it is important to not only enjoy what you are doing, but also to continue to learn and develop as an artist.

Key tips for working as a matte painter

  • Open your eyes

“A matte painter needs to be acutely aware of the world around them,” explains Max Dennison.

Matte painting is about gently telling the audience a story for three or four seconds. If you can’t then the painting has not worked. Dennison says, “I always say to people who ask, that I haven’t done my job properly if the audience notices it.”

You have to be acutely aware of the realities of digital painting too, especially the length of time that it takes to complete it properly. Some paintings could take weeks or even months to complete.

Key tips for working as a matte painter

  • Do your research

Finding great reference material can be tough.

“There are not a lot of image banks that suit the needs of a matte painter,” explains matte artist Christian Kugler. “Usually for feature and commercial work, a lot of reference will be shot, and depending on the circumstances and the quality those can really prove helpful. If you are basing your work off a plate then your best reference is to always match the plate. That is super important for each project.

“If you are creating a project from scratch, then if it is part of a sequence, use lighting as a point of reference to help guide you along.”