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20 Video Tutorials to Learn Matte Painting

by | Jan 22, 2019 | 0 comments

Traditionally, Matte Painting refers to the process that special effects artists would use to create stunning special effects that would have been impossible to create in-camera. They would paint very finely directly onto the film surface, or onto glass strips and overlay them directly on top of the image. This would be a long and laborious process, but the results would always be worth it.

Today, however, this has been greatly simplified by the existence of computers and software. As a result, digital matte painting is a very common process in all special effects work and is an essential part of modern graphic design.

In the same spirit, I present to you 20 Matte Painting Projects and Tutorials for you to be inspired by and begin your own matte painting adventures, along with a bonus video at the end. The sky (and your imagination) is the limit.

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Before anything else, this introductory article on the basics of matte painting is sure to cover all the basic processes and is an excellent beginner’s guide. I strongly recommend going through this article. Go to tutorial here.

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road and big mountains in the background

This simple and effective tutorial talks about how to add mountains to a video using Photoshop’s ability to edit video. Go to tutorial here.

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road and big mountains in the background

In the first of his series on matte painting basics, Ed Lopez describes how to put elements together in a scene to create a basic but effective matte painting. Go to tutorial here.

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Matte painting old building photoshop

In this multi-part series, The Curious Engine outlines step-by-step many basic techniques used in digital matte painting. The link is to his Vimeo channel, where you can find many more advanced resources as well. Go to tutorial here.

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Matte painting snow castle mountains

Slightly more complex than the previous tutorials, Anna-Lisa Saywell’s tutorial starts to introduce some advanced methods of bringing together simple techniques to create a stunning image. Go to tutorial here.

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Meteor going to a city

An excellent beginning VFX project, this matte painting tutorials covers basic techniques that allow for the creation of advanced-looking special effects. It comes in a video format that’s easy to follow along. Go to tutorial here.

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broken los angeles bridge

The second part of Ed Lopez’s 101 series, this cinematic matte painting tutorial teaches how to create the impression of destroyed buildings and apocalyptic scenes – a common feature in most matte painting projects. Go to tutorial here.

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matte painting burning city

In the third iteration of his Matte Painting 101 series, Ed Lopez talks about how to create fire effects to use in your projects. Go to tutorial here.

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taj mahal matte painting photoshop screenshot

In this non-captioned and non-narrated video, you will find a surprisingly good walkthrough of a simple and vibrant matte painting that you can easily replicate. Go to tutorial here.

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architectural matte painting edit

Jonas De Ro utilises advanced architectural influences in his creation of a fantasy city. This tutorial covers how to create larger objects from smaller source images. Go to tutorial here.

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ancient castle in the mountain jungle

In this easy step-by-step tutorial, Sarel Theron shows how to create a fantasy Hollywood-style scene that recreates the Machu Picchu in incredible detail. Go to tutorial here.

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covered by snow abandoned city

Tony Aube takes matter painting to the next level with this well-lit, photorealistic render of a scene. The title says post-apocalyptic, but this beautiful image is sure to inspire. Go to tutorial here.

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cleopatra castle digital painting

Frederic St-Arnaud goes through the steps of how he came up with this design from scratch, using his own photographs and adding elements on top. Go to tutorial here.

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sunset on big mountains

This excellent tutorial goes beyond mere technique, and starts to explain the more conceptual aspects of matte painting. It teaches how to think about ideas beforehand, and executing them according to a plan. An academician’s guide to graphic design. Go to tutorial here.

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abandoned city matte painting

In this handy little video tutorial, Rob Brown takes us through his process of filming his background plate, coming up with his painting idea, and executing it using both After Effects and Photoshop. Go to tutorial here.

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mountains viewed from top matte painting

This is not a tutorial. In this article, Terpent Cyril demonstrates the ideation process that goes behind creating a complex image. It goes to show – the techniques are secondary, it’s the ideas that count. Go to tutorial here.

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mountains viewed from top matte painting

Ed Lopez, from the 101 tutorials above, pulls out the big guns and shows us his stuff when it comes to real matte painting in this apocalyptic city street tutorial that he describes step-by-step. Go to tutorial here.

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abandoned city scene with a man

This is an intuitive tutorial on matte painting an urban landscape and generating elements such as rain and water into the scene. A useful resource. Go to tutorial here.

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bridge and city next to river blue tones

This is Daniele Scerra’s long an detailed documentation on how he created the matte painting artwork for the movie ‘Barbarossa’ directed by Renzo Martinelli in 2009. It includes his sketches. Go to tutorial here.

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futuristic city matte painting

Finally, this pro tutorial by Arqui9 deals with matte painting for architectural visualisation to come up with a stunning cityscape. This is an out of the box approach that’s different from typical VFX techniques, and certainly worth learning. Go to tutorial here.

BONUS!

rare footage of traditional matte painting for star wars

This amazing video uploaded by Thomas Thiemeyer shows rare footage of the traditional matte painting process used in the original Star Wars trilogy. Go to video here.