Intro to Matte Painting

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A digital matte painting is a painted representation of an environment used in film and television productions. Matte paintings transport us to these environments and play a key role in establishing locations.

The matte painting process can range from the creation of a simple set extension to a breathtaking environment, which can be integrated with animated or live action.

The beauty of digital matte painting is that there are few limits to what can be visualised, and they are a cost effective method of creating environments for film/TV productions>

This two-day workshop is designed to teach the art and techniques used in digital matte painting. It is designed for students who have little knowledge of digital matte painting techniques, and who ideally possess creative skills and basic understanding of the Photoshop interface. On completion of the course students will be equipped with a hands on understanding of industry standard skills and techniques required to pursue a career in this field.

This workshop will comprise lectures, demonstrations and exercises, where students will produce their own matte painting with the aid of teacher supplied material. Students will be guided and supported through each step of the matte painting process. Handouts, exercise material and recommended reading will be provided.

Teaching this workshop will be Nicole Mather, a senior digital matte painter and artist with over fifteen years experience creating environments and artwork for film and television productions.

Nicole has worked on a broad range of award winning productions and credits include: Avatar (Weta Digital). Croods, Peabody and Sherman and Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Animation), Happy Feet, The Guardians of Gahoole, The Matrix Reloaded, Australia, & Moulin Rouge (Animal Logic).

Subjects covered:
  • A brief history of Matte Painting
  • Overview of current industry standard matte painting techniques
  • Traditional techniques essential to the matte painter, including;
  • Composition
  • Perspective
  • Light & form
  • Colour theory and values
  • Creating a concept sketch
  • Digital Techniques for the Matte Painter (Adobe Photoshop/After Effects)
  • The Photoshop Workspace
  • Photoshop Tools
  • Working in Layers efficiently
  • Resolution and bit depth
  • Using and creating custom brushes
  • Digital painting
  • Making colour and tonal adjustments
  • Photo Montage basics
  • Masks
  • Lighting techniques
  • Setting up your matte painting in After Effects
  • Rendering you final matte painting in After Effects
Tools and Software used:
  • Traditional drawing with pencil and paper
  • Wacom Intuos Graphic Drawing Tablet
  • Adobe Photoshop Software
  • Adobe After Effects Software

Ideal Prerequisite Skills:

  • Creative aptitude/ability
  • Basic to intermediate Photoshop skills

Here's some pre-course inspiration: the 50 greatest matte paintings of all time, according to Shadowlocked:

Student feedback from April 2015:

'I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I found it challenging, insightful and stimulating. Nicole was an excellent tutor, and I was impressed by the facilities at AFTRS.'

'Excellent -- covered a lot of ground. I was incredibly satisfied with this course.'

'A wonderful course.'

***DISCLAIMER*** AFTRS reserves the right to cancel any course for any reason at any time. In the event of a course being cancelled a full refund of course fees will be provided. If a participant wishes to withdraw from a course, they may do so up to 15 days before the course commences and get a full refund. Cancellations 14 days or less before course commencement will incur a fee. For more information on AFTRS Open's policies, including refund policies, please see our policies page.‚Äč


The Australian Film Television Radio and School would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Bidjigal people and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, on whose land we meet, work, study and teach. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and extend our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all nations of this land.