Matte Painting

An 8-week extensive study course on the art of matte painting and the techniques used in today’s industry

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Piece together your imagination into reality

This course you will go through the complex discipline of matte painting, utilizing many different skill sets you will be primarily working in Photoshop. Using photography and combining them into your pieces, you will create skyscapes, landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes—and create different design possibilities and lighting scenarios. There will be a lecture on the history of matte paintings and how traditional principles and techniques are still applied today to current matte work with the newest technology and tools.

Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 8-10 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments.
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop, tablet, Maya, Vue (optional), Nuke (optional)
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Environment Design 1 and 2 OR advanced digital painting and environment design skills

Matte Painting WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Introduction to matte painting and the process of matte painting | Discussion on gathering reference | Create a simple sky replacement and cloud extraction | We will be working primarily in Photoshop exploring different designs and lighting scenarios | Lectures on the history of matte paintings and the masters of matte painting will be observed to get a better understanding of matte painting
Taking an existing plate, we will extend a shot | Utilizing cloning techniques to remove unwanted elements and matching a plate | Then we will transform the shot into a classic day for night technique using adjustment layers and paths | Study different movie shots and how they are constructed with matte paintings in their backgrounds
Using references to extract elements and color correct them | Lighting condition, foggy/overcast painting with a seascape theme (this will be the first of many different lighting conditions we will go over through the weeks) | When looking at foggy and overcast lighting we focus on light being diffused, low key ratio, muted colors, softer shadows, and observing reference photography
Research ancient historical locations and imagery to execute a painting by adding some form of history to your landscape piece | Lighting condition, sunlight day with a landscape theme | With this lighting condition we focus on direct harder light, high key ratio, saturated colors, details ion surface texture, sharp shadows, and observing reference photography
Using references and/or 3D models to build your scene, create a believable futuristic city; research movies, books, games, etc. | Lighting condition, backlighting with a sci-fi city theme | Also look at how cities are constructed and incorporate them into our scenes, become inspired by movies, comics, etc. and create your own versions through your voice
Create thumbnail sketches, exploring composition and design | Research and gather reference | Begin blocking in painting once you have selected a thumbnail | Look over steps to create a matte painting, using thumbnails, sketches, research and reference, tonal drawing/color study, and final painting | Study different compositional scenarios and apply them into your sketching phase, then move onto deciding the many color possibilities that best fit your image
Continue building up painting from previous week | Work on whole area of painting, not just specific pieces | All the elements should be present in piece with an established lighting direction | Discuss different techniques to start finalizing your final image | Look at how Maya is used in a pipeline to quickly block in simple geometry over your sketch to use in your final painting | Cover the use of Vue for creating terrain and vegetation to import into Maya | Look extensively over reference to build and design your structure, finally move onto texturing and finishing the final painting
Take the matte painting to a final | Try giving it those final nuances to make the painting sing | Add last bits of realism to your final matte painting, if knowledgeable with Maya, After Effects, or Nuke render out final movie | This week will be the final push on the project, look over Maya for scaling and layout and Vue for an ecosystem with the plants | Use animated camera in Maya to create more exaggerated shots, save out elements and alphas, work with projection shaders, patch projection and finally cover how basic projection set ups work in Nuke

Unleash your creative potential

Eric Bouffard is currently a Matte Painter Supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working on the highly anticipated sequel, Frozen 2. Previously, Eric worked at Dreamworks Animation for 11 years, Asylum Visual Effects, Sony Play Station Cinematics, Third Floor and many other studios. Eric was promoted Matte Painting Supervisor in 2011 on “Rise of the Guardians” and followed up with supervising the highly anticipated "How to Train Your Dragon 2". Eric most recently worked on "Ralph Breaks the Internet." These films allowed the matte department to push the boundaries on creating digital environments by using a combination of techniques in Maya, Vue, Photoshop and Nuke to create stunning vistas such as Berk Island, North Pole's palace, the Dragon Oasis, and more. Their work was nominated in both films for VES awards "Outstanding Environments in an Animated Movie".Prior to 2011, Eric was a Matte Painter artist on "Over the Hedge", "Kung Fu Panda", and "Monsters vs. Aliens"; and a Lead Matte Painter on "Monsters vs. Pumpkins" and "Scared Shrekless" among other movies.


April 26th!

spring TERM Registration

Feb 11, 2019 - Apr 26, 2019




April 26th!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

environment design Benefits


What makes this learning experience unique?

Personal Feedback

Receive personal individual feedback on all submitted assignments from the industries best artist.

1+ Year Access

Enjoy over 365 days of full course access. This includes all lectures, feedback, and Live Q&A recordings.

Certificate of Completion

Earn a Certificate of Completion when you complete and turn in 80% of course assignments.

Flexible Learning

Learn anywhere, anytime, and at your own pace with our online courses.

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