How To Become a Matte Painter

How To Become a Matte Painter

What is a Matte Painter?
Matte Painters are animation artists who create painted representations of landscapes, sets and other locations, as backgrounds for scenes that can be impossible or difficult to find and film. Most Matte Painters work digitally nowadays, instead of using traditional painting.

What is the Job?
The main role of a Matte Painter is to create realistic elements that are able to replace live-action elements and/or improve existing live action footage in films. Matte Painters work with several types of content; live-action footage, digital still photography, CG elements, and digital paint. They are responsible for creating environments that are realistic, believable and can be integrated seamlessly into the film. Matte Painters mostly work digitally, using software, as well as working with a variety of 2D backdrops and 3D projections.

As with many careers in this field, Matte Painters will work with a number of people on every project they complete, and therefore good communication skills are crucial. You must be able to follow the Production Designer’s direction to produce complex matte painted elements at a high standard and work alongside technical colleagues. This will all be required whilst working in a fast paced, dynamic, deadline driven environment.

If you’re interested in becoming a Matte Painter, and what to see more of what the role involves, take a look at this video:

Key Skills

  • Knowledge of composition, colour, perspective, depth and lighting
  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge of a variety of software, such as Zbrush, Apple Shake and Maya
  • Able to work with a team of people as well as individually
  • Motivation and willingness to perfect all aspects of your craft
  • Patience and flexibility
  • Knowledge of both traditional art and digital art

Salary & Working Hours
The salary for a Matte Painter can vary anywhere from £27,000 to £50,000 – and maybe even higher depending on how experienced and skilled you are.

In terms of working hours, this will ultimately depend on who you are working for and the projects you are working on, but most of the time you can expect to work a normal 9am-5pm day.

How To Become a Matte Painter
Most Matte Painters are trained studio artists who have graduated with fine arts or design degrees. They usually have a good background knowledge of basic artistic concepts. The first step to gaining entry into this role is to put together a portfolio of traditional and digital artwork, to showcase your work to potential employers. Despite the fact that this role is mostly digitally based nowadays, it is still essential to have good grounding in traditional artistic techniques.

You can expect to work as a Concept Artist or a similar entry-level position before moving up to the role of Matte Painter. It is a good idea to get some experience using software packages such as Zbrush, visual effects programs like Apple Shake, and animation programs such as Maya. It is extremely difficult to obtain a career as a Matte Painter without digital skills, so this is essential.

If you want to be a Matte Painter, you must be willing to spend years perfecting all aspects of your craft, be patient and flexible, and when the time is right you just may get the chance to put your artistry into a film.

Where Can It Take You?
The role of Matte Painter is quite a high-level role that requires a lot of experience and skill, so in terms of career progression, this will likely be through working on projects with bigger scope and larger budgets, which will be possible as your reputation as a Matte Painter grows.

It is also possible to progress as a Matte Painter through the hierarchy, as you gain more experience and become better at the role, you may have the opportunity to be promoted to a Senior Matte Painter.

Latest Matte Painter Jobs

Become a Matte Painter
If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest open positions on our jobs board? You can view our latest Matte Painter vacancies here.