The World of Matte Painting

In the old days, artists would paint on a life-sized canvas or even a sheet of glass to incorporate new elements in a shot. Many special effects were not done in post production, but rather in-camera. Today digital matte painting and compositing allow a more detailed and controlled environment for developing unique worlds. Wiki-Pedia on Matte Painting.

Matte Paintings are an essential part of film-making and allow the audience to travel to a mysterious planet, or go back in time to an early period of human life. You often see matte paintings in disaster movies where clever artists have brought destruction to a popular city or other famous landmark.

Once a digital painting has been completed, compositors can add life to these still paintings such as chimney smoke, moving water, atmospheres and even birds flying in the sky. More advanced mixtures of matte paintings utilize 3d animation such as cars driving or even space ships from the future!

Check out this incredible reel by Hatch! Must Watch. This one too!

Camera movement is also possible with a process called 3d camera mapping. By projecting your scene on to custom-built 3D geometry, you can later add a realistic camera move. View Example.

The world of matte painting is vast and I encourage you to do some research on your own into this amazing side of Hollywood. You may not personally be a matte painting artist but if you understand the process, it just might help you become a better compositor. Maybe.

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August 12th, 2009 @ 10:44 am
interesting :)
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:47 am
Matte Painting is awesome!

Great entry Andrew, hope to see more stuff like this soon!
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:49 am
WOW! :o

I believe they did something similar in LOTR for Rivendel.

Thanks for sharing.
Johann Torres
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:50 am
nice :D
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:52 am
That's pretty good timing. I just got a request to make a few of these for a pilot and was wondering around for inspiration. Thanks for the post.
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:57 am
Always interested, but mind boggling to me with certain shots.
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:01 am
Looks very interesting. I've never posted here, but visit often. Thanks for the tips, Andrew.
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:12 am
Very interesting =)
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:15 am
Wow some of those were real impressive!
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:16 am
I find it interesting that a lot of the things we just saw would have been done as miniatures with a motion control camera at one time...
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:21 am
cool. The Set Extensions tutorial helped me out a lot understanding it...its a beautiful concept.
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:24 am
Thats awesome.
Francisco de Souza
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:32 am
Many years ago (about 15) I watched a documentary about matte was awesome! At the time i was amazed when i' ve got aware of how many movies I watched used matte painting and i didn´t know it at all!!
after that I always give special attention when I watch a movie, trying to figure out what elements could be matte painting and what could not.
Excuse if my english isn't very good, I never had a teacher.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us...I' m almost 40 years old, and I work as video editor since 1995, I started with linear edition, and since 2000 I use Adobe Premiere (my first experience was with version 4.2), but I was almost givin up in my attempts to learn after effects until I found
Thanks again Andrew, you are amazing!
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:33 am
Wow. Some of those shots were just incredible. Gotta love Photoshop for matte painting :)
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:38 am
Over the last year i have been looking into matte painting alot because it always fascinated me no end, even the hand painted ones on things like Star wars and Indiana Jones (those artists had some skill)

Is a good site to show the talent coming from the Uk :)

Thanks for posting those videos they were pretty intresting

August 12th, 2009 @ 11:45 am
Hey! Buddy That's Cool
Sean Daigle
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:45 am
Reeeeeeeediculous. Man I love my job.
anvir tahini
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:53 am
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:56 am
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:56 am
I there any possibily to get those as a wallpaper size or something. I love them
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:57 am
very nice, Andrew you want to do some tutorial with Realflow? am interested in learning
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:59 am
I like tghe music in the reel so much. so relaxing. chill out and house music in the mix :D. Andrew we are waiting for the Vlog.:D
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:59 am
this is amazing, really hard work though lol
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:01 pm
Really great Stuff Andrew!
Would like to see a tutorial from you about matte paintings.
I did a matte painting,too. But the camera movement was done in AE.
I dont had time for camera projection.

Greets and keep up the good posts Andrew


PS: Sorry for my bad english - I'm german
Lucas M,
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:06 pm
I'll probably work with this
i love it!
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:12 pm
Very nice. Would like to see more of this, maybe a tutorial? :)
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:20 pm
Those videos were absolutely amazing
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:26 pm
i agree with andrew! One of my friends is a matte painter ( or rather he loves matte painting ) and they are really cool things to do!! They really bring life to the scene! These digital paintings can make some unbelievable things seem real!
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:39 pm
sweet... thanks for the post!
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:39 pm
Great entry Andrew, hope to see more soon
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:58 pm
very interesting i must do some more research on matte painting
August 12th, 2009 @ 12:59 pm
i love matte painting , back in the day you showed us sam passing by a land that slided to his side i hope we can see some cool matte painting tutorial soon where sam or sam walking in chernobyle.
August 12th, 2009 @ 1:15 pm
I never thought of those "pictures in the background of old movies" matte paintings... But they are! Although you can always tell!
August 12th, 2009 @ 1:57 pm
This is exactly where my head is at.. Got to admit, After Effects brought me into the digital scene, but as I learn more and more, I want to do harder and more convincing VFX, and it has brought me all the way to 3d modeling now, and digital matte painting, so im glad to see that you put some info on this up, because with the technology there is today, anyone who can do a matte painting, and has a green screen with a decent camera and some editing skills can do their own movie and replace every shot if they had to with great matte paintings. Like sincity. Im gonna try it. =)
August 12th, 2009 @ 2:40 pm
Nice works! just one question, are there gonna be tutorials for ACTION MOVIE ESSENTIALS 2? Thanks!
August 12th, 2009 @ 2:55 pm
Also check it out this one
Anthony Breslin
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:01 pm
Really interesting. Would all this be done with Photoshop or could you do matte paintings in after fx?
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:07 pm
Awesome~! but i'm too lazy to read the tutorial.. Why don't you make a video tutorial about matte painting~!?
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:20 pm
I watched both of the reel they are awesome. But I have a question about the second reel (watch this one too), at the opening the dead body's scene where about of wanted is that? because I have seen wanted but that scene was not in there.
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:32 pm
Oh boy, thanks for putting that google link in there Andrew I really would not have known what to do without it.
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:34 pm
Wow that's really interesting and the pictures from the post are amazing!
anvir tahini
August 12th, 2009 @ 3:59 pm
A_HA_HA_HA!!! KRAMERS PAINTER! I make the painter yes? SOCKS DUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dave Vegas
August 12th, 2009 @ 4:06 pm
They paint like 5 days for this..
August 12th, 2009 @ 4:09 pm
I know you have done a few tutorials with different elements that putting them together would result in a complete matte painting tutorial (06, 37, 42, 45, 87, 93), but how about making one specific to matte painting?
August 12th, 2009 @ 4:13 pm
Speaking of matte painting, I can't help mentioning Dylan Cole. Check his reel on Simply amazing.
August 12th, 2009 @ 4:29 pm
Would a matchmoving program be required to make most of those matte paintings seen in the Hatch reels?
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:00 pm
not all the time, sometimes you can use still video and add a pan or tilt yourself in after effects. other times you an use AE trackers to help out. only if the motion of the video has a parallax change then you would need a matchmoving software. even AEmocha can do basic 3D tracking. with the help of red giants warp.
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:10 pm
Nice Stuff :)
Floro Solo
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:18 pm
I hope this is a hint for an upcoming tutorial Mr. Kramer! I've always dreamed about creating my own fantasy world.
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:19 pm
How did the achieve the matte paintings in the Jesse James films? Did they roto out the actors?
Olympia Logger
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:19 pm
You can bump elbows with top order professional matte painters and hollywood conceptual artists here:

There are people who post here who are world class.
The interaction between the pros, the up and coming and the amatures is considerable.

A lot of the subject matter borders on the infantile but the technical skills and talents are huge.

Scope out: Gallery/Finished Work
Olympia Logger
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:26 pm
Wish there was an edit function here!

The URL is:

Sorry 'bout that...
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:34 pm
I haven't seen the jesse james films but i know roto has been around since the 80's and back then it was a tedious method, today is much simpler and sometimes you don't have to roto you can just use a blue or green screen and replace that with the matte painting in the back of the actor. Don't forget the parallax.
August 12th, 2009 @ 5:39 pm
Parallax is what makes matte painting convincing. is the key to the illusion. walt disney practically invented the technique. After Effects has a very simple way of doing basic matte paintings, but if you want more options for parallax in a matte painting and not have to go to a 3D package you need something like fusion or nuke which can have 3d projection (which after effects does have but it's a little weird in setting up) and bring in 3d objects.
August 12th, 2009 @ 7:11 pm
Such a great post. I think we all would like to see more about Matte Painting and 3D mattes in the future. Your 'Set Extensions' tutorial is, after all, a class favorite...

Thanks for always keeping things interesting Andrew!
August 12th, 2009 @ 9:08 pm
are you making a tutorial on camera mapping with Cinema 4D an AE?

That would be awesome!!!
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:11 pm
Really interesting :)
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:23 pm
you should also watch this:
it shows about building Babel tower in the center of London =) Very spectacular!
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:32 pm
ooops.... That youTube video is't full version...
Here is it:

Making the tower of Babel!
August 12th, 2009 @ 10:54 pm
This Very Big Step For Video Tutorials If You Give Us Tuts.
But I think it's very hard work for AE !!
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:26 pm
I've got a friend who's getting into matte painting. Her portfolio's here:
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:39 pm
Check this page out,some nice before and after's.
August 12th, 2009 @ 11:45 pm
so u went into matt painting..interesting.looks like u get highly inspired by the cg world and its activites andrew,me too. matt painting is hard. i prefer to make my models in 3d and just render them as if they were matt paintings (usinf toon shaders or ink&paint). what do u think andrew?
August 13th, 2009 @ 12:21 am
For who's interested: FXPHD has a couple of Matte Painting classes. I subscribed to one last term, but due to limited time I haven't been able to get into it yet.
August 13th, 2009 @ 12:58 am
Nice information thank you anDrew
August 13th, 2009 @ 1:25 am
Awesome post Andrew you frreakin rock thanks so much!
August 13th, 2009 @ 2:16 am
Loved it! nice info thanks Andrew
August 13th, 2009 @ 2:26 am
Awesome! :D Is it possible to do this in After Effects?
August 13th, 2009 @ 3:17 am
So amazing. matte painting is sp incredible. You have to be a a real pro to do something like that. You also need so much creativity. It takes so long to create a single shot adding matte painting to it, but it semms to worth anyway. Thank you Andrew for introducing us to that topic
greets from Germany
August 13th, 2009 @ 3:21 am
hi Andrew, that was a realy good topic \./
August 13th, 2009 @ 4:26 am
wow, it's very cooooool
August 13th, 2009 @ 5:42 am
ohhh this is the moment i was waiting for .... hmmm i'm not gonna off my computer until this arrives
Alby Smith
August 13th, 2009 @ 7:19 am
nice stuff AK...!
August 13th, 2009 @ 7:51 am
Hye MYU. Until what arrives?
hitlar john
August 13th, 2009 @ 8:34 am
ti is amazing
i am editor by avid and adobe premire software.
Now i whant to learn After Effects
Thank you Andrew
August 13th, 2009 @ 8:41 am
Like the post, very interesting!
Altough this site is more about compisiting of course, but is there a possibility to see a tutorial about matte-painting maybe some time?
I know the concept of how it works, but some explanation about the camera tracking to add in large scale 3d in the scene would be very handy. (by example the shot of the river in the Hatch demoreel, i know that shot is very complicated, so something more simple is just as fine)

August 13th, 2009 @ 9:28 am
You know Andrew kind of taught us this with the set extensions that is if you change some things
August 13th, 2009 @ 9:41 am
damn i cant matte paint but it really helps me understand the work and makes me better compositor... :)
August 13th, 2009 @ 9:55 am
Awesome. I think matte paintings are truly breath taking.
August 13th, 2009 @ 10:00 am
Lott of matepainting in net is kitsch, Bird, waterfalling, moutain, megalomaniac fatasy.
August 13th, 2009 @ 11:23 am
yah .. matte painting what took my mind last 3 years ago .. i'll upload a demo reel soon been workin on it last 2 months ..

thanks andrew .. . ur tips and tutorials make me good @ motion graphixxx
August 13th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm
Hey! Would be nice if you could make something like a beginner tutorial for this! Awesome stuff Mr. Kramer!!
August 13th, 2009 @ 12:54 pm
Here's mine from a recent project. I made Toronto really, really depressing:
August 13th, 2009 @ 1:36 pm
Its really great to know this stuff. Respect.
August 13th, 2009 @ 1:50 pm
Truly inspiring to see what true artist can do.
August 13th, 2009 @ 2:06 pm
Awesome content, I like how you're mixing it up with this kind of stuff. When I'm not following one of's awesome tutorials I love nothing more than researching all aspects of video and animation. I don't know if it's cool to post links but I found a very, very useful article on green screening a couple of days ago that helped me out with some really crummy footage (that I'd filmed...doh!) at
August 13th, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

Andrews tut on matte painting.. Not much, but gives you an idear on how to get started!
August 13th, 2009 @ 6:12 pm
I love Matte Painting

Greeting from Chile.
August 13th, 2009 @ 7:14 pm
you are amazing Andrew !
August 13th, 2009 @ 7:24 pm
thats great.. very informative. Thanks
August 13th, 2009 @ 8:13 pm
Dude extend the tutorials into matte painting! Then we can all incorporate the two types of tutorials together and make something astronomical! Oh and by the way I saw an advertisement for a Skits Mix CD coming out here in Australia, the newblet used one of your tutorials down to detail and didn't do anything creative, if he can make money from being able to follow your instructions, i should be able to make money with my creativity :P
August 13th, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
danm,thanks man ur our father man.
Justin Junda
August 13th, 2009 @ 11:02 pm
Very cool. I would like to point you guys to Dylan Cole as well he is a super good matte painter. I have his tutorials and they are great. check him out
August 14th, 2009 @ 12:51 am
Really great Stuff Andrew!
Would like to see a tutorial from you about matte paintings.
I did a matte painting,too. But the camera movement was done in AE.
I dont had time for camera projection.

Greets and keep up the good posts Andrew


PS: Sorry for my bad english – I’m german
Jimmy James
August 14th, 2009 @ 1:55 am
I am looking into a crystal ball and I see a matte painting tutorial from Andrew Kramer in the not so distant future...
Also, Mr.K, I am holiday in Northern Cyprus and I saw an advert for a TV company called Digi-Turk and they had used your Speed particle effect and the music was from your sound collection.
Pretty Kkkkrazzeee ... considering the population is only 250,000!

You're the man!
August 14th, 2009 @ 2:39 am
wow! super, wonderful...
August 14th, 2009 @ 3:07 am
Awesome Andrew !

Wait for Your camera mapping tutorial !
August 14th, 2009 @ 4:44 am
anvir tahini
August 14th, 2009 @ 5:37 am
August 14th, 2009 @ 6:30 am
Check out the work of the amazing Ron Crabb who is responsible for some famous Matte Paintings...he did X-men for example. You will be surprised to see what is actually fake in the movies:
August 14th, 2009 @ 7:38 am
District 9 will have some crazy matte painting as well it looks like. Thanks for the post.
August 14th, 2009 @ 7:44 am
jeff i was thinking of that too , i made some district 9 concepts and i hope andrew can show us how to put the alienship in our shot.
August 14th, 2009 @ 7:57 am
I see that someone already mentioned the work of Ron Crabb. Check him out on's "Creative Inspirations" series:
Ney Reis
August 14th, 2009 @ 10:05 am
I'm just follow your tutos 5 mouths ago and it's all incridible, cause this 3d pic is like in portuguese (maravilhoso) amazing, keep this way and keep send this tutos. thanks
August 14th, 2009 @ 10:16 am
Here i followed andrew tutorial on set extention and applied the idea on to this footage and its very simple to understand how he did it and use your own imagination.
August 14th, 2009 @ 10:55 am
yeah absolutely, thats true Andrew. I already researched this 2 years ago and also found few great tips as well

Really nice to have this topic in the Blog.

gr8 going as usual Andrews, Thanks!
August 14th, 2009 @ 10:59 am
this is so cool, i love all your tutorial..i know your pretty good in 3d max, can you make also tutorial for realflowa?

thank you..
Derrick van Niekerk
August 14th, 2009 @ 12:52 pm
he he, District 9, finally aliens land somewhere else but the USA, he he. And thirty years ago allready!

It's weird seing johannesburg on the big screen living here and all.

Can't wait to see the effects in the movie.

Matt B
August 14th, 2009 @ 9:28 pm
Gnomon has some great training on 3D camera projection mapping techniques and 3D Matte painting.

This is probably one of the most difficult and artistic skills in all of VFX.
August 14th, 2009 @ 11:10 pm
MELLE until this tutorial arrives....
August 15th, 2009 @ 12:30 pm
thanks for the topic AK i already asked u for matte painting tuts and also i told that i hope ur next dvd will b about matte painting tut bro n am still waiting for bro thanks again
August 15th, 2009 @ 12:31 pm
when we see it????????
August 15th, 2009 @ 11:34 pm
what an amazin hatch vid .....
man!!!!! you rock .... soo much info
August 16th, 2009 @ 12:56 am
August 16th, 2009 @ 1:01 am
what about a 3d camera mapping tutorial? that would be great in your words....
thanks andrew............
Sam Fabio
August 16th, 2009 @ 3:18 am
hi Andrew, that was a realy awesome!
August 16th, 2009 @ 10:06 am
Very cool!
August 16th, 2009 @ 5:04 pm
Cool Andrew! :D
August 16th, 2009 @ 6:20 pm
that was very inspiring sir Andrew... very very inspiring...=)
August 16th, 2009 @ 11:20 pm
Very nice

It makes me remember one of your old tuorials, the set extension to be more precise.
August 17th, 2009 @ 2:25 am
another great stuff..
August 17th, 2009 @ 2:59 am

It would be even more awesome if you made a tutorial/educational video on this :)
August 17th, 2009 @ 5:56 am
Matte Painting is awesome,

I would love to see more of this stuff in your tutorials - they are so useful!!

3D camera mapping on this would be amazing!

Thanks again for another interesting read Mr Kramer!
August 17th, 2009 @ 10:24 am
Very good ideas. And mattes don't just have ot be used as backgrounds; possibly while using AE2 you need a burned car. wink. wink. Matte paintings work in many different ways. Speaking of awesme stuffs, any updates on the mini-movie? You know everyone is thinking about it :p
August 17th, 2009 @ 10:24 am
Very good ideas. And mattes don't just have ot be used as backgrounds; possibly while using AE2 you need a burned car. wink. wink. Matte paintings work in many different ways. Speaking of awesme stuffs, any updates on the mini-movie? You know everyone is thinking about it :p
August 17th, 2009 @ 11:19 am
Wow, this is amazing! If it wasn't for the obvious, you couldn't tell the before and after shots apart, cause they look so good! Even though I understand the basic of how they did most of this, I still ask myself the same question again and again... How? It's videos like these that make me feel like video editing is just too much hard work, but at the same time inspire me to keep practicing. Fantastic work!

Marius, Norway
August 17th, 2009 @ 11:56 pm
here is another great use of A ESS 2 ,A still image can be very intresting with this powerfull product.
August 18th, 2009 @ 2:13 am
it is amazing how much matte painting is used
August 19th, 2009 @ 4:04 pm
Hey great stuff AK. For anyone who is interested in more of this stuff check out Ron Crabb's creative inspiration on He's a really good matte painter did some big movies.
A. Matiola
August 20th, 2009 @ 9:27 am
Interesting article! Thanks Kramer.
My firts matte paitings:
August 21st, 2009 @ 3:28 am
I love matte paintings!
check out my work at:
August 26th, 2009 @ 2:32 pm
Hey Andrew..Thanks for a great post.Matte painting is a fabulous art.It has a great ability to hold a visitors eye on it most of the times.
January 5th, 2010 @ 1:01 pm
Its great website for your north cyprus holidays

North cyprus has got lots of beatiful pictures natural and real
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