• Creating Digital Matte Paintings that are virtual backgrounds used to either completely replace or embellish live action photographed plates
  • Working with the environment team in larger VFX houses, they produce anything from imaginary cities, forests and oceans when it’s too expensive, dangerous, or just not feasible to build in real life.

For this role, you will need to:

  • Have a thorough knowledge of matte painting techniques including colour space, digital paint and photo-realistic collage techniques.
  • Have a good understanding and application of the rules of perspective
  • Have technical proficiency in photography with an emphasis on composition, depth, light interaction, tone and colour
  • Communicate with colleagues and work as part of a team
  • Understand the different elements of the VFX pipeline, including compositing, lighting and matchmaking
  • Take direction and critical feedback in your work
  • Manage your priorities to move each work through the VFX pipeline
  • Constantly develop your skills to keep up with new technologies
  • Apply your skills across a range of different software packages


A Matte Painter creates virtual backgrounds used to either replace or enhance live action photographed plates. The artist works with stills taken from live action photography, digital still photography, rendered CG elements and digital paint to create believable ‘environments’ that are seamlessly integrated into the film by compositing artists. Matte painting now tends to come under the umbrella of environment work, completed in the larger VFX companies by an environment team/department. However, in smaller VFX houses, many artists may contribute to all the different sections of the VFX pipeline.

Matte painting in itself is as old as the history of VFX – originally using oil painting directly onto glass in front of the camera, helping create the wonderful worlds seen in the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. It is the area of VFX that has both changed the most and changed least over the years.

Will I need a qualification?

Most VFX Artists are likely to have done either a VFX undergraduate or postgraduate course or undergone training with a private training provider. Some study Art at College or University but are likely then to enter the industry as a Runner and use that as an opportunity to be trained ‘on the job’ in all the junior 2D roles including rotoscoping and paint/prep. Some companies provide formal training as a Runner, either through formal mentoring or by being asked to work on training shots independently. Qualifications in Computer Science, Physics, Art and Maths are all looked upon favourably in junior VFX roles.


Matte Painters usually come from traditional art and design backgrounds. Although a showreel of matte painting work can be called for, consisting of landscapes, set extensions and interiors. Images demonstrating careful skill in integration, match grading and an understanding of depth of field, exposure, scale, lens distortion and grain can also be presented as part of job applications.

It is possible to move into matte painting with more of a blend of skills in 2D digital preparation (prep/paint) or junior compositing – particularly for people who show skills as part of their junior compositing showreel. Use breakdowns to show how your work was built up in layers and with colour adjustments. Photorealistic work is always in-demand.


Compositors construct the final image by combining layers of previously created material, including computer animation, special effects, graphics, 2D animation and static background scenes.

Modellers build three dimensional computer models of everything that is needed for a project.


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