20+ Video Tutorials to Learn Matte Painting

by | Dec 15, 2020 | 0 comments

What is Matte Painting?

Matte Painting refers to an old technique that was mainly used in the film industry. Here’s a perfect description of what matte painting is by Wikipedia:

“A matte painting is a painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that is not present at the filming location. “

The process consists of painting special scenes that were impossible to create on set or in-camera. They would paint it in a way that the scene could then be added to the film and fits perfectly its perspective.

If you want to better understand the whole process, I highly recommend you to check this video about how Matte Painting was used in the first Star Wars trilogy.

Today, however, this has been greatly simplified by the existence of computers and software. As a result, digital matte painting is a very common process in all special effects work and is an essential part of modern graphic design.

In the same spirit, I present to you 20 Matte Painting Projects and Tutorials for you to be inspired by and begin your own matte painting adventures, along with a bonus video at the end. The sky (and your imagination) is the limit.

Since stock images are really important in Matte Painting, we created an article that gathers a list of 25 High-Quality Stock Image Websites, have a look.

1. Basic Principles of Digital Matte Painting by Daniel Johnson

  • Difficulty 20% 20%

Before anything else, this introductory article on the basics of matte painting is sure to cover all the basic processes and is an excellent beginner’s guide. I strongly recommend going through this one in order to understand the fundamentals.

2. Photoshop Matte Painting Tutorial: Mountains by Tony Ross

  • Difficulty 20% 20%
road and big mountains in the background

This simple and effective tutorial talks about how to add mountains to a video using Photoshop’s ability to edit video.

3. Matte Painting 101: Basic Extraction and Composition Techniques by Ed Lopez

  • Difficulty 20% 20%
road and big mountains in the background

In the first of his series on matte painting basics, Ed Lopez describes how to put elements together in a scene to create a basic but effective matte painting.

4. Simple Digital Matte Painting Series by The Curious Engine

  • Difficulty 20% 20%
Matte painting old building photoshop

In this multi-part series, The Curious Engine outlines step-by-step many basic techniques used in digital matte painting. The link is to his Vimeo channel, where you can find many more advanced resources as well.

5. Photoshop Tutorial: Matte Painting Techniques by Anna-Lisa Saywell

  • Difficulty 25% 25%
Matte painting snow castle mountains

Slightly more complex than the previous tutorials, Anna-Lisa Saywell’s tutorial starts to introduce some advanced methods of bringing together simple techniques to create a stunning image. Go to tutorial here.

6. Matte Painting 101: Meteor Impacts by Ed Lopez

  • Difficulty 40% 40%
Meteor going to a city

An excellent beginning VFX project, this matte painting tutorial covers basic techniques that allow for the creation of advanced-looking special effects. It comes in a video format that’s easy to follow along.

7. Matte Painting 101: Basic Destruction Techniques by Ed Lopez

  • Difficulty 40% 40%
broken los angeles bridge

The second part of Ed Lopez’s 101 series, this cinematic matte painting tutorial teaches how to create the impression of destroyed buildings and apocalyptic scenes – a common feature in most matte painting projects.

8. Matte Painting 101: Lighting Fires by Ed Lopez

  • Difficulty 40% 40%
matte painting burning city

In the third iteration of his Matte Painting 101 series, Ed Lopez talks about how to create fire effects to use in your projects. 

9. Taj Mahal Matte Painting by Tutorial Hub

  • Difficulty 40% 40%
taj mahal matte painting photoshop screenshot

In this non-captioned and non-narrated video, you will find a surprisingly good walkthrough of a simple and vibrant matte painting that you can easily replicate.

10. Create a Fantasy City Using Architectural Photographs by Jonas De Ro

  • Difficulty 40% 40%
architectural matte painting edit

Jonas De Ro utilizes advanced architectural influences in his creation of a fantasy city. This tutorial covers how to create larger objects from smaller source images.

11. Photoshop tutorial: Create an epic digital matte painting by Sarel Theron

  • Difficulty 60% 60%
ancient castle in the mountain jungle

In this easy step-by-step tutorial, Sarel Theron shows how to create a fantasy Hollywood-style scene that recreates the Machu Picchu in incredible detail. 

12. Post-Apocalyptic Panoramic Matte Painting by Tony Aube

  • Difficulty 60% 60%
covered by snow abandoned city

Tony Aube takes matter painting to the next level with this well-lit photorealistic render of a scene. The title says post-apocalyptic, but this beautiful image is sure to inspire.

13. Cleopatra Queen of Egypt by Frederic St-Arnaud

  • Difficulty 60% 60%
cleopatra castle digital painting

Frederic St-Arnaud goes through the steps of how he came up with this design from scratch, using his own photographs and adding elements on top.

14. How to Create a Landscape Matte Painting in Adobe Photoshop by Kristian Llana

  • Difficulty 80% 80%
sunset on big mountains

This excellent tutorial goes beyond mere technique and starts to explain the more conceptual aspects of matte painting. It teaches how to think about ideas beforehand, and executing them according to a plan. An academician’s guide to graphic design.

15. Zombie Apocalypse Matte Painting in Photoshop and After Effects Concept Art Tutorial by Rob Brown

  • Difficulty 80% 80%
abandoned city matte painting

In this handy little video tutorial, Rob Brown takes us through his process of filming his background plate, coming up with his painting idea, and executing it using both After Effects and Photoshop.

16. Making Of ‘Mountaintop Mining’ by Terpent Cyril

  • Difficulty 80% 80%
mountains viewed from top matte painting

This is not a tutorial. In this article, Terpent Cyril demonstrates the ideation process that goes behind creating a complex image. It goes to show – the techniques are secondary, it’s the ideas that count.

17. Create an Apocalyptic City Street in Photoshop by Ed Lopez

  • Difficulty 80% 80%
mountains viewed from top matte painting

Ed Lopez, from the 101 tutorials above, pulls out the big guns and shows us his stuff when it comes to real matte painting in this apocalyptic city street tutorial that he describes step-by-step.

18. Making of Urban by Pierre Fabre

  • Difficulty 100% 100%
abandoned city scene with a man

This is an intuitive tutorial on matte painting an urban landscape and generating elements such as rain and water into the scene. A useful resource.

19. Matte Painting: Making of Barbarossa by Daniele Scerra

  • Difficulty 100% 100%
bridge and city next to river blue tones

This is Daniele Scerra’s long and detailed documentation on how he created the matte painting artwork for the movie ‘Barbarossa’ directed by Renzo Martinelli in 2009. It includes his sketches.

20. Matte Painting Tutorial for Architectural Visualisation by Arqui9

  • Difficulty 100% 100%
futuristic city matte painting

Finally, this pro tutorial by Arqui9 deals with matte painting for architectural visualization to come up with a stunning cityscape. This is an out of the box approach that’s different from typical VFX techniques, and certainly worth learning.

21. How to create an amazing tropical scene from scratch with Mattepaint.com and Helen Ilnytska

  • Difficulty 100% 100%
Environmental Concept Artist, Helen Ilnytska

Finally, here’s a great tutorial that will introduce you to concept art. You will discover the different steps  Helen Ilnytska took to create this amazing environment. Furthermore, you have a ton of valuable resources on Mattepaint.com that will help you skyrocket your learning process. 


rare footage of traditional matte painting for star wars

This amazing video uploaded by Thomas Thiemeyer shows rare footage of the traditional matte painting process used in the original Star Wars trilogy. Go to video here.


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