DMP Mini Challenge_009 - April 2015 - Skyline Vista


Welcome to the 10th Digital Matte Painting monthly challenge, presented by CGSociety! These short monthly challenges will give you a chance to hone in your skills or learn new ones. We will be providing a different theme each month, with (sometimes) a base plate, as well as guidelines. It will be judged as usual by David Luong, Milan Schere and a special guest judge with this one already determined as returning judge, Jason Horley (DMP Supervisor from ILM London).

Please refer to his previous spotlight month in February here for more info:

These are meant to be fun while at the same time, allow you to hopefully, create a nice looking piece in the end (and win some prizes if you place in the top 3!). These pieces will be a production styleframe to be presented to the client for approval, so it could be a clean matte painting, or a concept in photo real quality. As always, supporting the story according to the theme is paramount in both technical terms, and creative terms.

All skill levels of artists are welcome in this challenge!

The prizes for top 3 placements are:

1st Prize: 1 x CGWorkshop, 1 x CGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
2nd Prize: 1x CGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership
3rd Prize: 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 x CGSConnect Membership

Required in every monthly challenge to qualify for the prizes:

An early rough concept of your idea, at least TWO W.I.P’s (work in progress drafts) in the forum for critiques or you will not qualify. Your final draft must be delivered on or before 11:59pm PST on the last day of the month of the challenge.

To enter, simply create a new thread in this forum with the DATE of challenge and name such as: “April 2015 - Jason Horley”

Instructions and Scenario:

In a production meeting, you get briefed with the details of an upcoming project. This is a modern day cityscape skyline, but use that to your creative liking as many “modern day areas” are more or less decorated according to their region.

This is an exercise that is very much representative of a task a DMP artist will likely do on a production (using cg renders, either greyscale of textured).

In general, keep to the building layout, especially the major buildings. But as this model is made up in general of cubes the shape and detail of the buildings can be changed of course. This render is a guide. As long as the final DMP keeps the feeling of the layout you’re good.

Keep to the lighting direction.

Things to watch out for…

As you’ll be piecing together many different reference images to create the final DMP make sure the quality is the same throughout… level of blur, amount of grain, quality of photos must be consistent. When reviewing the final DMP we should not be able to tell where one source photo ends and another starts, so take care when blending photos together.

Watch out for bad edges… edge fringing, hard cuts, rough masks should be taken in to careful consideration.

For this you must use photographs and paint over the existing environment, utilizing Matte Painting techniques, in order to achieve the desired look. Your final “clean” DMP should not only communicate your idea clearly but also display a strong solution to the logistical challenge, while presenting an actual finished product to the potential clients. We recommend you shoot your own photos of roof tops if possible, in a safe manner, or up on higher level skyscrapers/hotels through a window if you can. Or help each other find royalty free stock images of high angled cityscapes via the internet. This is common practice on pitch projects but for legal reasons all copyright aspects must be respected throughout the process.

Please check out my Flickr album of New York City for inspiration and feel free to use any of the photos there:

Base 3D Render Plate, as provided by Jason Horley and Milan Schere (right click download):

You’ll notice it’s a little higher res than regular 2k or HD. Use it to your advantage, then shrink it back down to 1920x817 for your final image.


  • Read the provided description and come up with your own unique idea or story based on the instructions. Matte painting is all about supporting the story!

  • Resolution: Please submit works in both 1000px wide for preview, and 1920x817 HD .JPG format in the end.

  • Note the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, no black bars needed for final submission, just the image cropped to the right aspect.

  • The final image can include atmospherics but should ideally NOT contain animated objects such as water, vehicles (again NO spaceships) or people, as we will be judging primarily based on the clean DMP itself.

  • Works in progress (W.I.P.) MUST be shown here in order to be considered for prize placement. You must have at least a basic concept, AND at least two rough versions posted in the forum for critiques or you will not qualify.

We’ll be judging on technical and artistic skills in these. Good luck to everyone! Please feel free to ask any questions here.

As always, you can ask general digital matte painting questions, and post WIP work not pertaining to this challenge in the regular DMP forum here:


YES!!! No 16:9 ratio :slight_smile: So looking forward to this!


Haha yar!! :slight_smile:


Thanks for photos David :slight_smile:


Great one ! i never did cityscape, so i’ll definitly make one here !


I finally have my new rig all up and running, it will be nice to get back into these competitions, I can’t wait!


This looks fun. Going to give it ago. :slight_smile:


No problem guys, have fun in this month :slight_smile:


Just asking to make sure… :
It is written in the brief : ‘‘This is a modern day cityscape skyline’’
Does it really have to be at Day ? Or can we make a night shot ?


Great question Mai! The brief said to keep with the lighting direction, but time of day is up to your interpretation :slight_smile:


Hi guys,

I’m a newbie here in the forum and Im having a little problem on posting my images.
I’ve tried posting from a project in my portfolio and also from a external one (deviant art) but neither of them appear on my thread : (

Can anyone give me a little word of wisdom, please?

Many thanks


Hi Felipe… try reducing your photos with tinypic and paste them in the new thread.


Tinypic is a great suggestion, also try, or for other free hosting options. You don’t have to post it inline, just a link will suffice and we can look at it from there.


Great. I did manage to place the images now.

Thanks for the help guys!


And the winners for April 2015’s challenge are…

1st: Andrew Burles

David’s comments: This to me was a a very solid piece technically and realistically matching the plate, brief and lighting. Great job with the atmosphere all together with strong contrast in the foreground and blue hues of the haze. Lovely handling of all matte edges. Adding just a little more weathering on the top bits of the ledges would be cool. Those taggers, can’t stop em even way up high!

Milan’s comments: This is a solid Matte Painting, based on provided geometry. Very well done. The only thing that slightly irritates me is the sky. It feels a bit too much like straight out of the box. The clouds are possibly somewhat too defined, creating more visual interest then you might want. Even though it’s a realistic premiss, you can still manipulate the viewer and lead the eye with little tricks, such as reducing detail noise in an area

Jason’s comments: Great end result from Andrew this month. What strikes me is how realistic the image feels overall in terms of colour and lighting. This has a feeling that we are looking at a real city view. Andrew has managed to balance the levels of contrast very well, and graded the colours together paying attention to the atmospheric perspective from foreground to the horizon, resulting in a good sense of depth. It’s good to see this done without resorting to the airbrush tool, which I see people use too much, and when the airbrush tool is over used it gives a stylized and unrealistic result. Because Andrew has pulled this off convincingly his entry was easily the first choice for me. Well done.

2nd: Mai Anh Tran

David’s comments: I really love your creative direction here in a dusk type lighting scheme where it’s just dark enough to start glowing off some of that neon light in the darker parts of the environment. I can feel it being pretty modern, but still being a large city set not in the Sci Fi future, but a very near future of an Asian country such as Shanghai. I think seeing just a little more cloud detail in the left side of the sky would give more interest, something subtle just like what you have on the right hand side in spots.

Milan’s comments: It was really creative of you to change the mood. You have great artistic sense and impressively tackle huge undertakings with such wonderful enthusiasm that it is inspiring. You are also willing to take risks, which you demonstrated here by significantly changing the silhouetted shapes in addition to the mood. I assume you ran out of time though, as your final submission does not feel completely photo-realistic. It works but is a few steps away from a finished Matte Painting. To get visual cues of how to push this to final, I recommend looking at photography of really humid cities in summer with a fair amount of air pollution. Almost there.

Jason’s comments: An interesting take on the brief from Mai. The choice of architecture works well, and it was good to see Mai deviate from the grey render but still keep the composition working. I like the overall colour choice, especially the little red and green colour accents throughout. It’s all very sensitively handled. I would have probably played down the strong sun a touch, especially as it’s just clipping the edge of frame, as this is leading the eye out of the image, and the “god rays” are a bit flat and don’t look like they are coming in to the landscape correctly. But apart from those small changes i would make i think this is a very strong entry.

3rd: Dylan Pierpont

David’s comments: Great job on the hazing here Dylan! It really works now and fits with your more divided, more industrialized city in the BG and more dilapidated FG precinct. A nice cohesive atmosphere, but maybe going just a tad more blue of a hue in the distant Z so it’s not too monochromatic. I think the sky could use a stronger gradient where the sun would make the right side of the sky more bright than the left a little more.

Milan’s comments: I really like your piece. One thing bugs me though. Even if it’s correct and intended, the skewed tag on the ledge in the foreground screen right brakes the visual flow for me. Change the angle to improve the rhythm of your image. A similar thing is happening in the sky, where the contrast line is kind of parallel to the top of the frame. Try changing up some angles to get your cityscape more lively. It’s some little things here and there but overall, I can tell you have worked hard to get it right. Good job. Just experiment a bit more until things feel harmonically comfortable.

Jason’s comments: It’s good to see Dylan turn this entry around relatively late in to the month. Earlier work in progress uploads had me worried that it was heading in the wrong direction, as it was looking very misty and unfocussed, but the final post works well. I like the rusty weathered look to the rooftops. There is something lacking in the composition now with the addition of taller buildings screen left and removal of some of the prominent buildings screen right, resulting in a composition that is not as strong as it could be. The grey render could have been followed a bit more as a guide. Great to see the progress throughout the month though.

The winners will be getting:

1st Prize: 1 x CGWorkshop, 1 xCGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 Year of CGSConnect Membership
2nd Prize: 1x CGTOD, 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 Year of CGSConnect Membership
3rd Prize: 1 x Ballistic Book of Choice, 1 Year of CGSConnect Membership
Honorable Mention: 1 Year of CGSConnect Membership

Congrats to all! Thanks to everyone for joining, and we hope to see you next month for April 2015!


Congratz guys, fantastic work!


Agreed, Well done guys, these look amazing!


congrats to the winners !


Congratulations Mai and Dylan, great work as always.

Thankyou everyone for your comments and assistance, it really means a lot to me to win one of these. :slight_smile:


Thanks everyone! And major congrats to Andrew and Mai. You both crushed it. Very humbled to be included with the pair of ya :bowdown: