My Thesis Matte Paintings- Concept Stage


Hi there,

    There is a series of matte paintings I'm going to make as my MFA thesis. I want to know what you guys think about it. Any CC is welcome. Many thanks.



hey there. welcome ! first I see these are all very dark, it doesn’t matter if they are a night shot or a city inside a cave you should be able to read shapes and depth , I like how you uses “photo exposure” with real bright lights , take advantage of that and paint some more lights on objects in order to separate one from the other, or to read facades like in the second one, take a look a this examples from Blade Runner cinematography, even though they are super hi contrast and dark, the cinematographer is making you read all shapes and elements with bright light and light reflections

just stick to some real photo reference and follow what you see, go back and change yours and go back to the photo reference until you brain figures it out by itself and you will start doing some big improvement eye wise



Really appreciate your suggestions. They are really helpful. And you really point out the big problem I should improve in these works and how to make it better from the reference you choose. I really like Blade Runner which is the top 3 in my favorite films and I love its cinematography. Fell grateful to get the feedback from you.

Thanks again.


I’m seeing some depth values that could fade out more from foreground to background, like in the cityscape and the sky. Be sure to keep atmospheric perspective in mind when color correcting and painting so they go into the distant horizon realistically. The Blade Runner reference is awesome, and you can see there how things in the back really go back into a nice atmosphere.


Hi David,

Yes, totally agree that the depth of field need to push more.

I’m wondering, as images I posted are concept for MPs, how much should be done you think is enough to start doing matte painting.

The other problem I face is that not quite sure why brightness and contrast in night scene can look very different from different monitors. I use spyder to calibrate my PC, but in Mac it’s hard to see any details for these concepts of night scenes, same as schools’. How to get a balance of it? Dose anyone have the same problem?


For a concept, you’re looking for the general composition, lighting, and mood of atmosphere. Texture not so much, it can be flat even, and you can tell if the composition/lighting can work or not. Putting in some form of atmosphere with soft brushes will help too, and doing this all in grayscale value first if you can’t get it looking the way you in color from the beginning.

I usually tell my students to take about 5 mins each for grayscale thumbnails at 1000px for ideas, then take half of those and develop color thumbnails from those, spending about 20 mins each, then choose one of the explored colored thumbnails that is the strongest to be developed into a matte.

Regarding your monitor problem, it might not just be the color profile, it could be the monitor quality itself. Some monitors aren’t sRGB native, and try to show Adobe RGB range, which is more saturated and higher in contrast in some cases. True sRGB monitor will show a good curve and be consistent, especially nice IPS class monitors (such as the old Cinema Display 30" from Apple) and the ones that can be calibrated correctly (like the Dell 30" Ultrasharp 3011).


Thanks David, really useful guild for concept to develop matte painting.
I hope one day I could afford to buy Dell 30" Ultrasharp 3011.

I bright all of matte paintings up. So I could see more in my MAC. But haven’t improved them.


looking better already, is just that you need to push things back when you have such a big scale and atmosphere like in the cave city , you have almost the same intensity in blacks in your fg as in your bg, also look a the size on those building windows , those are huge for the distance and scale, also everything looks soft, you need sharp edges but not CG sharpness I mean nice defined shapes and forms
you have a big improvement in your second one, looking nice
on the city skyline you will need to push your atmosphere skills, get advantage of light pollution so you can give nice depth to each building or block , right now I can read only 2 lines of buildings, the sky colors/clouds are not working maybe just try a nice color gradient, will be simpler but more effective , you don’t always have to work with clouds all the time
take a look at this nice reference, it’s really similar to yours



This the update for the concept I- the castle in the cave, I try to put more various on the value and more sharpness. And I found the flip of this looks better than than the original one, the focal point is more obvious, but when I flip it there seems some areas to get improved. It looks not that balanced in terms of shape. I think I will adjust it later.

About the Concept III- A crime city, as I want to make it feel a little oppressive, so I want to put a dense cloud above the city. Really thanks your reference. Your suggestions really helps me get improved and let me think about it. I’ll post it later.


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