Where to start?


I realize this question must get asked quite a bit on these forums, but I’m hoping ask from a different angle. I’m looking to get started in DMP but I’m finding it challenging trying to figure out the most ideal path towards that goal.

To introduce myself, I’m 28 this year and have a pretty solid footing as an artist; I’ve won national awards, have won about 12 grants and international residencies etc., work in major museum collections, and also have been a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. I’m pretty fluent in just about anything 2D (PS, Ai, ID) and I have some experience in 3D (Rhinoceros, Sketchup Pro, Vray etc.), I’ve also got a BFA and MFA. That said, I’ve really been wanting to get into matte painting for some time ever since some friends in VFX at Weta (3D modelers, texture artists) introduced me to their work and strongly suggested I consider making a career transition. I like enjoy, illustration and design, but to me right now the world of VFX seems really exciting and I am very keen to get involved, even if it means starting over and having to deal with a steep pay cut.

In spite of the encouragement and my enthusiasm, it’s hard finding how to start off since most of my friends in the industry went in with degrees in graphic design/illustration and were taught in house. I would love to have that opportunity but I just haven’t come across any openings that don’t require substantial experience in specific (and usually very expensive) programs. I’m also totally cool with interning for little or no pay until I can make myself useful, but finding these kinds of opportunities seems a bit tough so far.

So, all things considered, do any of you have any suggestions as to what might be a suitable path for me to take towards becoming a DMP? Is it best to try and start as a Texture Artist or similar and work my way up? Are there any relevant internship opportunities in or around NYC that would be a good fit, or is even finding an internship at my stage unrealistic and that I should I just bite the bullet, drop a few hundred bucks on Nuke, Mari, Zbrush etc. and put my head down?

Thanks for reading this far, and any advice greatly appreciated!



I’m not sure how much of a response you’re going to get in these forums, barely anyone seems to visit.
First, you should read this article it hits the spot on what you’re concerned about and experiencing:


I’d probably also try connect with Garrett Fry on linkedin and ask him, and keep MPC in mind for a place to start. People say they don’t pay well but that may be because they’re a place for juniors to get their foot in the door?

Matte Painters have a hard time breaking into the industry because the job is so unforgiving, something either cuts it or doesn’t cut it… A model or texture can be worked up and improved by a senior if the junior stuffs it up, and similarly for animators they can be given background characters to start on.

All that said, without seeing your work it sounds like you have some good skills and will have your eye well developed. Recruiters may be thinking you’re expecting to get a higher rate than another junior in the industry and don’t contact you - just speculation.

I’d make it clear in any application you make that you’re willing to start again in a junior position, at a junior rate and that your prior experience should mean you can be a stellar junior.

It still leaves one problem though; there’s not many junior matte painting jobs!
Partly that’s due to a lot of people wanting to be DMP artists, it’s a bit of a glory position. As a single discipline it’s probably the most difficult in the industry, if not then right up there.

You must, must, MUST get into Nuke. It’ll be a huge boon to have that. Mari too but to a lesser extent because it’s easy to learn. Your Top two software on your resume should be Photoshop and Nuke.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

The Matte Paint Team


Hi MattePaint,

Thanks for such a generous reply! It’s a bit tricky figuring just how to approach this all, but I’m really glad to hear it may be that my difficulties stem from the lack of positions (instead of just being flat out way too unqualified), but that said I’ll definitely take your advice on learning Nuke and keep trying to develop new skills in the meantime.

I’ll get in touch with Garret Fry. I came across that article before, and the MPC academy is definitely interesting to me and it would be terrific to get his opinion.

Thanks again!


Things change all the time but I believe currently a good starting point would be to basically improve your 2D Photoshop skills. There are many amazing tutorials out there, and David’s class is also incredible. Once you feel ready, try competing in our monthly DMP challenges. These are well known in the industry and good practice if nothing else. To get your foot into the door at a studio you must first understand their structure and philosophy first. Research them to see what they’re after. In any case, with or without Software knowledge, you should demonstrate a good eye by showing before and after images for comparison. Follow the artists who obtain those positions you wish to be in and eventually it will all make sense. Good luck.