What happened to this place?


What happened to this place? did everyone migrate to Facebook groups?

Maybe the forum should be renamed to Environments or something to make it more trendy :slight_smile:



Well, most of the energy is spent over in the Mini Monthly Challenges that we held for a few years, but took a break since last December. And then everyone scattered to the winds for the most part. Maybe because digital matte painter has evolved more into that trendy “Environment Artist” where they are to find knowledge in more specific forums rather than this general, old dusty one :stuck_out_tongue: But I still check once in a while, and those monthly challenges will be back next month!


Heya David,

Nice to see you checking in!
Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be that much interest for Matte Painting out there anymore.
I remember when you put together that awesome history museum challenge the digital world was on fire.

The internet has become a very different place now.
We’re open to suggestions though!
Let us know what you think.


Yup, fun times. That challenge is nearly 10 years old! that’s several life times in internet years :slight_smile: But as is the way, we helped in a small part to inspire the next wave and well, here we are.

I think by nature of the internet itself and the transitioning state of digital art, this little corner of the internet will have a hard time attracting the attention it once did. There’s just far more platforms these days.

I still feel simply renaming to Digital Environments will help.



I honestly think Matte Painting is going through a transitional phase and basically breaking up into two strands. One is the 2.75 way or something, where DMPs are actually becoming Environment Artists, which is like a TD with painting skills. Some studios seem to be steering this into an extremely technical place and the position would best be described as Digital Environment Technicians. Kind of like in the old days where larger studios had Matte Painting Camera Men. These guys eventually all became VFX supervisors or something along those lines.
The other is the more Photoshop heavy Matte Painting work with occasional Nuke projections and a lot of concept art to either inform other departments regarding the look of a shot or sequence, or oftentimes pitch for projects, quickly demonstrating to clients what can be achieved etc. These are specialized artists with a good eye who can really take some shortcuts, especially on tight budgets. Again, movie history has seen this development before but when it all transitioned to digital, it somehow all became one again. It might just all depend on the size of the studio but I believe we’re trying to cater to two different types of Matte Painters here. Might just be about time to start tossing the job title Environment Artist around a bit more?!?
As for kick-starting the Matte Painting forum again, I hope we can somehow appeal to both: Matte Painters as well as DMPTDs or 3DDMPs


lol, yup, i’ve definitely experienced all aspects of what you described and agree completely.

From my experience working on larger projects, they typically want to see a strong 3d artist/TD that has “matte painting” skills, to drive the look and aesthetics from concept to comp delivery, and if they can slap comp, then great!

I’ve found over the last 5 or so years that a lot of people thought that because I was addressing myself as a matte painter, that I only did 2d photo bashing. I’ve literally had clients, employers etc, surprised to hear that I have 3d skills. So it came to a point where I began to address myself as a 3d matte painter, this seemed to make more sense to a lot of clients.

I think it really depends on the project; large scale projects will usually require Maya, zbrush, PS, Nuke workflow. But I still take a lot of commercial/TV work that want straight up matte paintings. In the end, they want the most bang for the least buck :slight_smile:

It comes down to wanting an artist that can provide the most amount of skills, at the quickest possible turn around, at the highest quality, limitation free, for the least amount of cost. Where does that lead us?

I think the future will definitely go in a procedural direction, where the tech will be mostly invisible and we’ll end up being digital photographers, dressing the environment around a camera, that said, will there even be a fixed camera in the future? likely not. We’re already seeing procedural workflows now with Substance designer/painter and various other content creation platforms, the games industry is very procedural with respects to environments, at some point these will merge with film/TV. I guess there will always be a need to create bespoke/unique assets. And there will always be a need to develop the concept of the environments, drive an understanding of what makes a person get excited over a composition of light.



Yeahhh because today it’s all about that trendy and smartie “Environment Art”. :keenly:
Everything must be full/3d/stereo/ultra-hd/occulusVR/whatever !!
Mountains 3000km away, foggy and out of focus ?? - Yes sculpt them in hyper high poly meshes and please don’t forget the 16k textures. We never know (when/how/where/why) director will want to place that camera… and how many times he (can/should/will) change his mind.
Cards ? Cycloramas ? Noo, thats past
to be a hipster you need a beard, a crazy camera animation and lot’s of rendering power.
And if at the end it looks creepy, no problem: we can always ask someone to paint on top and reproject. So glorious !

Well, sorry. Just an untrendy outflow of feelings.

Now, seriously speaking: I don’t have any problem when full 3d environments are used with intelligence and in a smart way. At the end we just want to deliver shots with excellent quality in a reasonable time. And if we can cover whole sequences with a 3d set, thats awesome. But we should never forget (and don’t let others forget as well) that we are the cheaters in the pipeline. Otherwise it will loose it’s magic, at least for me.
And I agree with David Edwards. His points were extremely successful: we are going towards a reality where the environment team should deliver a slapcomp ready to be merged with the plate and other elements. You need to be a TD, that knows 3d, but at the same time being very smart on projections and have a good eye. With currently modern physical renderers, pbrs, photogrametry, material scanning, etc, we are acting more and more like set dressers and virtual photographers. And as mentioned above, I also believe in the procedural future of our work
I think i haven’t open photoshop for properly ‘paint’ an image for the last month or so: the only think i’ve been painting are maps for scatterers, displacements, and other images that will drive procedurally the look/dev of my scene. Drawing shapes with 3d lights and 3d shadows. Adjusting shaders. Thinking in therms of AOVs. Ah, and ‘Clarrisse’ is the name of the french girl I spend most of my time in front of. She’s very good and very kind and I’m sure she understands when I often cheat her with those old ladies, Mss Projection and Mss Reprojection.

This is a great topic. I hope more Matte Environments, you know, trendy people, contribute with their views.



Hi Guys,

Long time since I was here. Thank you Milan for pulling me back in.

This is an awesome topic. I think it was just yesterday that I was talking to a colleague about the forums and how amazing it was back then.

Mattepainting in most studios has transitioned to Environments. I know that ILM, Digital Domain, Scanline and even Dneg have a larger team of TDs than mattepainters. Even their mattepainters are now TDs. My everyday work currently has been more on the TD side. Working on modelling, lookdev and comping shots. There is very minimal Photoshop painting and we only use that to sweeten our renders, like adding cracks and breaking the straight lines plus a little texture.

It is by no means that traditional mattepainting is dead, its more of an evolution to the craft in my opinion. As our movies become more complicated and shots more outrageous, it only makes sense to build a whole environment in 3D where we have a option the change the camera and render multiple shots in one sequence ( or set of sequences)

In our workflow, we render to a certain degree and when it still needs a bit of a push, thats when we fill it up with DMP.

At times DMP now tends to get really boring, stuck on Sky Panoramas and Enviro Panos, or adding textures, however there are still a lot of instances that DMP is the only way to go, making things faster and more efficient.

The craft is not dead or dying, it has evolved and we as traditional DMPs, we have to evolve with it. Not because its the only way to go, but because it open larger possibilities on pushing the craft further.

If you think about it, an environments team is basically a whole studio now. Composed of artists who can model. texture, lookdev, render, paint and comp. Not to mention Roto and Track.

Well, thats jsut my 2 cents :slight_smile:


There are some interesting points being made here, and I agree with most of them.

A 100% digital matte painter (as in: someone who spends 100% of their time in photoshop) is a rare thing these days - but they are still extremely valuable if they are genuinely good, and well worth the investment of TD to support them.

The thing I would most love to change is this:

And if at the end it looks creepy, no problem: we can always ask someone to paint on top and reproject.

:arteest: Sad but frequently true.

This relegates DMP to a somewhat ‘B-list’ position, where talented artists aren’t trusted to do the work from the outset, but are then called upon to fix everything at the last minute.

This, I think, is a disservice to the craft - and whoever figures it out properly will see the benefits in speed and quality and efficiency. If the pixels that actually make it to a screen were (mostly) created by an artist in a rush in only a few days - most of the build process prior to this was somewhat of a waste of time. :shrug:

I’ve been pushing for a different perception (hopefully with some success) - matte painting and projection should be considered as a key tool from the very beginning, and not a final step of CG touchups. It’s not a binary decision of going ‘2D’ or ‘3D’ any more - we can combine many different techniques within the same shot, project textures, render reflection passes, and so on - to get a photo-real shot in the shortest possible time.

The department I run is called ‘3DDMP’ for this reason, and contains pure matte painters, modellers, lighters, environment TDs, generalists, and everything inbetween. Matte painting is a key part of the machine, and I don’t see it disappearing any time soon.

If anything, renders are getting so heavy that lighters and dedicated ‘3D’ centric CG supervisors are starting to look at re-projection workflows to save on render resource. Photogrammetry is becoming an increasingly powerful tool - and has more in common with a matte painting workflow than it does assets. I’m therefore not seeing cutting edge developments ‘kill off’ matte painting as people seem to like suggesting from time to time - if anything they are making it more likely to be used, and not less.

In answer to the original question that started this thread - the single, big DMP establishing shots that one single artist can lay claim to ARE rare. Maybe that’s what attracted people to forums like this. Posting an image that would take several paragraphs to even START to describe how it was done is less accessible, and less impressive to someone looking in from the outside.

Possibly that’s why concept art continues to have the ‘glamorous’ spotlight, despite having far fewer paying jobs worldwide, and very few of those being the Mullins/Church/Tiemens/Lasaine role that most aspire to. It’s cool, obvious, accessible and easy to explain.

(For fun, check out how many people on LinkedIn claim to be ‘concept artists’ vs how many claim ‘matte painter’)


I agree with pretty much everything here as well.

If i was to hire a matte painter at mid level or senior level they would be expected to be able to do 3D to a certain level, to be comfortable setting up a 3D scene and doing projections.

If someone applies and they can only do 2D photoshop work then they’d probably be hired at a junior rate. If they are purely 2D but excellent they could get hired at a senior rate but probably on a short term contract. For long term or permanent contracts at a senior rate I’d expect the matte painter to be versatile… to be able to take a moving shot from concept to render or even rough comp.

In my last role in a DMP department i was still seeing many matte painters apply for senior positions with only 2D skills, and even those examples they showed had issues with colours and values. The expectations of a senior matte painters these days is a lot higher than it used to be. 2D work has to be great, and 3D skills need to be added to the mix.

There are exceptions of course. There does seem to be a tendency for smaller studios to rely more on the 2D matte painting approach due to costs. As a general rule i’d say the bigger the studio or project the more likely it is going to need 3D matte painters and Environment Artists.


It depends on the budget :wink: and time constraints.
In TV for example there is a need to cut every corner possible.
If you have THE EYE you might spend 90% of your time in Photoshop painting styleframes and high end conceptual art, which is like mattepainting mock-up work. I guess that’s ultimately going more towards visual effects art direction. This might be a very different route compared to where large-scale studios are headed though :slight_smile:


The title Matte painter nowadays I think is more about what it used to represent or what it used to mean talking about set skills, it’s more a nostalgic way to describe an actual environment TD.

We all like painting realism using 3D, 2D or whatever techniques, but definitely, nowadays a 2D matte painter is only considered as a concept artist ( that is not ready for production of full environments) just able to make cyc’s, patches and flat BG’s.
And yes this would be super boring for an ambitious matte painter, but when you want to be a real environment artist you are most of the time overwhelmed with all the software and technical side of this evolution which is not fun either.

I think it is all about evolution and this can’t be stopped now, tools for everything making our life easier, faster renderers and plugins pretty much for every task make our 3D work easier.

3D environment artists with a matte painting background will always be more skilled than regular 3D artists, because all the “eye” training. but this doesn’t necessarily mean production efficient, I’ve seen a lot of really skilled matte painters just being “lazy” at learning new techniques.
This even still happens to me, so many tools that I really don’t know what to learn next, like if I had the time…!

Yes! those epic solo establishing shots matte paintings are very very rare! I always try to get one on each movie I work on but it’s almost impossible or sometimes there are none in the whole film, these days I spend months just modeling, texturing and working on lookdev assets, which is what I don’t really like about the new evolution of DMP, but it’s part of the new day-to-day pipeline and normal in any production or studio .

Personally, I still have the DMP title ( I just don’t like the term Generalist ) and I still teach 'Digimatte" workshops, but of course using an updated skill set to this discipline, where we can take an environment from concept art to final comp, unlike others like concept art or just TD’s.


It’s been long time since I last posted here. :slight_smile: I am not sure if I have enough experience to be commenting on this discussion but I would like to share my point of view. In past 2 years I was lucky enough to get a chance to work as a matte painter/environment artist and a 3d generalist and I can see that the use of 3d has been increasing.

Specially when it comes to high budget movies, the shots and the camera moves are getting more ambitious and hence the use of full 3d sets is totally justified.(Of course we end up painting over them to push them further.) But at the same time we always have few one of shots where a matte painting solution is much faster and economical over a full 3d solution.

On the other hand many tv projects are still sticking to quick matte paintings and projection pipeline. But In new shows like GOT, they are pushing the expectations further.

So I personally feel even though environments are getting heavily 3d based, there will be always need for amazing matte painters to handle shots quickly specially during crunch times. I think in future a junior artist would be expected to have a generalist skill set rather than specializing only on a particular part of environment.

Also I see that the real time rendering and ability to handle really high volumes of geo in softwares like Clarisse is dragging more and more attention. Many studios have already used it successfully in production.It gives more flexibility to mix up 2.5d and 3d solutions, and get something really quick.I feel that could be the future as it is very artist friendly.


And lets thanks websites like ArtStation for that! If you check the picks from the board leaders or whoever is doing that selection - it’s really really sad picture

People are more interested in Concept Art because it looks like quick and fun stuff to do, so it sells better on Gumroad. Nobody wants to spend 3 month on the shot painting “dragon footprints on the mud” completely covered with dust and debris from FX in comp. If you ask what juniors want to do - the answer is EPIC LOTR shots. Well it’s like 0.0001% of the work. :frowning: So they choose to be a Concept Artist instead.

One of my friends moved from DMP to Concept Art department because work is becoming more and more boring and tedious. I haven’t seen any matte painter in Vancouver who would be happy about job nowadays. Becouse in 50% it’s about “we have nothing could you do something?” And lets not forget about the fact that to do your job good it’s not enough. You have to do it with the RIGHT TOOLS and those tools are different in every company (Maya, Max, Modo, Clarisse, Cinema 4D you name it.)
What I think would help is to bring DMP Supervisor position back and involve that person to bidding process. Sometimes it’s a bit hursh to work with Supe who was his entire career as crowd simulation guy or shader writer.
But I could be totally wrong



Mmmmmmm, that is sad if this statement is true. From were I am now, our supervisors and leads are all mattepainters with 3D skills. Bidding is also done with both mattepainting in mind and 3D.

If supervisors are not mattepainters or environment centric, that would be quite hard for the artists working on the shot.


Leads - yes of course.
Supes - nope. It’s usually a CG Supe who might be familiar with DMP from “making of” videos


Yes that is true. I thought you were saying Department Supervisor. Well the leads should be able to handle the bids fairly well. But then again I am not in your situation so I really don’t know.


Pffft, no, don’t trust the DMP leads where Oleksiy works, I hear they all suck! :wink:

My two cents on the topic:

Matte painting now sits firmly as a 3d discipline. 10 years ago it was maybe 50/50, depending on where you work, as to whether you would be considered a 2d discipline or a 3d discipline. Now, I don’t think I could be convinced to hire a DMP artist who has zero skills in 3d. They don’t have to be amazing 3d artists - just strong knowledge of projections even if it’s just in Nuke, and they need to be comfortable exporting geometry and cameras for themselves from whatever 3d application is being used at the heart of the pipeline.

Our ENV/DMP team rarely creeps much over 10 artists. That may double, or even triple for a large show nearing delivery, but core crew would usually be 10 or less for us in ENV/DMP. So I just couldn’t afford for 2 or 3 of those people to need the assistance of some of the others in the dept to be able to fully get their shots through the pipeline. A pure Photoshop painter, even if they were Caravaggio or Sargent reborn, would probably find themselves surplus to requirement before long. Even our concept artists now are moving more into being 3d concept artists who can quickly use 3dcoat or zbrush to create very fast 3d ideation and then paint over it as a last step - therefore being able to hand actual geo down the pipe to aid the build team and also to be sure they are working with accurate perspective and lighting that isn’t something that can’t be replicated later. That said, a matte painter would have to be at least a decent Photoshop painter to be considered for a DMP role.

I think ‘environment artist’ is a more accurate description of the modem matte painting role. At least at my current facility we are more generalist artists.

As an example on my current show, in the last week alone this is what I’ve had to ask of various people on my DMP team:

  • concept work to establish an environment at a pure design level.
  • concept work to establish mood and colour of a shot/sequence.
  • matte painting to take a concept to a photoreal level.
  • matte painting to improve CG that hasn’t quite worked out from the build/assets dept.
  • projection work in Nuke (or Clarisse depending on shot requirements).
  • asset/geometry layouts in Maya.
  • doing photogrammetry to create some 3d textured assets we can use in multiple shots.
  • modeling, sculpting and optimising geo in Maya/zbrush/mudbox.
  • creating shaders and textures.
  • setting up lighting and rendering CG in passes.
  • figuring out how to set up a complete environment to be used across a sequence from initial single shot paintings.
  • doing slap comps, either simple or more complex to present shots in the best manner possible.

So in some ways, despite the fact we may not have to get as deeply involved in technical 3d work or serious, complex shader writing etc, I feel like in many ways the pressure on a DMP artist to know an entire pipeline and all its tools is greater than any other department by quite a large margin.

I both love and hate this… I love jumping around and doing whatever technical or artistic task is required at the time, as it never gets boring. I also love those rare occasions that a huge, epic shot is handed over to our ENV/DMP dept to be handled exclusively by a single artist.
I hate that there’s a simultaneous massive massive massive expectation from sequence supervisors and CG supervisors for DMP artists to be able to do anything and everything, whilst also not acknowledging that they can often do a lot more than they are given credit for. I also hate that we generally become the ‘fix it’ department for the problems of every other dept in the last 6 weeks of a show. And that this is never properly planned or accounted for early on in the production. Lastly, I hate that every show, whether they have shot 50,000 perfect high res references or handed over a 500px badly compressed JPEG as a rough guide, expects a DMP artist to come back with a photoreal result. We all know that the ideal scenario for a great matte painting is that it’s something that exists in real life and we happen to have thousands of shots of exactly that thing from the right angles and under the correct lighting conditions. But if that’s not the case and there is literally nothing to work with, we are still expected to produce gold and allowances are rarely given for a lack of material.

All told, I love modern environment work, especially when it’s done right on a show. It’s just problematic right now because each facility and show has their own preconceived ideas about how much the ENV/DMP team can contribute, and there’s no consistency to this because we are still going through that transitional phase.

Really interesting discussion here, always great hearing people’s thoughts and workflows. Nice to see more activity here again too!



Hi guys,

Thanks a lot Milan for bringing me in! Very good subject to think about for all of us and most of the things are extremely true! There is nothing much to add to it, especially after some legendary names herein, but if I was about to contribute to the thread, I would say that in my humble opinion, if one is extremely talented as an artist\painter he would always be valuable and able to find a job with a pretty good rate. I keep seeing a lot of studios continuously looking for strong matte-painters with an ability to paint being a dominant skill (of course, along with other skills, such as projection and some 3D!!). However, it all depends on the place where you want to work at.

In the film, a lot of major studios would like one to be versatile especially if one is meant to be kept for a long term. Smaller companies, possibly could hire one even only with 2D skills for a while or even for a long term, simply because it will fit to their projects (meaning, most of the smaller companies would have less ambitious shows ongoing, less crazier camera movement, so they can get away with just traditional dmp approach and they have enough of TD artists who can help out with technical aspects). Not always like this, but for majority

At the moment I work in cinematics and there is a much wider artistic leeway in here. Our matte-painting team is pretty busy nowadays painting hundreds of shots in the craziest amount of time, but we also do projections and modeling, changing assets if need be. However, the procedural approach seems to be enhancing drastically these days and the workflow will keep changing, but true matte-painting skills will always be worthwhile when it comes down to hero establishing shots and brushing up some pure 3D renders.

With that being said, if I could add something to clarify the specialization and make it a bit easier for aspiring artists who apply for the job, I would say if a studio is on a lookout for a MATTE PAINTER, it should be an artist who has a strength in painting plus good skills in nuke and some 3D and he is NOT a modeler or pure 3D artist. If a studios needs someone who is well versed at all the aspects of 3D and\or TD and knows some painting the position should not be called “matte-painter” but rather “environment artist or td”. If it happens to combine both of those, then it is “environment generalist”. I know most of us love that romantic title “matte-painter”, but if it gets to the point where it has nothing to do with the actual duties, it should not be used to avoid confusing people (a lot of aspiring artists who are trying to get in always ask me what actually matte painter has to do, because based on descriptions at different studios it varies massively.)

It might mean that some position will be gone or changed etc, but at least when one sees “matte-painter is wanted” he knows what to expect when he is about to apply.

P.S. there is nothing that can stop one from learning new tools and features that come out these days aside from his\her unwillingness, however if one thinks ,at any point in his carrier, that he has learnt everything about traditional fundamentals and art itself, then he is on a wrong way of growing! We are all continual students in our craft and this is a beauty of the journey!

Just my humble opinion :slight_smile: thanks everyone for sharing the thoughts! Great topic once again!


You know - I’m the Department Grumpy Cat, Senior Doorman and The Voice of Truth at the same time :slight_smile: I guess I can consider myself as a generalist now.
And you are right about Environments but most of the time it’s done on shot by shot basis. :frowning: