5 Gorgeous Matte Painting Tutorials

5 Gorgeous Matte Painting Tutorials

Check out these five tutorials to explore the unlimited possibilities in your next matte painting!

Nothing emphasizes production value like a breathtaking photorealistic vista. Often referred to as matte paintings, this impressive VFX technique has been around for over a century in some of Hollywood's biggest films. Before the digital revolution, matte paintings were typically photorealistic images painted on glass that were layered together in-camera with actors on set.  

Today, there are a limitless number of possibilities when it comes to learning the craft of matte painting, and we're going to look at five great tutorials to get you started!

1. How to Easily Create a Matte Painting in After Effects

This first tutorial is a great introduction to matte painting, and it shows you how to quickly achieve an impressive scene without hours of masking, which makes this a really important one to watch for the time it can save you in the future.

After generating your initial motion tracking data, this technique shows you how to create a solid layer with a single mask, then parent the solid to your VFX element with the tracking data (in this case, the mountain).

Another tip worth mentioning is the using the Color Difference Key in After Effects to restore details to foreground elements that may have gotten lost behind your VFX layer. This is such an easier way to bring back an object like the power lines in the scene.  

2. How to Create a “Living” 3D Matte Painting in After Effects 

Without a doubt, one of the most convincing elements of a quality matte painting is the presence of three-dimensional layering to convey depth. This tutorial shows how to layer in elements like waterfalls, rocks, cliffs, and more to create this effect. 

Most helpful of all, though - this video shows you how to use locked-down stock footage (like shots of birds and waterfalls) to composite some truly believable elements into your scene.  

Throw some ActionVFX atmospheric fog elements into your scene as well for some added depth!

3. How to Create Set Extensions in After Effects

If your scene calls for something a little more advanced, check out this in-depth tutorial. You’ll learn how to perform set extensions, as well as how to layer in diverse elements with camera movement.

4. How to Generate a 3D Matte Painting in HitFilm

While After Effects is certainly a great tool for compositing your scene, HitFilm also offers a surprisingly robust amount of flexibility that allows you to generate amazing VFX.  

A helpful point the video makes is that you may need to spend some time color-matching any VFX assets prior to bringing them into your compositing software. Using Photoshop is just a quick way to make the adjustments necessary to develop a baseline for your color correction. You can then apply any color grades at once to multiple layers in HitFilm (or other software).  

Also, ensure you have the rights to use any footage or elements you’re including in your scene to keep you protected legally.

5. How to Create a Stylized 3D Matte Painting in Nuke

This final tutorial is the most advanced, but Hugo does a tremendous job explaining the process of generating a 3D matte painting in Nuke. Using multiple depth passes, several atmospheric elements, light wrapping, and other effects within Nuke, he builds a truly impressive composite that fits a unique and very professional style.

Matte paintings can take a low-budget scene for an indie film, and turn it into an epic scene that could rival a major blockbuster. Even if you hadn't planned on much VFX work for your film, consider adding a couple impactful matte paintings to enhance the overall feel of your movie.

First time here? ActionVFX creates action stock footage for visual effects and filmmaking. (We also have some great free stuff!)

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