Matte painting is meant to fool the viewer’s eye. It is a special effects technique that combines live-action footage with painted imagery that dates back to 1907— the very dawn of filmmaking. Mattes were originally painted on a sheet of glass, which was suspended in front of the camera. Today, with digital imaging, artists can work in Photoshop, and combine their paintings with a live-action plate in programs such as After Effects, Maya, or Nuke.
The tools and techniques I advocate aren’t just helpful for matte painting, but form the building blocks of all good paintings. If you want to learn the tools and techniques I use for creating a strong digital matte painting, here are five artistic principles to set you on the right path: