From set extensions to futuristic skylines, learn how to create a matte painting in Photoshop, After Effects, and other programs.

Top image via Rob Brown

Matte paintings are the oldest and best technique for creating massive complex set extensions or backgrounds. (Read here for a deep dive into the history of matte paintings.) Here are some awesome matte painting tutorials to help you hone your matte painting skills.

Zombie Apocalypse Matte Painting in Photoshop and After Effects

In one of the best matte painting tutorials to come out in the past months, Rob Brown’s Zombie Apocalypse scene is as helpful as it is entertaining.

Brown discovered the remains of old bridge arch supports beside a new bridge. It inspired him to turn the archway into a zombie apocalypse doorway. He went back to the location at 6am the next morning when the public foot traffic was low, therefore keeping people out of the shot.

Brown captured the scene with his G7X, a travel tripod, and a slider. As a reminder, be sure to capture some close-up shots of the textures for reference and for use in your matte painting.

In Photoshop, Brown begins by creating sketch thumbnails. Once he has an idea he likes, Brown starts to add buildings to the background. He’s quick to remind you too keep each asset on its own layer so it will be easier to work with the art in After Effects. 

Futuristic Skyline Matte Painting in Photoshop

This tutorial from ARQUI9 Visualisation admits that this is more photo bashing than matte painting, but the narration of the process is well worth the listen. You’ll hear about adjusting your composition for the real world and creating a context for all of the city skyscrapers to work in relation with each other.

The most valuable takeaway from this tutorial is to not focus on just learning or just creating. “If the two are together, that’s where you really have your maximum output.”

I highly recommend listening through this piece for tons of these little nuggets of advice, as well as suggestion on other artists to study and learn from — like Dylan Cole.

50 More Matte Painting Tutorials

Build the Perfect Set with These Matte Painting Tutorials
Image via Digital Arts Online

There are plenty of other matte painting tutorials online, thought most don’t feature the artist explaining their process. They do offer a quick glance at the overall process, and you can see how each artist works with tools in different ways.

If you are looking for more matte painting tutorials, check out the great list PSD Stack put together of the 50 Best Matte Painting Tutorials. It shows you how to create mattes in Photoshop, 3D Max, After Effects, Maya, and Cinema 4D.

What are your favorite uses of matte painting? Share in the comments below!