Back to Blog

Incredible Matte Painting Inspiration

By Caleb Ward

These artists created amazing fictional worlds using matte paintings and modern software.

Few things make you question your reality as much as matte painting breakdowns. It’s crazy to think that most of what you see on screen is completely fake. If you've never heard of the term 'Matte Painting' you may have a question...

What are Matte Paintings?

A matte painting is simply a painting used to create the illusion of a set that isn’t there. This technique has roots in hand-painted techniques where artists used matte-paint because it doesn’t reflect light. Matte paintings have evolved over the years to include 3D renders, photos, green-screen footage, and stock video. Popular software used to create modern set-extensions that utilize matte paintings include Nuke and After Effects.
Frank Ortaz Painting Star Wars Motion Design Matte Painting.jpg
Frank Ortaz matte painting for Return of the Jedi.

Amazing Matte Painting Inspiration

We love watching matte painting breakdowns. So we thought it’d be fun to create a roundup of some of our favorite matte painting videos from around the web.


When you think of Matte Paintings your mind probably immediately goes to VFX work, but there is a myriad of examples of matte-painting in Motion Design. In this project from Blue Zoo we see how a beautifully painted background can help in the storytelling process. Just look at that beautiful color work!

Game of Thrones Breakdowns

When the directors of Game of Thrones needed set extensions they looked to none-other than RodeoFX to get the job done. This breakdown from season 4 showcases some of the most incredible matte-painting and set extension work we’ve ever seen.

Natural Attraction

One of our favorite artistic pieces is this project from Mark Zimmerman. The short film is designed to romanticize beauty in nature. It’s crazy to think that this film is entirely fake.

Natural Attraction Breakdown Video

Luckily for us Mark was kind enough to give us a behind-the-scenes look at this project. Once you get done watching this do yourself a favor and check out Mark's portfolio page on his website.

Brainstorm Digital

This is perhaps the best example of a true digital matte painting on this list. When this demo reel dropped a few years ago I was absolutely speechless. Brainstorm has masterfully composited images, video, and 3D renders to create fictional worlds for some of the biggest movies and TV shows in the world.

Create Your Own Matte Painting

If you want to try out matte painting and compositing for yourself check out this tutorial we created in the early days of School of Motion. This two-part tutorial shows you how to composite an alien into a scene using Cinema 4D, Photoshop, and After Effects.
Now you’re only ever going to see matte paintings as you walk around in life. Is anything real?...
Shock and amazement.gif