This is the breakdown of my tutorial with the Gnomon Workshop. This course shows my whole process for doing matte paintings using 3D and paint overs. If you happen to have a subscription please take a look, you will be able to see how I design from scratch an entire dirty alley.


After gathering my references, I went into maya to block out a very quick ground with walls, and some cubes. The cubes helps me to draw the perspective in Autodesk Skecthbook Pro. Once I have it traced, I start sketching and design my elements. I go back and forth between the drawing and 3D, as I sometimes just render more complex models with a toon shader that give the look of an inked drawing.

When I am happy with the sketch, I move onto the paint over. For this project I went back into my references and started to bash photos together. Once I had a good block out, I re-adjust the lighting and composition and paint over. This step was a fairly fast one, as I spend between two to three hours to be able to complete, depending on how complex is the shot/sequence.

I lay out my basic geometry as a base first. And model the elements as I go along based on my concept or any other concept provided to me. Here I sculpted the ground in Zbrush, and the rest was done in maya. Some models I had was taken from my library, so to speed up the process of props that did not need to be remodeled. I modeled from the more complex and detailed shapes in the foreground, to less complex and less details in the background. I also like to place real scale humans in my scenes. It allows me to get a sense of it.

When I am done with the modeling, I prepare my UVs for texturing and surfacing. I like to do both at the same time as it allows me to get my maps to respond more accurately. I had prepare a lookdev set for this project, where I built three different lighting set up, ranging from day time, overcast and night time, with HDRIs. I used Vray RT while recording my progress, so the lookdev is almost real time.

After spending a good amount of time setting up the look of my elements I am ready for the lighting pass. I like to start with a grey shaded scene at first. I do it that way because it was a personal project, but I would approach it differently in production. I would start lighting with the light rig in place and all the textures plugged. But here I like to just go black and white and just design in terms of value. It is similar to painting like the masters did, I first focus on the masses and grouping my values. I see this as a sketch or thumbnail, so I like to work with a very small render window, so I don’t lose the focal point.

Once I like the black and white, I apply the lookdev to my scene. I would need to adjust my light and shader per shot as the results usually differ from the lookdev in general. When I am done with the lighting pass, I jump in Nuke and prepare my plate for paint over. This is where i precomp and see what would need to painted over in matte painting.

Here is WIP of paint overs and atmosphere applied over the renders to finish the image. This is where I blend my CG with the matte painting.

Once everything is painted enough, and the compositing in a good place, I put everything back together in nuke and project that paint over on top of my lighting. From there, I can pass on my work to the compositor to finish the shot.