Week 3 – Concept Artist, Matte Painter/Artist, Prep/Paint Artist and Compositing Artist 2D/3D

1) Concept Artist

Concept artists also called “conceptual artists,” create visual images of ideas for use in areas such as animation, comic book illustration, gaming, advertising, print, and many others. Concept artists work with other art departments to ensure that the right visual style is reflected in each part of the project.

Concept artists have a unique skill set. They have mastered the art of using paint, pencils, software programs, or whatever it takes to draw weapons, vehicles, environments, graphics, or the characters needed for any given project.

Concept artists often play very early and important roles in character design in game development or scene design in movies or animations.

Warrior Armor, Rift Concept Art, Tyler James

Library of the Old – Jonas Hassibi

Concept Art for Beauty and the Beast

Concept Art for Les Miserables

2) Matte Painter/Artist


Matte painting, in both traditional form and its current digital form, is a film technique that combines art and lives action to create the illusion of a setting that would otherwise be too expensive, inconvenient, or impossible to film live. 

The basic principle of matte painting is that part of the scene is “masked off”, either with black material, green screens, or digital cropping. 

While it originated as a photography technique, matte painting has been used by the film industry since the late 19th century and some of the most famous films in history used them to create fantastical worlds. 

Think of films like The Wizard of Oz (come on, you knew that Emerald City scene was painted, right?), The Birds, the original Star Wars films, Mary Poppins, Titanic, and the Indiana Jones movies. 

Those films all used actual paintings on sheets of glass to create the illusion of an ewok village, a massive artifacts warehouse, a cliff face, or a night sky. 

Nowadays nearly all modern films use digital matte paintings.

Artwork by Gordon Tarpley

Artwork by Mypixhell


Concept Artist’s paintings do not appear directly in the product, while Matte Artist’s paintings appear directly in the product as materials. This can be distinguished simply by this occupation, even though they all paint.

Distant Mine – Matte Painting for the short film “Dust”

3) Prep/Paint Artist

Paint/Prep Artists are responsible for rig removal tasks, painting out markers, wires and rigging before the shot can move along the pipeline. High-level quality control and a keen eye for repair work are necessary, as the work must be invisible. The work of a Paint/Prep Artist is likely to be reviewed by a VFX Supervisor, often one frame at a time, and compared back to the original plate on a cinema screen.

Also, there are sometimes mistakes on the shoot, such as boom mics or crew members accidentally appearing in the frame. Sometimes images need to be restored too, removing damage in the shape of scratches and dust. The Paint/Prep team will fix these problems before the footage moves to the next department.

Simply put, Prep/Paint Artist is a retoucher for shots or movie, similar to a retoucher in graphic design.

4) Compositing Artist 2D/3D

VFX Compositing seamlessly integrates digital assets with live-action footage to bring together the final shot of a film or game.

Compositing is the final step of the VFX pipeline. A skilled Compositor layers together various elements in a way that makes them appear to naturally belong in the same space. To give you an example: a production company shoots a background (referred to as a plate) that contains a building up close and a cityscape behind. The Animator has animated a missile, and the Effects Artist has added smoke effects and an explosion with building destruction.

Once this is all rendered out, the Compositor layers the missile, smoke, explosion and building destruction into the shot, using things like colour correction and z-depth to bring it all together. Z-depth is basically a black and white representation of the depth of an object in a scene and is very important in compositing 3D elements.

The Compositor may be in charge of creating entire worlds or merging worlds. In movies like 2012 and Independence Day: Resurgence, the Compositor’s job was to destroy our world by mixing a bevvy of destruction assets with 3D modelled cities and live-action plates. As a Compositor, you have to be prepared to receive many unique tasks.

Simply put, a compositing artist is to composite materials of different types and sources together to form the final shot.

Nuke, which we studied in the first semester, is a famous digital visual effect composting software that specializes in composting.

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