Starting your Matte Painting Journey is an exciting venture that promises to take your skills and artistic talent to a new level.  Along with a good eye for detail, a creative and technically orientated mind and a good helping of patience there's a few things that every prospective Matte Painter needs in their arsenal. Knowing how to effectively utilize the right Software is the biggest factor in breaking into and succeeding in the Industry. In this Guide we'll go through the must know Software for Matte Painting and what each program is used for.

If you aren't familiar with these programs yet, don't worry! There are a load of resources to learn the ins and out of these programs, including our tailor made Academy; the go to spot for tutorial videos, tips and tricks for learning.  

1) Adobe Photoshop

The industry standard and most powerful option for photo manipulation and 2D aspects of Matte Painting, Photoshop is the key player in the industry.  Adobe Photoshop offers a robust interface and slick UI and offers powerful editing options exclusive to it's platform making it the go-to choice for the VFX Industry. Photoshop can seem complex and daunting to new users, but with the help of the supplied Tool Tips and resources like our Academy and Academy Mentors you'll be mastering the platform before you know it. Photoshop also has the option for many additional plugins and add-ons allowing users to customize and tailor their workflows and options.  Photoshop makes up the bulk of the Matte Painter's tool-belt and is the program used most in the Industry. Offered as a Subscription based service, Photoshop will run you $9.99 USD for the Adobe Photography plan which also includes Lightroom - a great tool for photographer's and for organizational pursuits.  

2) Maya

Credit: Maya Learning Channel

Maya is the go to program for generating 3D assets for Matte Painting and the entire VFX industry. Maya is the do all 3D offering of the industry, allowing the user to create a scene, or virtual workspace to implement and edit projects in. Within these scenes you are able to model, texture, add and adjust lighting and effects, rig and animate.  Used to create and edit a huge array of assets, textures, animations and more, Maya is often described in the Industry as the "One stop shop".  Offered as a Subscription Based service, Maya will run you $250USD a month which certainly sounds steep, though what you can achieve with the product itself is immense.

Maya does have an educational license program, so make sure to check that out if you think you're eligible!

3) Nuke


Nuke is the end of the Matte Painting pipeline; used for projection and pre-compositing that brings everything together.  Nuke is used for projections of shots, editing, combining all elements of a shot together and doing final grading.

Nuke also works on a Node based framework, is highly customizable and offers a lot of flexibility in the workspace as well as support for a large range of file types and plugins.  Matte painters will use Nuke to setup projections and do basic initial integrations with a plate (video gootage) as well as check black and white points, check color corrections, etc, before handing the scene over to a compositor for the final touches. Nuke is a very in-depth and technical software and can be challenging to learn as a new user but can be made a lot less challenging through the teachings provided by the industry Veterans on the MattePaint Academy and our our other Academy Mentors available for 1-1 help!

Nuke is offered as a yearly Subscription service a Commercial License which will run you $10,000 USD per year, however there is a Free, non-commercial offering that boasts majority of the paid features.  

Additional Helpful Programs and Resources:


Credit: Steampowered Store

Blender is a solid alternative to Maya offered as a free tool for generating 3D assets and has recently become more prominent in the Games and Film industry.  Offering a less robust and intuitive platform than Maya, Blender is a good option for Artists who are looking for a more affordable alternative to Maya or who are looking for an alternative interface.  



Mari is 3D paint package and is a good option for Artists looking to create high resolution textures and character and look development.  Mari supports bulk texture creation and handling and is fairly intuitive with it's Artist friendly 3D paint tools. Mari allows for the Artist to paint directly on to the 3D model, eliminating the matching or degradation of textures.

Reality Capture


Reality Capture is a photogrammetry software solution that allows  you to create 3D models from laser scans and Photographs. Reality Capture can be used to create realistic models and 3D assets from real life that can be edited, textured and used for Digital Matte Paintings.



Gimp is a free and open source Photo editor from the GNU Project and is often used as a free alternative to Photoshop.  It's clean and simple design, as well as open source framework make GIMP quite attractive to people seeking an alternative to Photoshop. While it's features are limited in comparison, it allows for basic and advanced photo manipulation and editing at a very attractive price point - free.


The Industry leader in Reference Photography, MattePaint is a tailored Image Reference Library created for the Visual Effects Industry.  MattePaint's huge library of Images has been curated and selected by Industry Professionals specifically for Matte Painting and Concept Art. With an immense array of features such as Multiple Exposure Values, Comparison window, Similar Image Search, Granular Search options and more, it's the Number one please for Artists in need of photography and inspiration.

MattePaint Academy

For tailored Tutorial Videos, Educational Courses, mentor-ship sessions and all other aspects of Learning Matte Painting, the Academy is the "Do All" solution.  With exclusive access directly to Industry professionals and Studios, the MattePaint Academy is the best way to fast track your Matte Painting Career.  

Wacom Graphics Tablets


For many aspects of the Digital Art World, Wacom Graphic Tablets are a must-have piece of hardware due to the true to feel drawing experience that is achieved when using one. Matte Painters and Digital Artists alike have consistently turned to Wacom Graphics Tablets to improve their workflow and to create with unmatched freedom and efficiency.  As a Matte Painter, your workflow will quickly come to rely on the use of a Graphics Tablet and Wacom are the best in the Industry.  Check them out here.    

With these programs under your belt you'll be well on your way to landing your Dream Matte Painting Job!  Make sure to check out all of our Matte Painting resources at and join our discord community to join the latest challenges and activities!