photoshop creative

Techniques of a matte painter

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Interviews, by Mark White
November 17, 2017

Inspired by his favourite fantasy movies, Jakub Skop discovered digital art, and practiced until he became a matte painting master

Jakub Skop has been creating matte paintings for years now, and has amassed a number of followers online thanks to his attention to detail, lighting and the way he uses colours in his work. We asked Jakub all about how he creates artwork, from the first sketch down to the finishing touches.

Deskography 2015

How do you begin your artwork?

The first and most basic step in every work of mine is a quick sketch. It helps me with the composition and lighting in the following steps. After that I collect several photos and divide them into different groups. Every detail is useful in the process. A stock adjustment on the canvas is the next step; in that part I’m experimenting with the form of the elements (mountains, buildings etc).

Do you use a lot of brushes?

Yes. The next step involves many brushes, and that’s where the picture starts gathering a sense of originality. It’s the most time-consuming and most interesting part of a new project: adding and creating details gives a lot of satisfaction. A very important thing for me is the lighting of the scene too, as it should catch the viewers’ attention.

Can you tell us how you discovered matte painting?

Matte painting for me is a combination of all possible techniques that will create beautiful, realistic scenery. I learned about this technique after watching films like The Lord Of The Rings and Avatar. When I was a child I liked to draw, and different types of art interested me from an early age. In school I always liked lessons on fine arts. When I got older I was fascinated by street art, graffiti in particular. Graffiti was my passion for nearly five years. At the age of 20 I discovered digital art and fell in love with it; it’s now a big part of my life. It may be surprising, but I’m working as an engineer, although I’ve always wanted to work as a concept artist. It’s still my dream and I hope that I’ll fulfil it in the near future.

Deskography 2016:

What tips would you have for other matte painters?

It’s always a good idea to spend some time on the sky because the whole colour scheme of the artwork is dependent on that. It is responsible for the atmosphere and is a significant factor when it comes to catching a viewer’s attention. I mostly use just normal brushes, Mixer Brushes and also the Smudge tool. The most important step, though, is in choosing pictures with a similar texture and fitting them together in terms of colours. All discrepancy between the colours can be managed by using the Match Color option. Curves and Color Balance come in handy as well.

The colour in your work is always striking, even if the atmosphere is subdued. How do you achieve such effects?

One of my favourite elements to include is different types of fog and smoke, which adds a lot to the overall atmosphere and mystery but most of all it adds a lot of depth and helps to divide the picture into a foreground, middle ground and background. I put a lot of effort in creating a proper atmosphere in my works through my choice of colour. The correct colour balance and lighting makes the image work as a whole. An alternative to changing colours while creating the composition is to work on a black-and- white base and then colour the whole image afterwards. Being a concept artist and matte painter, one of the most important things for me is the time to execute the image. I couldn’t imagine working without tools for making quick selections of elements, especially because I use many photos.

Are you inspired in your work by particular places you go to?

I’ve always liked to travel and see beautiful views on my trips. I always had a bit of a block in creating artwork from things I’d seen, which I managed to fix by getting involved in computer graphics. I like creating environments, but I would like to create more indoor spaces and people. In the near future I want to learn 3D software, then my style should evolve.