Matte Painting – Asking a Pro – Alisher Mirzoev

Today we had an amazing class with matte painter, Gerard Dunleavy. Gerard told us his story and how he ended up getting into the industry. It was very interesting finding out how he made his name known within a company and all the ways he ended up getting hired for different roles. I asked him a lot of questions and wrote everything down along the way. I learnt so much from this class and I am looking forward to utilising the new techniques in future pieces.

Gerard went through his process of producing a matte painting. I learnt a lot about ho to produce quality renders in Maya and also plenty of handy tips and tricks within photoshop. I recorded notes along the way so I wouldn’t forget. A sample of Dunleavy’s work is shown below.


Link to Gerard Dunleavy’s website here –

Talking with Artists

When browsing through ten thousand hours Facebook page I came across the work of Alisher Mirzoev, just amazing. Mirzoev had just posted some work on artstation of his latest concepts which were Wild West themed. I decided to message him asking for  permission to ask some questions (5 to be exact) on his painting process. I will include some of the tips he shared below. Although much of his answers were similar to Dunleavy’s I still learnt some new insights.

I have shared some of his work below along with a link to his art station.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For Alisher Mirzoev’s artstation click here!

Do you tend to paint from life to expand your colour skills?

I don’t paint from life too much although it’s really good practice, the thing that helped me the most i think is traditional paint mixing, even gouache is enough, and a handful of books and tutorials on color theory, like Johannes Itten’s “the art of color” and others, and of course a lot of practice, not necessarily from life, i think i did more photo studies in my life than i did life paintings.

When creating your concept pieces do you  prefer to model your scene in Maya and then paint over the your render?

I usually use Maya or Modo for any hardsurface block outs I need, Maya just because I know it from a while back, and sometimes I use Keyshot. So yeah, it’s kinda oldschool but it’s comfortable for me atm. After I render the block outs I go to Photoshop and paint/photobash over them.

Do you ever have trouble knowing when a piece is finished?

Yeah, this is always a big problem for me, I tend to overdo things and heard a bunch of times from close people that some (most lol) of my pieces looked better at earlier stages, so yeah, I’m still fighting that – not sure if the fight’s gonna end at all. People like me need to specifically train themselves to do things so they look unfinished and finished at the same time if you know what I mean.

How long do you tend to spend on a piece?

For the time- it really depends on the task, the process is always different, some projects are painterly and don’t use any 3d blockouts or photobashing, some do, so yeah, it really depends. For these illustrations for the challenge I gave myself 2 days for 2 sets of thumbnails, so 1 day per 9 thumbs and 3 days per finished illustration – so for 2 illustrations it was like 8 days. But keep in mind that I have some experience doing this, but in general I think its a good thing to do, you learn how quick you can do things this way.

Do you use much reference when choosing colour?

Yes, I usually do. It’s a good thing to have a general lighting color reference so you always compare your concept to it.

Also, if you want to do photobashing- matte painting tutorials are really helpful. Most of the things I do quickly when photobashing, because I do matte painting for movies from time to time.

So my advices will be Antony Eftekhari’s tutorials and the matte painting course from learnsquared.

It’s an interesting fact that photobashing exists on the edge between matte painting and concept art, so gives you two ways to go if you do it well. But in general- no, there are a lot of jobs in both fields. Movies usually pay more though, but this is my personal experience. Matte painting techniques are helpful in concept art – just takes more time to learn.



Alisher Mirzoev’s artstation :

Gerard Dunleavy’s webpage :

Matte Painting – Thumb-nailing and Reference Collecting

Beata and I have decided to come together for the personal project and work on a 3D matte painting. We thought it might be a nice thing to work on with another person who is also interested in the process. We have decided to base the scene around the middle east. I thought it might also tie into some of the game assets I am hoping to model.

To begin, we need to collect some reference images to help with inspiration and ideas along with possible high quality photographs which could be used when camera projecting (to help give the scene a more 3D feel). Beata has shared some useful sites which matte painters would frequently use as a resource. With time constraints it is difficult to get out and about to take some of my own photographic pieces.

I have made a start on some thumb nails to start looking into what type of composition we want and what story we would like to tell. We did have a chat about it and thought if we included a high palace embedded into the cliffs with forestry surrounding it, that this would represent the wealthy and as you come down onto the lower ground planes theres are markets and old shack houses which represent the less well off. mMight be a nice idea of a simple story environment. As we have a time limit with other projects running alongside we might have to keep it as simple as possible. I spent around 35 mins on the first set of thumbnails below.


I didn’t like any of my thumbnails but Beata had a few which I really loved and in the end we decided to base the design off one of her nice thumbnails. We each worked on the thumbnail and then combined both our ideas together and created a photoshop file where we could try various photo mash-ups.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 11.42.05.png

(Beata’s thumbnail above)

Some reference photos of middle eastern palaces shown below.