I use Photoshop for all of my painting. For 3D I use Cinema 4D. It has fantastic camera mapping tools. For compositing and 2D motion work, I use After Effects.
What kind of tablet do you use?
Currently I am using a Wacom Intuos 4, Large tablet
What is the usual resolution of a painting?
I usually like to work at 4096 pixels wide which is double film resolution. I do this so that I can get in there and scribble and paint anything I need to. When it gets resampled down to 2k it all comes together and "congeals" nicely. I also paint at a higher resolution because sometimes a client will want to either crop or push in on a painting. Without the extra resolution, this could be a repaint.
How long does a typical painting take?
It is a very wide range. Sketches and concept work usually take from 2 hours to 2 days. Matte painting work can be from 1 day to 3 weeks depending on the resolution and detail. Obviously a futuristic city is going to take a lot longer than a sky replacement.
What art schools or matte painting programs can you recommend?
I can only speak from my experience and I have not attended any art schools or matte painting classes. I attended UCLA's fine art program. While being great for someone more contemporary art oriented, it was not suitable for someone who wanted to get into matte painting or concept art. Whatever school you look at be sure to look at the instructor's work as well as the students'. A lot of schools have rotating instructors so beware of going to a school for a specific instructor.
What advice can you give someone breaking into this field?
The best advice that I can give is to be persistent. It took me a very long time to break into the field and it was really a matter of the right people seeing my work. To that end I would recommend getting a simple and professional looking website and being very active on the forums. That is the best way to get exposure. Of couse this does not matter if your work is not up to a professional level. You have to be very honest with yourself about how good you really are. A very small but strong portfolio is much better than one with some mediocre pieces thrown in as filler. I would rather see five good pieces than ten okay ones. Finally, send your work to EVERYONE! You never know what is going to happen.
Do you offer internships or apprenticeships?
Not at this time. If and when I do I will post information about it on the home page.
Do you have any online tutorials?
Sorry, I do not have any tutorial materials online. I have three instructional DVDs from the Gnomon workshop. I also co-authored a book called d'artiste: Matte Painting, which has some tutorials in it. Can you can find more information on these in the Books and DVDs section of this site or click here.
Do I need to know how to draw and paint traditionally to get into digital matte painting?
Not necessarily but it certainly helps! There are some people that start out digitally and are fantastic, while conversely there are people that start out traditionally and they are horrible at both! It really comes down to learning the fundamentals and concepts of drawing and painting. You can learn composition and color just as well digitally as you can traditionally, but you have to be disciplined enough to learn them. Same with perspective, you can learn it just as well digitally but the temptation to cheat is much higher using digital tools. I see WAY too many people who do not know how to use correct perspective without a 3D program. Take the time to learn it the right way.
Can I get prints from Avatar, Lord of the Rings or another movie?
Unfortunately, I do not own the rights to any of my film work so therefore I cannot sell prints or distribute the artwork in any way.
I'm working on a personal project (MODs, scripts, book ideas, etc). Can you do some designs for free? I'll give you credit or back-end pay.
This is one of the most popular questions I get through e-mail. Feng Zhu answered this best, so I am stealing his answer.