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Background Painter - Career Profile

Written by Michelle BurtonSeptember 28, 2011
Background Painting
Did you know... Each student at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) learns how to work at a studio by spending 12 weeks as a Production Artist on a school-produced film. As a result, they have produced dozens of shorts in class. Their animated Star Wars fan film, The SOLO Adventures, won the Lucasfilm award at Star Wars Celebration V! You can see it and many more at www.DaveSchool.com.
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What does a Background Painter do? Where does a Background Painter work? ACR takes a look:

About Background Painters

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A background painter or “matte painter,” is responsible for creating backgrounds for animated and live-action films. A background painter may create an entire matte painting (such as a village or skyline) where animation or live action occurs in only a few spots. This requires advanced skills in developing 2D and 3D backgrounds.

Background Painter Jobs

Background painters draw, paint or create backgrounds manually, by computer or both for animated and live-action productions. Through a strong sense of compositing, design, color, and proportioning, these creative individual’s design backgrounds for characters and objects to live in and move through in a natural manner. Background painters work in a variety of environments including animation studios, film and video production studios, and gaming companies. They might also work for web design firms, graphic design firms, and advertising agencies.

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Background Painter Salaries  

Background painter salaries vary by location, company, experience, education, benefits, and other factors. While individual salaries may vary greatly, the average yearly salary for background painters is in the same area as fine artists such as illustrators and painters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages of salaried fine artists were $44,850 as of May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned $19,190 and the highest 10 percent earned $89,720.

Becoming a Background Painter

Many background painters hold a degree in animation, fine arts, illustration, painting, computer animation, classical animation, game design, or other related degree. Most studios and agencies prefer a bachelor’s degree although an associate degree may help you secure an entry-level or other support position. For intermediate positions, in addition to a bachelor’s degree, many employer’s prefer several years’ experience in the field. Aspiring background painters can obtain experience through an internship or by working with a smaller company or a start-up. 

Job Trends for Background Painters

Background painters are an important part of the production process. Without them, projects that call for vibrant and realistic backgrounds would be incomplete. Background painters work in many different fields, so the demand may vary by industry. Overall, employment growth for fine artists, which includes painters, illustrators, and sculptors, is expected to average nine percent for the 2008-2018 decade.

In 2008, the workforce was 23,600. By 2018, this figure is expected to increase to 25,700. The demand for background painters with advanced computer skills and advanced knowledge of the latest software programs will have the most opportunities in the field.