What Does a Background Painter Do? Where Do Background Painters Work? ACR Takes a Look.
|Brigham Young University||Provo||Utah|
|California Baptist University||Riverside||California|
|Columbia College Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|Montclair State University||Montclair||New Jersey|
|Pace University||New York||New York|
|Rutgers University||Camden||New Jersey|
|San Jose State University||San Jose||California|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah||Georgia|
|Washington University-St. Louis||St. Louis||Missouri|
|Westfield State University||Westfield||Massachusetts|
What Does a Background Painter Do?
Background painters (also matte painters) are 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 painters may draw, paint or create backgrounds manually, by computer or both for animated and live action productions. With a strong sense of compositing, design, color, and proportioning, these creative individuals design backgrounds for characters and objects to live in and move through in a natural manner. Some of the different types of software used includes Maya, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Where Do Background Painters Work?
Background painters work in a variety of environments such as animation studios, film and video production studios, and gaming companies. They may also work in the web design, graphic design or advertising industries.
What is the Job Outlook for Background Painters?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for fine artists, including illustrators, painters, and sculptors is expected to grow 6% for the 2016-2026 decade, which is as fast as average for all occupations. This will add 3,100 positions to the current (salaried) workforce of around 53,400 artists. Background painters working in the animation industry will enjoy employment growth thanks to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television.
Consumers will continue to demand more realistic video games, movie and television special effects, and three-dimensional movies. This will create demand for newer computer hardware, which will enhance the complexity of animation and visual effects. Additional background painters and animators will be required to meet this increased demand.
Other Schools to Consider:
- Atlanta, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and SCAD eLearning
How Much Do Background Painters Make?
The median annual wage for fine artists is $48,960 . The lowest 10% earn less than $22,020, and the highest 10% earn more than $101,400. Multimedia artists and animators average $72,520. The lowest 10% earn less than $40,870, and the highest 10% earn more than $124,310. Background painters working in the animation industry can expect their salaries to fall somewhere in between fine artists and animators.
In addition to industry, salaries will vary based on geographic location, type and size of company, and many other factors. For example, the highest paying states for fine artists are:
- Connecticut - $80,010
- California - $76,230
- Oklahoma - $65,140
- New Jersey - $62,840
- Arizona - $62,200
Some of the lowest paying states are Arkansas ($24,510), South Carolina ($28,070), Montana ($31,150), New Mexico ($35,110), and Missouri ($39,430).
The top paying industries for fine artists are:
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $88,100
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $86,700
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $81,630
- Motion Picture and Video Industries - $80,320
- and Related Services - $72,250
Salaries for the top five industries with the highest levels of employment for fine artists are:
- Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $52,200
- Motion Picture and Video Industries – 80,320
- Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers - $46,780
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $57,890
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - Not Reported
How Do I Become a Background Painter?
The BLS says, “despite positive job growth, there will be competition for job openings because many recent graduates will be interested in entering the occupation.” In addition to having a robust portfolio, those who specialize in a specific aspect of animation such as background painting or in a specific skill, such as drawing or computer programming, should have the best opportunities.
Most employers also prefer to hire fine artists with at least a bachelor’s degree in an art, animation, illustration, design, or related field. Just a few top programs for aspiring background painters include:
- Brigham Young University, BFA Animation, Illustration
- California Baptist University, BA, Minor Illustration (animation, book illustration, game design, graphic novels)
- Columbia College Chicago, BA, BFA Animation, Computer Animation, Traditional Animation, Illustration (drawing, painting, cartooning, typography, digital illustration, figure drawing)
- Montclair State University, BFA Animation/Illustration
- Pace University, BA Art with Digital Media, (Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, Web Design, 3D Design)
- Rutgers University, BA Art/Visual Arts with Animation, Painting and Drawing, Intermedia and Electronic Arts
- San Jose State University, BA Design Studies (Animation/Illustration Area)
- Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), BA, BFA, MA, MFA Illustration with a Minor in Illustration for Entertainment or Animated Illustration and Publication Design; BA, BFA, MA, MFA Sequential Art; BFA, MA, MFA Animation
- Washington University-St. Louis, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, BFA, Emphasis in Illustration, Interaction Design
- Westfield State University, BA Animation, Illustration
Many schools also offer graduate illustration and or/animation programs for those seeking higher-level positions with major studios and agencies. Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Memphis College of Art (MCA), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), SCAD, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at UMass Dartmouth are just a few.
Awesome Animation Fact: Speaking of backgrounds - although animation is often thought of as lighthearted, some animators have found a number of clever ways to use backgrounds to comment on controversial issues without compromising the mission of the scene. Take Despicable Me, for example. In one scene, supervillian Felonius Gru enters the Bank of Evil. Although not as prominent as the bank name, the subtitle "Formerly Lehman Brothers" can be seen over the door. Blink and you’ll miss it.