Conrad is a matte painter currently working for Image Engine in Vancouver. Seeing a need for a database of awesome, high-res reference images, he created, an up and coming website that will provide a great tool for matte painters to add to their arsenal. The site will consist of over 100,000 images available at 5 exposures, all copyright-free barring the resale of images.

Conrad will be opening up free beta access to students in David Luong's Intro to Digital Matte Painting course, Heather Abels' Advanced Matte Painting course and Eric Bouffard's Matte Painting course. It's the last week to register, so enroll now to evolve your skill set as artists and gain free access to this awesome resource.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an artist?

Well, first up, I barely consider myself an "artist" and I can't draw to save my life! As a kid, the old school matte paintings I saw in films left me in aw
e. The ability of the artists to paint something so out of this world and yet so convincingly photo-real blew me away. After a few years out of school I started casual work structure modelling for architects. Eventually I studied a games degree and started freelancing in environment design until my break into film 3 years ago. Even to this day, I've clearly proved myself as an artist and yet I still feel alien to the word... but maybe that's normal?

Conrad's work on "The 100."

What inspired you to create

Junior matte painting jobs tend to have a lot of reference gathering tasks so the problem was immediately obvious to me. The frustration of finding usable content online that doesn't breach copyright is an every day occurrence, but I think what actually converted me to start the company was the kick I get from helping others. One day I brought my own photo library into the studio and we used the images on PAN and Gods Of Egypt. It was a small thrill to see artists using my images. I think that's where the real drive to create the company came from.

From Gods of Egypt

Who is this resource for? The hobbyist, professional, or everyone?

I've been blown away by the range of fields of people interested. It seems there's just simply a demand for high quality images. And if you look at the prices of stock image sites, they're ridiculously high. Particularly if you're in need of commercial multi-use copyright - I've seen single images go for $800!

We totally disagree with that, we still have copyright but it essentially boils down to "you can't directly resell this image".

We've worked hard to make sure our pricing reflects that we want to be accessible to all artists. We have subscriptions, credits packs and addons. Subscriptions start at $9/mo and go up to a custom made plan catering to studios.The same is true for credit packs: a one time purchase of credits suitable for people with more sporadic needs. Credit packs last 3 years too. Although these aren't really paradigm shifts in pricing, it's the quality and value we offer that we know is second to none.

Features homepage.

As an overview, let's say I sign up for the base account: $9/month (it's billed annually btw) gets me 500 credits per month. If I don't use all my credits in one month they'll rollover into a second month. In addition to that, I get access to every image at 1200px for free, so I don't actually have to spend my credits to use the library. That's super useful for hobbyists, learning artists and professionals... Grab as many images you want at 1200px!

The last feature we have are the 'addons', these increase the resolution of the free downloads to 2200px and 4400px. If you're a professional working on a 4k show, these addons can be an absolute godsend.

There really are a lot of options to the accounts we offer. Think of it like a modular system where you can tailor an account to exactly what you need.

Talk to us about the images that are available.. why is this better than searching thru Google images or another tool?

We have almost 100,000 images to upload (currently there are 20,000 online) and they cover everything from panorama images you can drop straight into a shot, right down individual elements like rooftop components which can be used for dressing a shot. We have 2 dedicated photographers, one covering Europe and one covering Africa, so suffice to say we have a lot of content from those areas. I have personally taken a lot of photos while travelling. To name a few locations we currently have:

New Zealand
Nepal (Himalayas / Kathmandu)
Croatia - including the iconic Dubrovnik known for it's King's Landing influence in Game of Thrones


Google images is great, but mostly for its capacity to find relevant image results. The thing is, pretty much every image you find on Google is going to have copyright on it -unfortunately a lot of artists will ignore that - or don't even realise it - and a lot of the time the images are totally destroyed by compression, not high enough resolution, have the wrong exposure, the list goes on. When we take photos we also get them from multiple angles and exposures so the quality is going far above what's out there at the moment.

We are employing the same search experience as Google too, obviously we don't have the same RnD resources behind us but the gallery is powered by machine learning and we couple that with a manual system for us to improve keywords. So it's just going to get better the more it's used.

How did you go about building your database of images?

Oh man, it's been a long process. Between our two dedicated photographers, my co-founder and me, we have managed to gather a pretty good variety of photo's. The process of taking the images from camera to the database has been an ongoing thing that keeps improving as our requirements develop and we discover new technologies, but honestly, this is the most boring part of the whole process. That's probably why I've noticed a lot of people who take reference images never build them, it's just not time efficient at all, but since we're doing it on a larger scale, it makes a lot of sense.

What does "beta" mean at Matte Paint? That indicates something is still in development, so what's coming?

Anyone who joins the beta gets a massive discount and an opportunity to drive the direction of the site. We have a lot of plans for improvement; searching by geo-location, by perspective, time of day, etc, as well as adding new locations. However, what *we* want and what our *users* want might be two different things, so we really want to hear from our users. To do this we've implemented feedback and request boards on the site where our beta users can ask for new photo locations, suggest features, post feedback, etc, and also add a vote to other users posts. Doing this will help prioritize development based on what our users want.

What's coming further down the road is we'd like to open the gallery up to all our users to contribute to. Contributed images would be processed just like our own images. The owner of the images gets a tab in the gallery which is populated with their images only and from which they'll be able to download any size/quality completely free forever. You could think of it like a mobile personal library with machine learning search and automagically processed images!

?As a student, what are the benefits of this site?

I think students get some of the best value from the site. When you're starting out it can be hard to know what images are suitable for the work you're doing (quality, resolution, range, etc). So, since our gallery is shot by artists, for artists, there's far less guesswork for learning artists. And since all the images are available at 1200px for free, they're going to be able to test images to their hearts content and, I suspect, the 1200px images will be actually enough resolution for many situations - saving them credits.

But, I really think they'll get the most benefit from being exposed to, and using shots that are specifically taken for artistic use and I think it will have a big effect on their intuition of "what makes a good photo".

Any last words?

We want to help the industry by solving the frustration artists experience finding reference so they can get back to the creative.

We want to also help the community of artists who sell their images on gumroad so we have a page dedicated to external resources, but we want to actively promote gumroad sellers in our gallery so they can reach more people (and we're not requesting any cut of sales!).

I'm happy for anyone who has any question whatsoever to email me directly. My email will be available on our site when we go live with our launch page.

Photo credit: Greg Massie Photography 

We'd like to thank Conrad for providing the industry with such a valuable resource. Sign up for David Luong's Intro to Digital Matte Painting course, Heather Abels' Advanced Matte Painting course or Eric Bouffard's Matte Painting course to gain beta access!