When the original Star Wars trilogy released back in 1977 (Star Wars), 1980 (The Empire Strikes Back) and 1983 (Return of the Jedi) respectively, a handful of artists at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) hand-painted numerous scenes and sets. While we take CGI for granted nowadays, back then matte paintings along with models were used to create many of the iconic settings in the three movies. The matte paintings were created by Chris Evans, Mike Pangrazio, Frank Ordaz, Harrison Ellenshaw and Ralph McQuarrie which you can browse in the gallery above.
Frank Ordaz wrote the following to Gizmodo in regards to his work for Return of the Jedi:
Matte paintings are fake sets that—most of the times—used to be made with plexiglass and oil paint. The artists used oversized panels to create the necessary detail that the camera needed to fool the audiences when the film was projected over the large surface of the theater screen. The paintings were combined with live action filmed to match the perspective of the painting. If done well, the public would totally buy into the shot.
Let us know if you like the realistic matte paintings of the past or modern day CGI better.