ENVIRONMENT DESIGN FOR CONCEPT ART

A FREE INTRODUCTION GUIDE 

BY IAMAG MASTER CLASSES


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INTRODUCTION

Environment design is crucial in creating believable and immersive worlds in concept art. Whether it's a fantastical landscape, a futuristic cityscape, or a historical setting, a well-designed environment can transport the viewer to another world and enhance the storytelling aspect of the artwork.

Art by Andreas Rocha - Watch his Exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Research and Inspiration for Environment Design

When starting a new environment design, research and inspiration are essential components to help you create a more believable and immersive world. By studying real-world locations, historical references, and other artists' works, you can gather ideas and references to inform your design decisions and bring your vision to life.

We'll explore the importance of research and inspiration in environment design and provide some tips and techniques for finding references and gathering inspiration.


Research and inspiration are important in environmental design because they can help you create a more realistic and believable world. Whether you're designing a futuristic cityscape or a historical landscape, understanding the real-world principles that govern architecture, geography, and other aspects of the environment can help you create a more effective and immersive design.

Additionally, research and inspiration can provide ideas and references that you might have yet to consider otherwise. By studying the works of other artists or exploring real-world locations, you can discover new perspectives and approaches that can inform your design decisions and help you create a more unique and original environment.

Art by Julian Calle - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Tips and Techniques for Finding References and Inspiration

Here are some tips and techniques for finding references and gathering inspiration for your environment design:

Visit Real-World Locations: One of the best ways to gather inspiration for environment design is to visit real-world locations. Whether it's a city, a forest, or a mountain range, visiting a place in person can give you a sense of its scale, proportion, and atmosphere that you might not be able to get from photos or videos. Take photos, sketch, and take notes of the details you observe, and use them as reference materials when creating your design.


Use Online Resources: Besides visiting in-person locations, you can use many online resources to gather references and inspiration for environment design. Websites such as Google Maps, Google Street View, and Flickr can provide many images and information about locations worldwide.


Study Historical and Cultural References: If you're designing a historical or culturally specific environment, studying historical and cultural references can provide valuable insights and ideas. Research the architecture, clothing, and customs of the period or culture you're designing for, and use that information to inform your design decisions.

Experiment with Different Styles and Techniques: Feel free to experiment with different styles and techniques when gathering inspiration for environment design. Try exploring works of art from different genres, periods, and cultures to find new perspectives and ideas that can inform your design decisions.

Art by Jourdan Tuffan - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Developing a Strong Concept for Your Environment Design

The concept of your environment design is the underlying idea or story that gives your design meaning and purpose. It can help guide your design decisions and ensure that every element of the environment contributes to a cohesive and believable world.

To develop a strong concept for your environment design, start by asking yourself some questions:

Using Composition Principles in Your Environment Design

Composition is the arrangement of elements in your environment design to create a visually appealing and effective layout. A well-composed environment design can guide the viewer's eye, make sense of depth and dimensionality, and convey a sense of movement or flow.

Read the Full Guide about Composition in our Free Guide Collection, here

To create a strong composition for your environment design, consider the following principles:

  • Rule of thirds: Divide your design into vertical and horizontal thirds, and place the most critical elements at the intersection points.

  • Leading lines: Use lines or shapes to lead the viewer's eye toward the focal point of your design.

  • Contrast: Use contrast in color, value, or texture to create visual interest and guide the viewer's eye.

  • Depth: Use overlapping elements, atmospheric perspective, and other techniques to create a sense of depth and dimensionality in your design.

    Art by Mark Molnar / Pixoloid Studio - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Storytelling in Environment Design

It's important to remember that your environment design is a storytelling medium. Every design element, from the architecture to the props and details, should contribute to the overall narrative and help create a sense of place and time.

To tell a compelling story in your environment design, consider the following techniques:

  • Use visual cues to suggest a backstory or history for the environment.

  • Create a sense of contrast or conflict to add tension to the design.

  • Include details and props that offer a purpose or function for the environment.

  • Use lighting, color, and texture to create a mood or atmosphere that supports the narrative.

    Art by Max Schiller - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Sketching Your Environment Design

Sketching is an essential first step in the environment design process. It allows you to explore ideas and experiment with layouts and shapes without committing to a final design. There are several different approaches you can take when sketching your environment design:

  • Thumbnails: Thumbnails are small, quick sketches that allow you to explore different layouts and composition options. They don't need to be detailed but should give you a sense of your design's overall structure and shape.

  • Rough Sketches: Rough sketches are more detailed than thumbnails, allowing you to add more details and textures. They can be messier, but they should still give you a sense of your design's overall layout and shape.

  • Perspective Sketches: Perspective sketches are more detailed and allow you to explore the depth and dimensionality of your environment design. They can help you understand how your design will look from different angles and viewpoints.

    Sketch by Nicolas Weis - Watch his Exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Iterating on Your Environment Design

Once you've sketched your initial ideas, it's time to start iterating on your design. Iteration involves:

  • Refining your design.

  • Refining the concept until it meets your vision. Experimenting with different ideas and details.

There are several different techniques you can use to iterate on your environment design:

  • Refine the Layout: Refine your design's overall layout and composition. Experiment with different placements of critical elements and adjust the size and shape of your plan as needed.

  • Experiment with Details: Once you have the basic layout and composition, it's time to start experimenting with details. Add textures, props, and other elements to bring your design to life.

  • Get Feedback: Show your design to others and get feedback on what works and what doesn't. Use this feedback to refine your design and make adjustments as needed.

    Art by Pengzhen Zhang - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Using Color Theory in Your Environment Design

Color theory is the study of how colors interact with each other and can be used to create specific effects in a design. In environment design, color can create mood, emphasize key elements, and create a sense of harmony or contrast.

Read Full Chapter about Color Theory in this free Guide

  • Choose a color scheme that fits the mood and atmosphere of your design. For example, warm colors such as red and orange can create a sense of warmth and energy, while cool colors such as blue and green can create a sense of calm and tranquility.

    Here are some tips for using color theory in your environment design:

  • Use color to create contrast and emphasis. For example, using a bright color such as red or yellow for a key element can make it stand out from the surrounding environment.

  • Use color to create harmony and balance. For example, using a complementary color scheme (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) can create a sense of balance and harmony in your design.

    Art by Raphael Lacoste - Watch his exclusive Master Class series on IAMAG

Using Lighting in Your Environment Design

Lighting is another powerful tool in environment design that can create mood, emphasize crucial elements, and develop a sense of depth and dimensionality. In environment design, lighting can simulate the effects of natural or artificial light sources, such as sunlight, moonlight, or streetlights.


Here are some tips for using lighting in your environment design:

  • Consider the source of the light. Where is the light coming from? Is it a natural or artificial light source? What color is the light?

  • Use lighting to create mood and atmosphere. For example, warm, golden light can develop a sense of warmth and comfort, while cool, blue light can make sense of mystery or danger.

  • Use lighting to create contrast and emphasis. For example, spotlighting an essential element can make it stand out from the surrounding environment.

  • Use lighting to create a sense of depth and dimensionality. For example, using shadows to suggest the presence of off-screen objects or elements can make sense of depth and dimensionality in your design.

    Art by Tuomas Korpi - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Refining the Details

Refining the details is one of the first steps in finalizing your environment design. This involves adding specific details and elements that bring the design to life and make it more believable.

Some techniques for refining the details include:

  • Adding textures: Use textures to add depth and dimensionality to the design. For example, adding the surface of wood or stone can make a building or structure look more realistic.

  • Adding props: Props can help suggest the purpose or function of the environment. For example, adding tools or equipment can suggest that the environment is a workshop or factory.

  • Adding foliage: Adding plants and vegetation can make the environment look more natural and organic.

Art by Tim McBurnie - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Adding Textures and Finishing Touches

Once you have refined the details of your environment design, it's time to add textures and finishing touches. This involves adding color, shading, and other elements that give the design a more polished and finished look.

Some techniques for adding textures and finishing touches include:

  • Adding color: Use color to create mood and atmosphere in your design. Use a color palette that fits the mood and atmosphere of your design.

  • Adding shading: Use shading to create depth and dimensionality in your design. Use shadows and highlights to suggest the direction and intensity of light sources.

  • Adding weathering: Add weathering to suggest the effects of time and the elements on the environment. For example, adding rust or decay to a structure can indicate that it has existed for a long time.

    Art by Col Price - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

Presenting the Design

Finally, presenting the design is essential in finalizing your environment design. This involves creating clear and professional presentations that showcase your design in the best possible light.

Some techniques for presenting your plan include:

  • Using different perspectives: Show your design from different angles and viewpoints to give the viewer a better understanding of the layout and composition.

  • Adding annotations: Use annotations to highlight key elements and provide additional information about the design.

  • Using a consistent style: Use a consistent style and format throughout your presentation to create a cohesive and professional look.

    Art by Leo Li - Watch his exclusive Master Class on IAMAG

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