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A Complete Guide on Environment Concept Art

Every video game needs a carefully constructed digital landscape for its characters to come to life. This crafted fantasy world is known as environment concept art. Depending on the artist’s unique style and preferences, practically any setting can be created, whether crowded urban cities or harsh outdoor terrain.

Environment artists create a detailed picture of the game using various tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Maya, 3D-Coat, and Substance Painter. However, concept art is not limited to just creating a backdrop. The foundation of stellar game design relies on synchronizing all visual aspects, including characters, props, and detailing with the game's flow.

So, if you’re new to the world of video games, keep reading to find out how to plan your next landscape digital art project and find the perfect team.

What is Environment Concept Art?

Concept art is commonly misunderstood as just drawing or illustrating. The fact is, environment art focuses on coming up with new ideas and addressing challenges for 3D artists and professional game designers such as our experts at Argentics. The process of designing digital landscape art sets the gameplay in motion so that players can progress through it.

Environment concept art is created for both outdoor and indoor experiences. Designers use a combination of genres, including anime, fantasy, horror, and science fiction, to create imaginary worlds. Without the talent and skill of environment concept artists, it would be impossible to develop realistic landscapes and characters.

The most crucial aspect of game design is coming up with a concept and rules so that artists can ensure flawless exchanges with the virtual world. Digital artists also have to consider the game idea, specifications, demands, and player mechanics. This includes factors like character actions, challenges, and how they interact with their surroundings in the game.

Environment artists focus on minor architectural, composition, and perspective details for a smooth user experience. One of the most challenging components of concept art is painting and setting the desired sequence in motion. Then, through layering and texturizing the overall concept, each stroke on the artist's screen contributes to the consistency of the actions that will take place in the game.

Concept art encompasses several aspects of gameplay. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find someone who can create everything. Therefore, most artists choose to specialize in a specific type of art, such as characters, props, or the environment. These specialties can be further broken down into focus areas like hard surfaces (weapons), costumes, interiors, or automobiles.

Types of Concept Art

Think about your favorite fantasy video game. With features like extraordinary real-world settings, unique creatures, and futuristic vehicles, have you ever wondered who designed these elements? Environment artists cover the overall creative vision of a game to make CGI and 3D animation a possibility.

Character Design

Character design is the most famous avenue of digital concept art. Artists develop various creatures, monsters, and realistic characters based on backstories, personality traits, and player requirements. Animation allows these designs to depict real-life movements and imitate action to make gameplay simulation as accurate as possible.

Environment concept artists must possess the ability to design and coordinate the clothes, characteristics, colors, movement, and action of the character. By understanding the anatomy of humans and animals, designers can use their unique perspectives to depict their characters.

Some high-level concept art projects combine 3D and 3D elements with a large team of dedicated artists working together. Sometimes, illustrators may focus on innovative techniques rather than a traditional portrayal of their characters.

Props, Weapons, and Vehicle Design

The ability to design props from any aspect is another critical requirement for 3-D projections. The final elements of realistic gameplay rely on prop designers. For the most part, their responsibilities overlap with environment artists as together they produce the game's setting.

Aside from identifying attributes of the objects, an artist must match the style and aesthetic of their design to the period the game is set in. This ensures accurate positioning within the desired frame or sequence. Props also include engineering weapons and vehicles that are functional.

The best games feature extremely realistic and accurately designed weapons and vehicles. As a result, players can have a closer, in-depth look at their prop of choice before accessorizing it further. For example, weapons can be enhanced with suppressors and scopes for more accuracy. Similarly, cars can be customized, tuned, and upgraded for better performance.

Environment Design

The environment of a game includes characters, props, and other functional aspects that come together to emulate a cohesive experience. Because of its scale and lack of restrictions, environment concept art is regarded as one of the most challenging types of design. A single game may contain hundreds of landscapes ranging from outdoor nature to indoor urban structures.

Environment artists are usually well versed in architecture, nature, and geology. With professional depth perception skills, these digital designers focus on creating incredibly detailed and vibrant landscapes to play in. Everything within the environment must be in rhythm with each other to fit in.

Since games are usually based on fantasy, concept artists don't have much real-world inspiration to draw upon. Instead, their imagination is fuelled to invent a whole new world. Then, they add props and characters to populate their environment and bring it to life.

The Stages of Concept Art Design


While the level of complexity varies depending on the game’s requirements, the core process of creating concept art remains the same. Relying entirely on the artist's ingenuity, creativity, and thorough attention to detail, a wide range of settings, characters, and props can be designed. Thus, concept art is time-consuming, with several moving pieces to focus on.

Every artist has their own design approach; however, the stages below are a general framework that ensures high-quality digital art featuring impeccable form, color, light, and shadow detail. Some designers also categorize these steps into the four D’s of concept art: discovery, developing, design, and delivering.

Develop and Conceptualize

Whether a 2D or 3D design, the development process often begins with an overview of the big picture. Often in the form of a brief, order, or self-designed title, all concept art projects require direction. This includes the idea behind the game, how it will be played, and critical elements such as characters, props, etc. If the idea is from someone other than the artist itself, characteristics and detailed descriptions will help ensure the end result is as accurate as possible.

Sketching and Definition

Once the general concept behind the game has been established, environment concept artists can begin sketching. This step involves developing initial rough sketches and ideas so you can start visually exploring your options. After multiple sketches and thumbnails, designers can evaluate how their prototypes translate to audiences and try various techniques before nailing it all down.

Next, definition and depth are added to refine the landscape digital art further. A more solid composition is created by connecting the environment to the storyline and experimenting with different color variations to match up with player expressions. Designers can create several versions of the same environment to stir different emotions within players.

Finalizing and Rendering

After creating the foundation of the game's environment, it's time to add detail. All sketching strokes and residues will be removed for a refined, realistic game landscape. A professional designer will provide you with several illustrations from various angles so you can capture the depth of detail accurately.

Designers can then add player gestures dynamic composition and animate their visual experiences as per the game. The end goal is to encapsulate all the tiny details and design elements to set the visual language for the rest of the game.

What Makes a Great Environment Artist?

Environment concept artists are experts in art fundamentals. These cover perspective, anatomy, light, tone, and composition to create realistic elements effectively, even when working on animated projects. Concept designers are equipped with the creative knowledge required to go beyond the brief and experiment with various artistic styles.

An expert-level artist can create characters, scenery, and pretty much everything players interact with within a video game. In addition, professionals should be able to work with a variety of 2D and 3D mediums, animations, and drawings with their keen eye for design and detail.

Game artists should also have profound knowledge of creating a video game from scratch using digital tools. It's also just as important to be well-versed with different gaming engines on which these designs are converted into playable adventures.

While most designer portfolios feature different digital assets, you can also seek out specialists within a set concept. For example, environment concept artists focus on landscapes and how characters interact with their surroundings. Seek out a portfolio that meets your design needs more accurately by exploring the artist's strengths.

A great concept artist will see through that your game vision becomes a magical reality. Their fully detailed designs and thorough envisioning process makes working with a professional concept designer a thrilling experience!

How to Find a Good Team to Design Concept Art?

The gaming industry has seen rapid growth over the years, and it can be tough to hire skilled teams to design video games. After deciding on the tools and technologies the game will be developed using, you will need to work with a designer or game development firm such as Argentics to get started.

If you have no visual experience, it's best to leave the task to professionals who can ensure you end up with a smooth game that works as planned. Before deciding which team or firm you want to engage with, consider their experience, competency, and education to understand how they work.

Environment concept art development teams consist of experts in programming, audio, user interface, user experience, graphic design, and 3D modeling. The complexity of the game idea determines the size of this team. A professional community or development company takes responsibility for planning, delegating, and following up on every task required to complete the project so that you don't have to.

Behance, LinkedIn, and gaming community websites are great starting points for your search. However, you can also turn to outsource a team of professionals that will be dedicated to your project. Game development specialist teams can create games from scratch based on your requirements. Carefully study their portfolio, client testimonials, and services before making your final choice.

Why Should You Outsource?

Outsourcing a professional game concept development team comes with a plethora of advantages. Hiring expert teams genuinely aids the creative process of video games by reducing the costs of recruiting individuals to create your own in-house team. Instead, you can outsource professionals who are already trained and prepared to develop games.

You can also expect more efficient job delivery so you can spend more time polishing your game content. Game firms and studios have a pre-assembled team of talented designers, artists, and developers, regardless of their size. This cuts down on wasting time over recruitment processes and finding someone with the level of skill you require.

Game development firms employ some of the best designers and developers. You can expect consistency, high-quality deliverables, and flexibility over additional resources. Additionally, specialists can work around your budget to reduce the risk involved with creating your own video game. After sharing your requirements, you can leave it up to the experts.

The Bottom Line

Environment design and game development is a competitive yet incredibly unique field. Whether you are a creator or have envisioned your own game, a concept artist can help you create detailed framework designs and bring your ideas to life.

Considering how many individual elements go into animated video games, there are a variety of specialists within concept design that focus on the entire world, characters, or various props used to progress in the game. Environment artists eradicate inconsistencies and the risk of script problems during gameplay.
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