Composition in Concept Art Environment Design Workflow | MAGES Institute

Composition in Concept Art Environment Design Workflow

Understand captivating Entertainment Design with our blog series. Let’s delves into Composition in Concept Art Environments Workflow, revealing the three approaches: thumbnails, design sketched and detailed sketches.

Designing a composition or an environment design shot can be very challenging without understanding the basic techniques and flow. In order to overcome this first obstacle and having the tendency to get into the details as soon as possible, sketching definitely comes first. Allow yourself to have some space to brainstorm ideas and experiment with layouts and shapes freely before getting into the nitty-gritty. There are three main approaches: thumbnails (quick, small layouts with big shapes ), design sketches (adding structure and perspective), and detailed sketches (adding details).

Env Design Composition-1
Image credit : James Paick


The Importance of Shapes: Beyond Realism in Composition

Before we get too obsessed with creating a perfect image, let us focus on the importance of shape language. While replicating every detail might seem impressive, strategically using shapes creates a truly impactful composition. Shapes act like building blocks, guiding the viewer’s eye and establishing a clear hierarchy within the frame. Silhouette is important for recognising the function of a building or object, providing the viewer with more context to the scene.. Additionally, well-defined shapes are easier to remember, leaving a lasting impression. Playing with the contrast of shapes creates a captivating composition, proving that effective communication goes beyond mere realism. By mastering shape language, artists can create visually engaging pieces that communicate with viewers on an emotional level.

Env Design Composition -2
Image credit : Reeve Schützenhofer


Thumbnailing: An Efficient Technique for Environment Concept Art

One technique most artists find very efficient for environment concept art is thumbnailing.  This rapid ideation method helps to generate a range of strong concepts based on client or your own briefs. The beauty of thumbnailing lies in its versatility and rapid ideation. The key is to prioritize strong compositions within a limited timeframe, using minimal tools like a single brush and a few black and white values without getting bogged down in details.  Afterward, refine the most promising thumbnails, remembering that even “bad” thumbnails contribute to the overall exploration process. Within half an hour or so, thumbnailing allows you to generate a variety of concepts and compositions for further development, saving valuable time in the long run.

Environment Design Composition-3
Image credit : Annie Doyon


Beyond Thumbnails: Design Sketches

After the initial brainstorming with thumbnails, environment design takes shape through design sketches. Design sketches include adding details and structures to your thumbnail ideas, letting you refine the design’s layout and form while still prioritizing  overall composition. Think of them as quick sketches that flesh out your initial concepts. This helps visualize your overall design from different angles, making sure the final illustration looks unified.

Environment Design Composition - 4
Image credit : FengZhu



In conclusion, environment design may seem daunting at first, but the process of creating impactful visuals begins with sketching and exploring effective composition and shapes to communicate through your ideas. Furthermore, thumbnailing offers a valuable tool for rapid ideation. By embracing sketching, shape language, and thumbnailing as the initial process, it will be less challenging to translate your environment designs or solve compositional issues in a shorter amount of time.

Env Design Composition -5
Image credit : James Paick

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