Blog #5 – Environment Design for Hoverball

Hi everyone,

This week’s blogpost will give you guys the chance to check out some of our concept art and design development for “Hoverball”. I will talk you through an example of my workflow and try to mention some useful tips and tricks for all the aspiring concept artists and digital painters out there.

To start off, I want to give you an overview on the painting stages from start to finish when creating a concept piece for a project. Good time management is key here as it is very easy to get lost in designs and unnecessary detail in the early stages.

In future blogposts I want to cover more specific painting techniques and topics that I integrate into my paintings to help improve and speed up the process.



Stage 1: Reference collection

Before starting a task I recommend to gather as much relevant references as possible. This will help improve the designs, colour choices and compositions. However don’t spend too much time on this. Typically I will spend a few minutes doing this before moving on to the next stage.

For today’s example workflow I will show you the concept design of an environment fitting our already existent “Durain 4” Stadium concepts. In this case the visual style for the project is already determined and will use the two concepts below as my core reference.

0_ref“Durain 4” stadium and garage concepts for Hoverball.


 Stage 2: Initial sketches (5-10 min)


5-10 min sketches

After reading the brief and doing some quick research I will create some thumbnails or quick line art sketches. In this example I created a large canvas to create 4 designs on which I spent 5-10 mins each. These will be the base for the next stages, so it is very important to get a good composition, clear readability of content as well as a large variety in terms of visual design.

For number 1 I chose a more underground, bunker atmosphere in a canyon with generally sharp edges.  The stadium in image number 2 in the contrary is situated within a mining settlement and is still a very active area. In the 3rd sketch I wanted to integrate some softer and curvier shapes for the environment and exterior of the stadium design to fit the interior wall shapes. And in the last sketch the stadium and structures are built up from the mining core with a larger city scale.



Stage 3: Colour sketches (15-20 min)


After completing the initial sketches I start blocking in the images with their key colours and values. For this I stick to very large brushes and paint below the line art layer. It is important to not get held up on details at this stage. These colour sketches are based on the colour palette and design of the reference images.

At this stage I also refine the composition and layout by adding large (background) structures and sky/cloud elements as well as more variation in the surroundings. Think about creating interesting shapes that read well.

Once the picture is coming together more I lower the opacity of the line art to 50% and once the painting reads well enough I turn off the line art opacity completely.

In the end one ideally has spent roughly 30 mins per sketch at this point, adding up to 2 hours for all 4 concepts. Now it is time to choose the most relevant sketches to further polish for the rest of the day. For this example I decided to continue number 2 as it fitted our description and previous concepts best in my opinion.



Stage 4: Polished concept


Rendering is the most time consuming task of the workflow and includes cleaning up the scene, adding detail and storytelling elements as well as improving the colour and lighting.

Some major changes from the colour sketch (sketch number 2) include an updated horizon line to fit the perspective better and some sky colour reference to improve the atmosphere and lighting. I decided to duplicate the whole image into a new layer and darken it and then mask out areas of the sky and brighter highlights to let them read better. This is a great and quick way to create shadows in paintings as well and lets one adjust the shadow size and shape due to it being a mask.

I also added extra detail in form of smoke and particles rising from the working pits to show their activeness. The addition of space ships and other vehicles further helps the image come to life and also helps emphasize the scale and setting.

Though I tend to try and stick to painting as much as possible, for time constraints and efficiency sake the integration of photo textures to help show off different materials and textures is quite useful. It is essential to blend these in nicely and to avoid them sticking out as too obvious as this can ruin the immersion and quality of the overall image.


I hope you enjoyed this small post about a typical day at work as an indie 2D concept artist. One of many roles one has to pick up in a small indie dev team, but definitely one of the most fun jobs in my opinion.

Happy painting and til the next post,



Pixel Chief

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