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18 September 2023

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An impenetrable jungle, a small apple orchard, mountain ranges or a mysterious forest – the design of the environment in one second immerses the viewer in the atmosphere, conveys the mood and tells a whole story.

But how do you draw a cool environment? Alexandra Tarnavskaya, an artist and curator of the Environment Design in 2D course, shared useful tips for aspiring artists.

Take into account what the picture is being created for

And select the expressive tools best suited to each occasion. For example, if you need to draw the habitat of cute characters, the artist will try to display this through pleasant colors and soft shapes. If you need a setting for a dramatic dystopian time, then the environment will also be in dark colors and with plenty of sharp shapes.



From above in both images we see a tree house, but in Adventure time (first image) the shadows are resolved transparently and lightly, the shapes are simple and expressive. Strong stylization and simplification has been added to the geometry, clean, bright and slightly acidic colors are used, the silhouette of the lodge is readable from afar.

In Arcane (second picture) the environment is realistic – we see a lot of painterly strokes. The colors are muted, the shadows are dark, and the light is bright.

Remember the guides

Notice how cleverly the overall movement of the characters is emphasized by the guides in the composition, even though they are different Love, Death and Robots series with different stories and atmospheres.



It is very useful to parse frames when watching animated works and thus add to your visual library of techniques. It is also helpful to do quick stadics to memorize them on a mechanical level of hand movements.

And then there’s the light

The same location in different lighting and weather can look completely different. Here, in the plot of Love, Death and Robots, the time of day changes, and the light and feel of the location changes accordingly:



The elaboration with changing lighting can be seen already at the conceptual stage: artists draw the same location under different weather and time circumstances – the result is a convenient map of lighting.

Example – Klaus, Clément Dartigues.


This is the kind of exercise we do in the course
Environment design in 2D
– drawing the same location in different lighting.

Take into account the climatic zone of the location

Think of what plants look like in the jungle – you won’t find such vegetation in the boreal zone. Even the stones, depending on the climate of the depicted location , change their character, their color. For example, rocks near water are different from rocks in the desert – we cover these nuances in detail in the course as well.

Examples – Jason Scheier



Check the composition in black and white

You can make quick black and white miniatures in search of composition. They will help you choose the best contrast-balanced composition, not to overload with details and clearly define the viewer’s point of focus.

Example – Gabriel Gomez


In the online course
Environment Design in 2D
We study natural locations – at first we draw separate assemblies (stones, bushes, trees), then gradually move on to environment sketches and complete locations with lighting.

You can learn more about the course and get acquainted with its program on the course page. For any questions, including clarification of the nearest start date, write to our managers in Telegram.

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