Challenge #3: Environment art!

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art progression

forest environment art

island environment artThe environment art for a game is more than just a backdrop. It sets the mood, hints at the storyline, and gives the player visual cues for what to do next. There’s an unsettling amount of layers to this topic (composition, modeling, texturing, color theory…) so for now we’re just gonna focus on one: recreating a painting in 3D!

First, pick any drawing you want. (Here’s a moodboard you can scroll through to find some. You can search “environment concept art” on Pinterest / ArtStation / Google Images too.) Then, open up Unity, create a new project, and start deciding how to piece it together. There’s a lot of stuff you can add, like:

  • 3D models: castles, temples, spaceships, statues…
  • terrain: hills/mountains, trees, grass
  • lights (try using vivid colors!)
  • a different sky, or “skybox”
  • fog

*New to Unity? Download a project full of starter assets here.

(Make sure you have version 2019.4 LTS installed. You can either double-click YourScene.unity / Demo.unity to launch this project, or copy-paste everything into another project’s Assets folder.)

After that, all you have to do is open up the Prefabs folder and drag + drop them into your scene :) They’ll become “GameObjects” that you can move around, rotate, and resize however you like. I included a bunch of tutorials down below since this might be your 1st time in Unity!

If you’re used to importing assets on your own, check out EXP’s list of free models and textures.

Download Unity here:


How to install Unity Hub

A really good intro to Unity’s interface and how stuff works (especially “GameObjects” and “Components”)

Quick guide to lighting in Unity

Time-lapse of an indie dev creating a stylized environment, start to finish

You can use a simple plane as the ground (easier), or play with Unity’s terrain tool like in the time-lapse to make hills + mountains (more steps, but here’s a tutorial for that too!)


Professional environment art:

Student art:

Author: Ekemini Nkanta

Immersive artist, VR dev, web designer, and writer/poet from NYC. Collab with me? :)

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