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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Advice on learning how to create environments and props?

    I have noticed there seems to be plenty of resources and advice on ConceptArt about figure drawing which is great. It seems to be universal that Loomis, Bridgeman and a few others are the best resources to learn figure drawing. So I know how to direct myself when learning this.

    However I also want to learn how to create environments and props as well but the methods to do so are not as clear. What are the best resources (books etc) to teach myself to create environments? Any artists who specialise in environment and props, what advice do you suggest for someone starting to learn this area of concept art?

    I realise I need solid knowledge of perspective, composition and should draw from life. So I am looking for more specific advice.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Gdansk, Poland
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    It's hard to give general advice for designing props and environments because you can fit a lot into these categories. You can't throw cities, jungles, deserts, ancient castles, gothic looking cathedrals, asian temples, mountains, space stations into one box and create unified rule for all of them in single tutorial. Every of these "subcategories" is one big universe.

    When it comes to props:
    - for weapons you could learn about gun firing mechanisms, history of hand weapons during the ages
    - for vehicles you can learn about industrial design for cars, how the suspension works, what are good ergonomic proportions for seat/interior
    - for robots you can learn how to construct hinges, how to translate muscle system into mechanical parts, how bipeds walk, how quadrupeds walk, how to arrange elements to achieve balance in weight
    - for flying vehicles you can learn about different ways of creating thrust, what makes plane aerodynamic

    In environments
    - for fantasy architecture you can learn about different types of historical architecture
    - for jungles you can learn about what plants, colors, scale make something jungle-like
    - for futuristic architecture you can look at what is constructed nowdays, technology trends, graphic design
    - for deserts you can look at many different deserts and see what make them look like deserts. What are typical colors, what are the shapes of rock formations, what is the color of the sky... etc.

    This is really tiny fraction but I got tired writing . You need curious mind and ask yourself lots of questions starting often with "why","what" or "how". Why this building is thick at the bottom? What is inside this machine? Why are those plants red? What makes grenade deadly? What prevents the bridge from collapsing? What is the difference between Middle East cities and Northern Europe cities?
    For the rest you answered yourself. Perspective, composition, life drawing.
    Last edited by Farvus; January 6th, 2010 at 12:35 PM.

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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Thanked 337 Times in 227 Posts
    For props take a look at how ID (Industrial Designers) work.

    As for environments all the same skills apply,a building is just a big box sort of thang, just hunt down good vids showing how others do it and practice practice practice.

    All the information is out there.

    oh and start a sketchbook, untill then all we can give is blanket advice without seeing your work and where you are now.
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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    I agree with Farvus and would add that all those things depend on who is setting the style for the project. You can't draw mobeus stuff if everything else is syd mead. Usually things get split into races or groups, so props and enviros for one faction is different than another. That is the whole point behind visual design, it has a point of view. If an artist doesn't have any knowledge of the world and how things work, the stuff is going to not be very believable. Ther are the basic mechanics to everything and then on top of that is the style.

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Northern California
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    I wholeheartedly agree with all of the replies - with the minor difference that I think all the environments fall under general "environment" theory. A gothic castle and a futuristic cityscape or even a jungle temple all follow the same basic rules - at least visually. That said though, dpaint's point about different styles also applies - Syd Mead wasn't involved in Lord of the Rings for a reason.

    Farvus lays out exactly what it's about and why it's fun - it's fun to learn a little bit about all that stuff - cultures, architecture, vehicles, etc. Yet you don't have to become an expert you just have to understand them well enough to create convincing "simulations".

    Props and Hardware definitely fall under traditional Industrial Design theory and techniques. Environments obviously fall under Landscape painting theory, Architecture and Geology. So that's the stuff to study and pay attention to.

    For environments you should also check out the history of grand landscape painting - Bierstadt, Church, Moran - the Hudson River Valley school - the "Luminists" - also the artists who were traveling to the Middle East back in the 19th century - David Roberts - "The Orientalists". For futuristic architecture investigate "Theoretical Architecture" guys like - Hugh Ferris - Lebbeus Woods - Santiago Calatrava - even Frank Lloyd Wright. Ancient architecture just search ancinet cities or lost cities. For moonscapes/barren worlds Chesley Bonestell or "astronomical art". Barbarian cities (which as everyone knows are also Martian cities!) - Roy Krenkel.

    Since you were asking about books I think there are two that would be perfect for you:
    "Imaginitive Realism" by James Gurney - he's the guy that created Dinotopia
    "Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes" by Jack Hamm - really this is a book about environment composition and planning from imagination.
    Also check out a broad category of books/ techniques called Marker Rendering Techniques or "Rapid Visualization" - all indutrial and product design stuff.

    Have fun!
    Last edited by JeffX99; January 6th, 2010 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Forgot something...
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