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Designing Environments for Games

Sketching 3D Environments using Blender & Photoshop with James Lewis-Vines


Sketching has traditionally been considered a 2D medium, but with the power of Blender’s Grease Pencil tool, you can draw in 3D and jump right into your designs to truly explore the space. In this 2.5-hour workshop, James Lewis-Vines shares his techniques, from gathering references to sketching and modeling a sci-fi environment design. His time-saving workflow allows concept artists to explore an environment design from many different angles and possibilities early in the sketching process without sketching multiple versions of the same scene.

Discover how James designs a gas station in the clouds, then follow along in Blender as he moves around the environment design in 3D, exploring and capturing interesting camera keyframes for the final render. You’ll see how James goes through the process of substituting the sketched scene from his chosen point of view with a realistic environment using a lineup of Kitbash elements. Once the scene is rendered, he works the keyframe concept through to a final polish using Photoshop.

This workshop is intended for intermediate Blender users; however, it also covers some of the basics for those just getting started. The purpose of this tutorial is to help provide a sound understanding of the Grease Pencil tool and to give you confidence in sketching your own environment designs from your imagination in a 3D environment.

Project files provided with this workshop include the final Gas Station Grease Pencil Environment Blender file and the rendered thumbnails from the various cameras in the scene, as well as the final rendered keyframe image.

Duration: 2h 36m

Format: HD 1920x1080

James Lewis-Vines

Lead Concept Artist at Fuse Games

James Lewis-Vines is Lead Concept Artist at Fuse Games and was previously a Senior Concept Artist with EA at BioWare and Criterion Games, working on Star Wars, Battlefield, and the Need For Speed titles. He also worked more recently as a matte painter for Disney.

James loves his craft and the collaborative energy that comes with making video games. As a concept artist, there is always a fresh problem to solve with a sketch, painting, or 3D model. He enjoys innovating with new techniques and technologies to create artwork that inspires the look and feel of new worlds, characters, and objects.

  • I have had the pleasure of working with James for several years and on multiple titles while at Criterion, and I have always found James to be an exceptional concept artist. He is a reliable, humble, hard-working team player who brings a lot of creativity and drive to the team. His attention to detail and ability to explore and visualize even the vaguest ideas into vision-defining pieces have helped shape all the projects he has been involved with.

    - Pedram Karimfazli
    Character Art Director at EA Ripple Effect Studios

  • Working with James was an incredible experience! I worked under his supervision at BioWare for around six months. He was always there to provide guidance and help me to improve my skills. His guidance has helped me in every aspect of my career as an artist. I always felt very welcome and motivated! Also, he is an exceptional concept artist. He has a strong knowledge of 3D software as well as 2D skills, so his work process is fast, efficient, and very compelling. I really admire how talented he is. He is such an inspiration for me, and I really appreciate that I've had a chance to work with him.

    - Eun Young Kim
    Concept Artist at BioWare

  • James quite simply puts the concept in concept artist. It is incredibly rare to find someone whose mind is so engaging and brimming with ideas — and James is that. Working with him has always been incredibly inspiring and fun; he is a passionate artist that strives for excellence in everything that he does — I must add that I can't wait to work with him again!

    - Felix Bauer-Schlichtegroll
    Art Director at The Mill, Los Angeles

  • I’ve worked with James for multiple years. I have found him a joy to work with; he’s multi-skilled, happy to learn new techniques, and has a very professional work ethic.

    - Wiek Luijken
    Art Director at Ubisoft