“In the games industry, the line between level designer and environment artist is becoming more and more blurred,” says Wiktor Öhman, Product Strategist & Art Lead at Epic Games (Quixel). “The best environment artists are the ones who help make sure readability is further improved, whilst guiding players through their worlds.”
Being able to think outside the boxIn order to build cohesive worlds quickly, it’s important to learn to take existing assets and reuse them in an interesting way.
“Reuse plays a huge role in the job of an environment artist,” adds Homer. “Simply having the ability to take an existing asset and reuse it in an interesting way is a key skill to building cohesive worlds quickly.”
From building trees in SpeedTree to painting terrain in Unreal Engine, environment artists need to retain a working knowledge of many different tools. For example, Fortnite Senior Environment Artist Scott Homer uses:
Being a fast learner
Understanding light and colorIt’s crucial to understand the importance of light and color in the overall scene. The best environment artists will use both to their advantage.
Creating environments often involves a lot of patience. Artists work for hours to make sure erosion, decay, and weathering feel real, while every plant or rock has a purpose and is integrated into the overall scene.
“Environments generally take a while and you often need to work in the same area for a long time, pushing pebbles,” says Öhman. “It can take some time, but there's something very satisfying that happens when everything just clicks.”
“You’re going to be judged based on your best and worst work, so consistency across the board will be better for you in the long run,” adds Homer. “Remove anything that doesn’t represent your current level of skill.”
“When I was looking to come to Epic Games, I knew the creative teams here had just been working on Gears of War and had been very focused on destruction, gritty realism, and highly detailed decorative pieces. I tailored my portfolio to that, which really helped it grab the right attention,” says Homer.
“I think one of the most important things to grow as an artist is to always grow both your physical and mental reference library,” adds Öhman. “Buy books, take photos, and spend time in the world. Take a short hike and truly look at things and ask questions. Go to a museum you've never gone to and consume a lot of media. This will not only help you create new and original ideas, but also create remixed ideas from existing things.”
✓ I have a passion for world-building
✓ I enjoy working in teams
✓ I have the ability to work under pressure
✓ I have a great understanding of multiple tools
✓ I am skilled at using color and light
✓ I am skilled at reusing objects and materials
✓ I enjoy art and technology