2020 | Winter Registration now Open!

Registration for our 2020 Winter Term is now open!


Creating Stylized Game Assets

A 10-week course for creating finished props and environment assets with hand-painted textures for a stylized game

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

From concept to finished assets

Students learn how to make stylized, hand-painted 3D art for video games. The course will cover the whole process from concept, model, texture, to completed asset. Students will create a variety of smaller projects, and one larger scene for their portfolio that targets their individual career goals. In the last week, there will be a stylized art test to give students a feel for what it takes to apply for a job on a stylized game! Students will be painting textures in Photoshop and mapping their textures onto 3D assets. Some assets will be provided, but students are encouraged to create their own.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   10 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop, 3D-Coat, and a 3D modeling program (3ds Max preferred)
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Basic painting and modeling skill. Course pre-req's: Intro to Production Modeling, Zbrush for Concept & Iteration & Digital Painting

Creating Stylized Game Assets WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Introduce different types of stylized art from different studios and artists | Model, UV, and paint a cube |Creating a simple model in 3ds Max | UV unwrapping in 3ds Max |Setting up a texture file in Photoshop | Basic painting demo
Fixed camera angles in different games | 2.5D techniques | 2.5D plant demo
Focus on story and readibilty: purpose should be clear | Modeling demo: pay attention to scale and silhouette | Doing paintovers to refine your shapes and plans
Planning your texture while modeling | Symmetry | Instances and References | UV unwrapping in 3D-Coat | Painting metal demo | Painting emmissive textures demo
Choose a game you want to work on, and create concepts for a new scene to fit into that world | Telling a story with your art--what characters live here and what are they doing? | Composition | Color Theory | Concept painting demo
Why use tiling textures? How to reuse textures. | Tiling in Photoshop: offset filter | Tiling in 3D-Coat | Considerations for tiling textures: noise, repetition | Painting grass demo | Painting dirt demo
Cards and alpha textures | Editing normals for plants | Painting plants demo | Painting wood demo | Painting metal demo
Hierarchy (each objects importance) | Camera angle | Gameplay requirements | Painting stone demo | Painting water demo
Painting cloth demo | Painting leather demo | Polish: Refining (details, lighting) | Final value, color, and composition tweaks
Art Test: Choosing a project that fits within an established game, but brings something new or interesting. | Example for WoW: updating a prop that's 10+ years old. | What to prioritize: matching style, silhouette, color palette, personality | Tips for working fast | Online Presentation: How to present your work to make the best impression | Different options for presenting your work like renders, or 3D model viewers like Marmoset Toolbag and Sketchfab | Uploading to ArtStation | Tips on using other social media platforms

Igniting your imagination

Ashleigh is a prop artist with six years of experience in the game industry making stylized 3D art, concept art, animation, and FX. She is currently at Blizzard Entertainment working on the World of Warcraft team, and has worked on four expansions: Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, Legion, and Battle for Azeroth. Her expertise is in hand-painting low poly game art, focusing on creating cultures and storytelling through objects--like a virtual set decorator. Ashleigh got her start with a traditional art education—a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts (Illustration) from Virginia Commonwealth University—and then moved into game art with a Master of Interactive Technology from The Guildhall at SMU. Now as an instructor, she created the prop art onboarding program and mentors new artists at Blizzard, and also provides feedback to students through portfolio reviews.

Student interviews


January 25th!

winter TERM Registration

Oct 21, 2019 - Feb 3, 2020




January 25th!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

environment design Benefits


What makes this learning experience unique?

Personal Feedback

Receive personal individual feedback on all submitted assignments from the industries best artist.

1+ Year Access

Enjoy over 365 days of full course access. This includes all lectures, feedback, and Live Q&A recordings.

Certificate of Completion

Earn a Certificate of Completion when you complete and turn in 80% of course assignments.

Flexible Learning

Learn anywhere, anytime, and at your own pace with our online courses.

Speak to an advisor

Need guidance or course recommendations? Let us help!

Have you taken a course with us before?

Show us your skills

Not sure if you have the skills, or are you proving you do? Show us.

Have you taken a course with us before?

Creating Hand-Painted Dioramas

Interview with Dawnson Chen

 Dawnson Chen breaks down his assignment from the Stylized 3D Asset Creation for Games course.

Creating Hand-Painted Dioramas

Hi, my name is Dawnson Chen and I am currently taking the Stylized 3D Asset Creation for Games course, taught by Kevin B. Griffith, on CGMA. I am going to break down one of my assignments we did in the course.


I graduated with a four-year Bachelor of Arts and Animation program at Sheridan College. That was where I learned most of my traditional skills, like drawing and painting. Following Sheridan, I took a one-year Game Arts program from Seneca College, where I learned how model and texture.

After school, I landed a job at Gameloft Montreal as an Environment Artist, and that is where I currently still am. We recently released a new game, Gangstar New Orleans, which is my first released title.

This is my second CGMA course; the first was Environment Design with Aaron Limonick. The goal of taking both these courses was to improve my design skills. Both Aaron and Kevin have been great mentors in helping me achieve that.

The Assignment

The goal of the assignment was to create a small stylized 2.5D vignette that included multiple material elements: rocks, terrain, foliage and something manmade. It is based on a workflow similar to games like Diablo 3 and League of Legends.  We used four 2048 textures, one for each element, and the final scene was to be presented and lit in Marmoset Toolbag.

The Concept

I chose to do a witch’s cauldron brewing a potion in the woods. Normally I would do a bit of a concept painting, but time was an issue. I only had a napkin sketch of the idea, so instead, I found a really nice painting on Artstation, done by Grace Liu. I used it as a mood inspiration and tried to imagine my cauldron inside that painting.

Block Out

I began modeling a block out inside of 3dsMax, just to get a sense of scale and position for most of the elements. Everything is really rough here. I didn’t use any of these meshes for the final.

Modeling and Texturing Rocks

Then I went to Photoshop and began painting the rocks. I used the meshes from the block out as a reference and painted their approximate shapes. When I was happy with the painting I went back to 3dsMax to start modeling. I started by mapping the rock texture to a plane and began cutting the plane, trying to follow the volume of the rock.

Once the plane was all cut, I began to mold it into a 3d shape. I pulled out the areas that came forward, trying to give the rock some volume. This part can be a bit tricky; it just takes some time to massage the mesh into the shape you want without stretching the texture too much. After I finished all the rocks, I replaced the block out mesh with the textured mesh to see how it fit into the scene.


The next part was the terrain. I painted two tileable textures: one rock and one grass. Then I blended the two of them together, trying to keep the shapes of the blades of the grass. After I painted in a rough shadow on a separate layer, I keep it rough because at this point things are still being shifted around. I also painted a circle in the alpha channel to give the base a circular shape and grass coming off of the edges.


Here I did a quick paint-over of the props I wanted to make for the next stage. I like doing this because it helps me take inventory of what I have left to do, and also see what I can get away with repeating a few times. As you can see, I changed my mind about a few props for the final. After getting feedback from Kevin and other people, I thought it would be clearer if I left out the some of the props and kept it more focused on the witch theme.

Marmoset Toolbag and Lighting

*Note: I added the trees and foliage; they were made the same way as the rocks so not much to explain.

At this point, I imported everything into Marmoset Toolbag and did the first pass on the lighting. The lighting for this scene is very simple. I just had one main warm directional light coming from the top left and a cool backlight to give the objects some rim lighting. Then I added some Omni lights in a few places where I wanted to draw the eye (the fire, the book etc.)


*warm directional light is offscreen

Props and Polish

The final step was making the props. Unlike the rest of the scene, which is 2.5D, the props are all 3D. This way I could rotate and place them around wherever I needed. After I finished painting the props, I scattered them around the scene.

Finally, I went back and did a polishing pass. I cleaned up some areas in the rocks and trees, just adding some details at the points of interest. I made sure the shadow on the terrain matched the rocks and props and I fixed the discoloration in the grass planes. And for the cherry on top I added some bubbles.

This was a fun scene to work on. I enjoyed having time to paint everything and polish until I was satisfied. It was really good practice for doing hand painted textures, which I hadn’t done too much of it the past. Thanks, Kevin, CGMA, and Gameloft for the experience.

Hand-Painted Interior of Cat's Bakery

Interview with Joanna Lin

Joanna Lin explained how she worked on her recent stylized hand-painted scene Cat’s Bakery made with diffuse maps only. 

Hand-Painted Interior of Cat's Bakery


Hi! My name is Joanna Lin and I’m an environment artist from Seattle. I enjoy low-poly, hand-painted textured assets and I’m fairly new to the industry. My first industry job was at Topstitch Games making Trip Troupe for Mixer’s interactive feature and now I’m with AggroCrab Gamesworking on their new game.

I have always loved video games and drawing as a child but combining them was not something I even dreamt of until after finishing my undergrad. After enrolling into a local game art school in Seattle I found a particular passion for creating and directing the art for games. Video game art has the potential to take on another form. Its power to captivate and enthrall players and spectators with its interactions in the context of games gives it a special feeling that I want to always emulate in my work.

Cat’s Bakery


The goal of the assignment was to create a stylized interior within a “fantasy tavern” theme. The scene required a large number of props and the wall and floor textures were painted in a “paint-to-cam” method used in games like Diablo 3 and Starcraft. We had two 1024 textures for the floor and wall and the prop textures were done on a 2048 texture. The final scene was lit and presented in Marmoset Toolbag.

I chose a cat-themed bakery with a cozy atmosphere similar to that of a warm, bustling interior of a tavern. The cat-kiln was the main centerpiece of the scene and I was also heavily inspired by Vasili Zorin’s concept art pieces he created for a Hearthstone animated short. My concept was bringing that style and atmosphere together with the centerpiece and building off of that concept.

First Steps

I started with a rough sketch and then began roughly blocking out the scene and implementing lighting to get a general feel for the interior.

It may have been a bit overkill to also model out all the props (which were the final meshes for the scene) and then paint over that but it helped me lay down the colors for the textures quickly and it worked out fairly well for my workflow. In the future, I feel I would paint over the initial rough graybox to lay down the idea a bit quicker.

Hand-Painted Textures with Diffuse Maps

A lot of painterly and stylized scenes use diffuse only and this approach is mainly about the artistic style. You get a very specific look with it and this look currently can’t be achieved without this method. I think when it comes to choosing the methods, it’s just a matter of choice and depends on the style you are going for!

I approached most of the textures in the same manner – by starting out with a flat color, defining any large shapes and patterns and then slowly building more details on top. I spent the most time with the detailing on the floor texture. For the props in the scene, the textures were fairly simple but they worked out well.





Everything was modeled in Maya and I tried to keep the forms basic but not too rigid either. I actually enjoy 3D Coat’s UV system a lot so I UV unwrapped a few slightly more complex models there instead of Maya.


I set up the lighting once I finished the initial graybox for the scene. There are a few Omni lights in the scene: an orange and yellow one in the kiln, a soft blue one for the window behind it and a purple one to the right for extra rim lighting. The only lighting that was painted onto a texture in this scene is the blue light on the kiln’s ears and pipe which helps sell the blue lighting there.


This is my first time doing a scene like this so I still have much to learn but I’m also proud that it’s presentable and close to what I envisioned! What I really enjoy is a low poly look with painted textures that give a charming effect. I tend to be too focused on the details sometimes but over the course of this project, I found a balance in how much detail is actually shown on the props. In terms of using Marmoset Toolbag, I feel that the lighting along with the global illumination setting really helps bring the scene to life. Coming from a 2D background and translating things to 3D helped me see what I could get away with. Things don’t always have to be complicated and crazy-detailed to look good!

Joanna Lin, 2D/3D artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev