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Stylized 3D Asset Creation for Games

A 10-week course for creating finished environment assets and props for a stylized game environment

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Create fully rendered game environments

In this course you will create finished key environment assets and props that will work together in a stylized game environment. We will look at various stylistic approaches to games. Lectures and assignments will explore different styles for hand-painting textures, blocking out your scene, modeling your stylized assets, and creating final stylized textures for your assets. The goal is to create a fully-rendered collection of assets that you can include in your portfolio. Software used in this course includes: Maya, Photoshop, Z Brush, 3D Coat, Marmoset, and UDK 4. *Note: Must submit portfolio that includes some digital paintings, textures, & uv maps.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   10 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Maya, Photoshop, ZBrush, 3D Coat, Marmoset, and UDK 4
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Intermediate to advanced knowledge of Digital Painting (required), Basic to intermediate knowledge of modeling and Zbrush, and texturing skills. Course pre-req's: Intro to Production Modeling, Zbrush for Concept & Iteration, & Digital Painting.

Stylized 3D Asset Creation for Games WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Relevant games | Artist/influencers | What makes an asset stylized | The box: introduction to texture painting
Relevance | What games use 2.5 D | How it is used | 2.5D exterior scene: gather reference, block out scene, material painting demo: rocks
Examples of terrain blending | How it works | Vegetation painting demo: grass, dirt/soil | Blending in 2D for 3D
Examples of 2.5D Trees | How it works | 2.5D tree painting demo
Coming up with your own concept | Gather reference | Mix styles, references, ideas into 3D blockout | Implement 3D blockout into Marmoset | Concept a 2D painting over Marmoset Render
Paint-to-cam examples | How it works | Paint-to-cam demo | Intro to 3D Coat | Sketch in perspective | Floor painting demo in Photoshop | Clean in Krita
How prop sets are constructed | Block in 3D models (Maya) | UV (3D Coat / Maya) | Texture re-use: how to set up UVs to paint texture set | Block in using 3D Coat | Finish in Photoshop
Create stylized assets for RTS camera view | Intro to RTS gameplay / camera angle / style | Asset references
Tile-able textures in ZBrush | Block in designs in 2D | Block model in Maya | Implement into ZBrush | Sculpting techniques: brushes, workflow; bake maps from Zbrush; retopo high- low-poly; texture clean-up in Photoshop
Three faction types / structure types | How it works | Gather reference | How to concept / implement assets quickly | Block in model | Implement into Marmoset | Concept over asset blockout in Photoshop | UV in 3D Coat | Finalize texture in Photoshop

Your journey starts here

Kevin is an artist, game developer, and educator based in Berlin, Germany. He was most recently a Senior Environment Artist at Bigpoint GmbH and now working for Treasurehunt Studios. He has over 10 years of experience in the games industry on 8 AAA titles in various genres. His credits include several Blizzard games, such as Diablo III, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Litch King , Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, Total War: Warhammer. He has previously taught at Gnomon School of Visual Effects, instructing students on real-time asset creation, texturing, and world building, as well as portfolio mentoring.

Student interviews


October 11th!

fall TERM Registration

Jul 29, 2019 - Oct 14, 2019




October 11th!

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!

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Show us your skills

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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