2019 | Fall Registration now Open!

Registration for our Fall Term is now open!

Drawing & Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design

An 8-week course to help you develop a design language for vehicle, mech, and hard surface design

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Develop drawing & rendering foundations

Drawing & Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design covers the benefits of ideation sketching, perspective, visual language, rendering and presentation techniques, and design intent. Focusing on the fundamentals of drawing and design, student will learn a process to deliver stronger designs using established concept design processes. Focusing on designing for production, students will learn how a concept artist fits into a production pipeline. Subjects include: developing design themes, thumbnails, visual vocabulary, believability applied to literal and fantastical subjects, materials, rendering, lighting, and presentation. Students will design both vehicles and mechs from thumbnail sketches through full concept illustration.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 8-10 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments.
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop (any), Wacom tablet (or equivalent)
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Dynamic Sketching 2 and Fundamentals of Design or good drawing foundation and understanding of perspective

Drawing & Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Using perspective to design vehicles & mechs | How to approach concept design for vehicles | Conceptualization & rough sketching, line art cleanup, basic value
Develop a visual library | When and how to use reference | Creating a design language
What makes a mech? | Develop impactful mech designs | Basic value and rendering
Establishing distinct design languages for vehicles with similar functions
Creating believable mech concepts in a variety of different styles
How to achieve realistic-looking materials | Painting & rendering techniques for vehicles & environments for design presentation
Step-by-step to creating complete mech designs
Painting & rendering techniques for mechs | Complete a render of your final mechanical/hardware design showing materials and overall structure of design

Taking your skills to the next level

Lectures by Michal Kus

Michal's passion for drawing carried over as when he noticed that he also likes to come up with his own shapes. This eventually led him to do some small time concept assignment when he was 19. After finishing his IT degree he decided he really wants to pursue his concept art passion instead of continuing a career in the IT sector. In 2012 He started his career officially and full-time as a concept artist for ISOTX in Utrecht, Holland. There he developed a special passion for hardware design and vehicles in varieties of styles and settings. Ranging from steampunk, dieselpunk to sci-fi. In 2013 he wanted to develop further and went freelance. Since then he worked for different kinds of projects mostly in the game industry. Clients include, Jellyfish Picutres, EA Games, Disney, Marvel, Platige Image.

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!

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?

Dissecting the Design

Interview with Travis Couch

Concept artist Travis Couch reflects on the design process and the value of references when creating his mech in Drawing & Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design.

Dissecting the Design



My name is Travis Couch and I live right now in Toronto, Canada, originally from Montreal. I`ve been in the mobile industry since 2008 as a 2d artist and concept artist. I have worked in companies such as Ea Mobile, DHX media and Big Viking Games. My study was in classical animation so I’ve had the opportunity to check out different unique avenues of art. I looked into the course ‘Drawing and Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design’ because I love world building, crafting all facets of how players and viewers can experience a world. Vehicles and technology was something I hadn’t been formally taught and it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. It helped that I’m a fan of Michal Kus’s artwork! 



WEEK 1 & 3



Going into this course my expectations were to acquire the skills to be able to design ships and technology. I love Sci-Fi but I often felt stressed when I had to start on a project that needed more robust designing of sci-fi pieces. It surprised me how easy it was to use real world items to help with designs and by the end of the course, brainstorming tech was so much easier. It’s very important to use perspective to give a feeling of space to tech design. Often these machines are huge and they need to feel like they have weight, even if they are flying. Furthermore perspective helps with making realistic design choices that strength the look of your tech.



The design for my space ship was all about flying beetles, specifically the way wings of a beetle come out of its open back shells and span out to fly. I liked the silhouette and how tank like it looked. This way of creating tech was a game changer for me. I always use references but I never thought to use animals for ships and mechs. It helped with formulating good nature based design choices and helped give that familiar, realistic touch to my designs. 




My biggest challenge during week 5 was actually designing tanks. I was getting lost in making cool looking designs instead of thinking how those decisions affected function. As a tank is a completely utility sort of vehicle, balancing these new ideas with realistic choices was difficult to balance. As I focused on a desert environment, I leaned heavily on using references from real world tanks in the field and used their specifics to help custom make a design. This taught me that researching is very important. When you know the specifics of a vehicle, what it needs to function and why these parts are important, that is when you can bend a bit reality and create something new while still keeping grounded. 



WEEK 7 & 8



My design reference was insects, specifically 6 legged insects with antennae. I wanted a mech that looked alien like but still could look like you can still see them in the battle field. My mech was a recon based build. My biggest challenge was having an understanding on how legs would fit into the base of the mech and how they would move. The 3D modeller would need to re create it so I had to make sure I was as clear as possible. I looked at my references and worked from simple big shapes to details. Taking it slowly worked for me because there were so many moving parts. It was a challenge but a lot of fun. 




I had 2 designs I was most proud about that take equal importance, my ship from week 3 and my mech design I finished in week 8. The ship was the first ship I made that had clear design choices and follow thru and I was happy that I understood what works and what doesn’t. My mech design was something I never thought I’d be able to do as I never really thought of ever doing a mech. The experience was amazing. Michal Kus’ demos helped me with my rendering mostly watching him go in depth into how he paints and what works for him. It gives you hints on how to approach your own art and experimenting with new skills. His feedback I’ve utilized in my own work like painting metal and rust as well as refractions and when to use them. He specifically helped me during week 2 and 3 on how to design realistic scifi ships using real world logic such as how pieces fit together and how gravity or speed can affect structure. My ship got a lot bulkier during those weeks. 

The assignment that was the most fun was week 3’s space ship assignment because that was the gateway where I started to wrap my mind on designing tech. The idea of balancing function and cool factor helped me a lot with designs in general. The hardest assignment was the mech design as I never thought I’d do one and the challenge was real. It felt great when I finished it and was one of my favourite assignments. 

I would definitely recommend the course because it helps connect the dots to so many aspects of design. With tech design you have to think of balancing function with cool factor. That transcends to character and background design and helped me out with my other projects. It was just a lot of fun! 

You can see more of Travis's work on Instagram and Artstation

Learning the Language

Interview with Chang Wei Chen

Concept artist Chang Wei Chen talks about his design process and how he embraced the shape language of mechs over the 8 weeks in Drawing & Rendering Techniques for Hardware Design.

Learning the Language


Hi everyone, my name is Chang Wei Chen. I come from Taiwan.  I’m a concept artist currently working in a VR studio based in Taiwan. I enjoy doing both 2D and 3D concept for any project.

I graduated from National Cheng Kung University in 2013 where I studied industrial design. I’ve always been more interested in the entertainment industry so after graduation I went to Singapore and learned concept art and design at FZD school of design. After graduating, I joined ACME game studio (Taiwan) as a full time concept artist working on an unannounced PS4 game project. It was a great experience there to understand the whole process of making a game. Then in 2018, I switched to a startup VR studio because I was interested in making content for this new technology. I also did some freelance illustration work for some board game projects, such as Monumental by Funforge SARL.

I wanted to learn hardware design from Michal kus so I took this class. I’ve followed him since 2014. I like his  mech designs because they look creative and still grounded to the real world so I wanted to learn his design thinking and process.  


Using Effective Reference



Week 2 homework is about designing something manmade which is inspired by nature. Michal taught us that it’s better to use the reference by extracting design elements and shape language from it and then apply these on the design.The demos in class showed me how to actually apply the idea from the class to your work.
I chose a WW2 aircraft and mantis for reference. I wanted to apply the organic and aggressive shape from the mantis onto the WW2 aircraft. I think nature references helped me to be more creative and manmade references helped me to keep the design more grounded and believable. 


Design Language & Style


The biggest challenge here was keeping the same design language on each tank robot and also making sure all parts of the robot somehow made sense or were believable. I decided to use a similar pose but different design style on each design. The first one is based on a NASA spacecar and the second one is based on a WW1 tank.



The second one was quite hard for me because I wanted to make my robot look like it was in the WW1 era but still advanced enough.  The feedback for this week is great. He usually draw on top of our homework and tells us why he'd change the design. So it’s quite easy for us to follow and fix our designs.  As a designer, I need to make both the exterior and interior of the robot appear functional, so I changed the cockpit of second design later. 



Introduction to Rendering


I usually start with base color. Then I add shadow layer, texture layer, and an ambient occlusion layer on top.  Finally I paint on top of these layers for a more detailed and hand-painted look. I think an important tip Michal provided is knowing what light hits which surface-- how these lights affect those surface materials. This helped me to think logically while I was rendering this mech. Also, to pay attention to the darkest darks. I usually don’t paint dark enough so my renderings sometimes look unfinished. These tips help me a lot.



Finishing and Rendering Mechs

I became fascinated with WW1 tanks by playing battlefield 1. I like the heavy and strong look of these machines. So I decided to do a WW1 tank robot. I gathered many animals references for its pose and started sketching. In the beginning, I couldn’t find a balance between shapes I like with the WW1 shape language. Then I started to look at the reference carefully and started designing with my intuition. I finally came up with something I liked. This homework let me know that I should really “use” these reference than just put them on the reference board. I also found a material reference while I was rendering the robot this time.  





Final Thoughts

Overall I like my week 6&8 homework. They are more refined and have more thought behind them. Week 6 was pretty fun because I got to just do rendering which is easier than designing new stuff. I think week 7 & 8 were hardest because I needed to use everything I learned from the course and apply it to these designs. But for me, I guess putting more time in and thinking carefully in each step can overcome these challenges. 

Yes, I think this course is good for people who want to learn how to design and the process of creating a mech. I got more confident in designing hard surface stuff after this class. Michal also shared his design thinking and his opinion of concept art industry which helped me a lot.