2D Environment Design Program

Build your world-design expertise from the ground up with this program for environment-focused entertainment design roles

Courses start on Jul 11, 2020


15 months


Foundation & Design Program or a suitable portfolio submission + Block 0

Foundations & Design Program overview

Program Overview

Learn the roles of an Environment Designer

There are few roles quite as liberating as that of the environment designer. This is a discipline where artists have the freedom to conjure up their own visions for entire worlds. Drawing on an understanding and appreciation of nature, architecture, illustration, photography, cinema, and more, environment designers weave together the images that breathe life into a story and set the visual tone for all subsequent art development. In the world of film, visual development artists are tasked with mapping out the locations that--regardless of whether they’re ultimately built physically or digitally--will work hand-in-hand with performance and script to draw the audience in, enhance the drama, and incite specific emotional responses as each scene requires. Additionally, video game environment design involves the unique opportunities and challenges afforded by an interactive medium--one where the player’s actions, perspectives, and gameplay journey must all find a home within the artist’s worldview. Our Environment Design Program has been designed to give artists the skills and know-how necessary to tackle this discipline in any medium, featuring classes that cover all key aspects of natural and solid-surface environment design, matte painting and sketching, narrative illustration, and composition. Upon completion, certified students will be well placed to pursue a career as a concept artist, environment designer or visual development artist.

Enrolling into a CGMA Program is a simple and painless affair. Once you've decided on which program you want to complete, simply register and start taking the classes outlined in your program's block list. That's it! 

On average, we recommend 1-to-2 courses per term. Should you wish to complete the program at an accelerated rate please contact registration@cgmasteracademy.com. Additionally, you only pay for the course(s) you take in a given term (so no need to pay for an entire program upfront). And, after completing all the block-courses in a given program, you will be awarded a Program Certificate of Completion.

In order to qualify for a program certificate of completion, students must enroll in 10 courses and complete at least 8 in this program. This will be a combination of the program’s standard block courses (1-5) and up to 2 electives. Students should note that Block 0 will not count toward the program total. 

Prerequisites Foundation & Design Program or a suitable portfolio submission + Block 0



Kickstarting pre-production, the story development phase is where ideas are born, developed, and (at one point or another) green lit. Whether this involves storyboards, initial concept documentation, or a full script will vary depending on the project and the chosen entertainment medium, but the goal is essentially the same: to map out the people, places, actions, interactions, and story beats that will drive the narrative and maximize its potential. Technical and budgetary limitations may come into play (especially with video game projects, where producers, programmers, and artists might all be involved in story development), but artistic decisions regarding the visual attributes of each character will largely be made in service of the story, while location and environment choices will be made to complement and enhance the mood, intent, and action within each scene.


This is where environment designers (or visual development artists, in the case of film work) have the chance to shine. The story may determine what is shown and why, but it’s the artist’s job to determine HOW. A script may use just three words to describe a jungle, for example, but the artist will then draw upon countless references, make a myriad of artistic choices, and utilize a multitude of techniques and tools in order to turn that short description into a bold vision. And they’ll do it again and again, until every location is thoroughly explored and visualized using a multitude of concept images and reference libraries.


The term "modelling" is something of a catch-all for the next stage in the pipeline--since the way in which all that carefully crafted artwork is then utilized will vary from one medium to another, as well as from project to project. In film, it might feed directly into digital matte painting and physical prop/location building work, while in a games studio it will act as the lead-in to the level design, blocking and modeling phase--with those static pieces of artwork expanded into a set of complex 3D environments rich in texture, shading, and lighting detail. In all cases, the final designs will need to reflect the practical needs of the story, its inhabitants, and the viewers’ window on the action, while with gaming the interactive nature of the levels will also be a key design consideration.

Foundations & Design CURRICULUM


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The following requirements are only mandatory for students enrolling in the 2020 Spring Term and beyond. For all students who enrolled prior to the 2020 Spring term, they have the choice of continuing with the previous format or take advantage of our updated/optimized version.

In order to qualify for a program certificate of completion, students must enroll in at least 10 courses and complete at least 8 in this program. This will be a combination of the program’s standard block courses and up to 2 electives.

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