Eye-catching lighting plays a huge role in making an environment engaging and setting the mood. In an early concept like this one it’s important to establish the role that lighting will play in the art direction. Bounce light is especially exciting!
Lean on reference
I use reference for everything. Even if I’m stylising the art, things need to feel real. The more you let reference inform elements of your image, the stronger your work will be.
Depth of field
Using a limited depth of field gives an illustration a cinematic feel and this helps sell it as a real, three-dimensional location. It also helps make your focal point dominant over other parts of the painting.
Colour is very important and balancing your warms and cools is the most crucial part. I make the piece primarily about the warm reflected light off the dead leaves and log, while balancing that with a cool background of grass and filtered light.
Characters are important and I need to establish an engaging style for them as well as create iconic designs that feel fresh. This is also the time to loosely indicate the creative outfits, tools and weapons that the characters would use in the game.
I’d expect to see the equipment the player would use in the game world in any similar key concept art. This character carries a homemade projectile weapon made from found objects like pen caps and matches. There’s a sponge on his back to help float in water.