80 Level: Best Environments of 2021

2021 is almost over so let's take a look at some of the best environments that inspired us over the past year.

Hello everyone! 2021 is inevitably coming to an end, making us reminisce about the passing year and all the amazing projects that were covered here, on 80 Level. Dozens upon dozens of gorgeous environments, ultra-realistic and stylized characters, and fantastic, triple-A quality props created by you – our readers. We thank you all for inspiring us, sharing your experience, and we thank our followers for always providing much-needed feedback.

To celebrate the upcoming year and thank all of the fantastic artists that were featured on our website, we collected 10 of some of the best breakdowns related to environment art, filled to the brim with important pieces of advice related to 3D scene-making, cool techniques, and simply pleasing to look at. 

Let's get started! 

Our list opens with Vincent Barbe and his stylized Ghibli-inspired Giant's End Village scene, made using Blender, Substance software, ZBrush, and Unreal Engine. In the article, Vincent Barbe shared a detailed breakdown of the environment, explained how trees and assets were modeled in Blender, showed us how textures and subtle animations were set up, and more. If you are a fan of Ghibli Studio's art style, you should definitely check out this article.

Our next pick is the interview with an Environment Artist from Barcelona Jaume Rovira who shared a detailed breakdown of the Watchmaker's House scene, which the author recreated from a 2D concept. Made in 3ds Max, Substance 3D Painter, and UE4, the environment looks very cozy and well-detailed. The highlight of the article is Rovira's explanation of the asset-creation process. The author had explained how to make more than 40 unique props by reusing the same materials, so if you are also a Props Artist, this article might just be exactly what you were looking for.

The next environment that we want to mention is Vincent Boichut's UE4-powered French Countryside Scene made in Maya and Substance 3D Painter. In the breakdown, the author thoroughly explains the entire process of making this scene, talking about modeling the assets, texturing the house and the greenery, and setting up the lighting to achieve the desired look. Plus, Vincent shared his favorite tutorials and tool packs that helped him design this breathtaking French countryside-inspired piece.

In May, we had the pleasure to conduct an interview with an Environment Artist and a member of the PUBG development team Carlos Sánchez who told us all about creating various buildings for the game's ninth season. In the interview, Carlos explained how to work with modularity to create houses for a AAA game, talked about the tools the team uses in production, and taught us how to add personality to each building, despite their being modular. So, if you're a fan of the game, don't miss an opportunity to learn some behind-the-scenes information about PUBG.

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In our next interview, Head of Build at DNEG Montreal Fady Kadry showed us how to use ZBrush, Substance software, Houdini, Katana, and RenderMan to recreate the elvish town of Rivendell from the Lord of the Rings. In this interview, the author explained how an unrealistic bet turned into more than a year of hard work, told us how it felt to create this project using a home studio equipped with industry-standard software, and showed us how the Rivendell project went from a bunch of references to a stunning picturesque animation.

Halfway through our list, we have Viktor Colpaert and his breathtaking environment Sinking Temple, created using 3ds Max, Substance 3D Painter, ZBrush, and Unreal Engine and inspired by the Legend of Zelda fanwork. In this breakdown, the author talked about modeling the scene, texturing it, creating vegetation using Substance 3D Designer, and shared various useful tutorials that can help every aspiring artist to get better.

Up next, we have a cozy medieval stylized town created by a Prop/Environment Artist Silke Van Der Smissen. In this article, the author shared an extensive breakdown of the project, showed us the Unreal Engine 4 workflow that was used, and most importantly, explained how it is possible to create a gorgeous environment on a time constraint. Whether you are an aspiring artist willing to create stylized scenes or just need some eye candy to get distracted from some boring and tedious task, this interview is definitely worth checking out.

The next interview that we want to talk about was conducted with a 3D Environment Artist Gwanseon Oh regarding the Road to School project. In this article, the author told us how the real-world location was recreated using Megascans assets and Unreal Engine 5. The highlight of the interview is Gwanseon's thorough explanation of UE5's lighting tool Lumen and how it can be used to create a day-night cycle. If you want to learn more about Lumen, this article is exactly what you need.

This article was conducted in early November and belongs to a Polish Concept Artist and Illustrator Max Bedulenko. In this article, Max told us how the old Russia-inspired environment called Nogroth was created using only Blender and Photoshop. The author shared the entire working process – from coming up with the idea to assembling the final scene, explained how all the little details were scattered, and talked about his new project called Velvet Road. So, if you are a fan of snowy and detailed environments, this article is what you were looking for.

And finally, we have Livio Ambrosini's enormous breakdown of the Before The Storm project. In this article, the author talked about the working process behind the terrain, thoroughly explained how to create foilage using SpeedTree, 3ds Max, and Megascans, and showed us how to set up lighting in Unreal Engine 4. 

These were our favorite environments of the passing year. Do you agree with our picks? Did we miss a great environment or two? What was your favorite scene in 2021? Share your opinions in the comments.

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