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Even before Entertainment Illustrator and Concept Designer Audrey Jung lived close to Disneyland, she would often visit theme-parks to draw and paint, using the environment as an inspiration. This project was her first time being on the other side of her easel, designing the physical space of a themed-environment. In addition to learning industry secrets and small workflow hacks, Audrey created a fantasy witch cove that is not only compelling but functional. Read Audrey’s process to create a Disneyland-ready theme park environment, including:

  1. Conceptual Sketching
  2. Beautification
  3. Scale Consideration
  4. 3D Massing
  5. Photo Shoot Decisions
  6. Final Visuals

Hi, my name is Audrey Jung, and I’m an artist from Southern California. I’ve been an entertainment illustrator, specifically in the mobile game (MobilityWare) and board game (Gap Closer Games) industries, for the past 6-7 years. I love to take classes and workshops for plein air painting, compositional drawing, and figures from various instructors whom I admire. After years of painting and drawing at Disneyland and other parks, I decided to follow my interest in theme park design.

1. Conceptual Sketching

I took Themed Environment Design, taught by Luc Steadman, because I wanted to create theme park/themed environment design and needed more practical skills and industry-insight. From Luc’s great wealth of industry knowledge, I realized that theme park designers design the way they do for a couple of reasons. It really comes down to dimensions and budgets. In addition to the time and money limitations, real-world art has real-world parameters. You can’t just CGI a solution for theme environments. It’s incredible how Luc can just glance over my sketches and immediately know that’s too expensive to build.


I love to take classes and workshops for plein air painting, compositional drawing, and figures from various instructors whom I admire.

Audrey Jung, Entertainment Illustrator and Concept Designer


I started with thumbnail sketches and silhouettes for our land icon. For my idea, I wanted to do a fantasy theme about a witch who lives in a tree. Luc wanted us to have two different directions within the same idea, and then have variations on those ideas. Using reference photos to see if/how certain ideas would work, I came up with several versions for my favorite direction (seen below). After that, I did a black and white value study.

If you’re looking to build an environment from the ground up, explore CGMA course Fundamentals of Environment Design.

2. Beautification

For week 2, we painted our idea in color. Luc wanted me to add more detail on who lives in the tree. He emphasized kinetic movement, storytelling, and multiple materials as essential considerations while building the environment. I used more reference photos as I addressed Luc’s notes. My goal in this stage was to push the design without sacrificing physical practicality.

Learn how to optimize color in your art with CGMA course The Art Of Color And Light.

3. Scale Consideration

Next, I worked on elevations and floor plans of the land. This stage is what I love about theme park design – dimensions and parameters! Luc taught us a trick to know how large things are: use Google Maps to take screenshots of Disneyland with the distance marker (Disneyland is the best reference because it’s the industry leader). Then, measure out the show buildings in photoshop with the ruler tool.

By Theme Parks and Entertainment

When I first drew out my land, I based it on the size of Disneyland’s Fantasyland show buildings. I didn’t realize that with the new technology, theme parks don’t build small dark rides anymore. You have to think about trackless ride systems and account for how big their show buildings are. I also learned the show buildings for the new Star Wars addition are bigger than all of Fantasyland. That blew my mind!

By Disney Parks Blog

We also had to concept several supporting buildings on the land. These will eventually be restaurants, kiosks, and retail locations. Originally, I drew my surrounding buildings at the same height as the icon of the land, but Luc reminded me that they can’t be as tall or as important-looking as the main attraction. He also said it was cheapest to build rectangle buildings and use cement to mold the design around the building. So again, he taught me that there were limits to dimensions, what I could design, and how to keep it affordable for the client.


Luc is one of the best instructors/art directors I’ve ever had…. He doesn’t hold back on any industry secrets….


4. 3D Massing

I didn’t have a lot of experience with 3D programs, but Luc demonstrated how to use photoshop’s 3D plugin to our advantage. We could cut our elevation into layers and use them as “cards” and place them perpendicular to our floor plan layout. Then we could move the camera around and take “pictures” of different composition references for our Point-of-View painting later.

This was very useful because you need to know if the guest can see the icon from the designed pathways. If not, time to clear some trees or adjust the walkways. Even though Photoshop’s 3D system was limited, it was exactly the amount of 3D I needed for my purposes. It was quick enough that I didn’t have to build out everything, though Luc did show us his personal preference of using Modo and SketchUp, which may be more useful for another student.

If you want more tips to leverage 3D tools, 3D for 2D Artists is the CGMA course for you.

5. Photo Shoot Decisions

Next, we did black-and-white value and different time-of-day color studies to see what would sell the idea best to the client. You definitely want to pick the best scenario possible for your idea.

I picked the golden hour. Not only did it bring, but it was bright enough for the client to know what the materials are. Eventually, I would like to do a nighttime painting since it would be equally as magical, if not more.

6. Final Visuals

Our last week was our final Point-of-View (POV) painting. Here is where we had to paint the background scenery and supporting elements. The painting didn’t have to be 100% accurate to the elevation/floor plan dimensions – but at least 80%. You have to add people to the scene as well. It’s very important to have people look like they’re enjoying their experience and for them to have consistent lighting with the scene. Luc’s feedback was for me to add cast-members and character-meet-and-greets since you want to show as much of the potential experience as possible, so I added those as well. The goal is to sell the story and make the viewer want to be there as well.

Watch Luc’s one-on-one session with a student to see how instructor feedback can enhance your work.

Final Thoughts

  • Luc is one of the best instructors/art directors I’ve ever had. I’ve stayed in contact with him since class ended and got to work on a small project with him. It was cool because what he taught in class was what he does in his studio as well. He doesn’t hold back on any industry secrets and genuinely wants you to be ready for what’s needed in the themed environment design world (or at least what’s needed for his studio).
  • My key takeaway for themed environment design is taking a limited budget/dimension and design it to look as awesome as you can with the limitations you’re given. I really think that’s where creativity and resourcefulness come into play for problem-solving. From talking to Luc, I’ve also learned other things designers should think about, like what market are they catering to, what experience do they want them to have, and how long they plan on the guests being there vs. the cost of ticket and cost of running a theme park. There are so many things that go into themed environment design, and I’m glad I got to see part of the iceberg.
  • Some advice for future students of Themed Environment Design is to do as much of the homework to the best of your ability. Luc will help with the material you give him. Ask as many questions as you can. I took the class when everything first shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. When things open back up again, pay attention to how big things are at the Disney and Universal parks to get a better grasp of what and how to design.
  • This was my first CGMA class. I enjoyed the recorded video format which allowed me to replay the lecture multiple times until I understood what he wanted for each assignment. I know that this may not be the experience that every online class has, but there were only 3 of us in the class when I took it, so I got a lot of personal time with the teacher. He spent like 45 minutes per student sometimes for review and customized it to each student’s level so they could understand. I really appreciated that.

RELATED PAGES

If you’re looking to build an environment from the ground up, explore CGMA course Fundamentals of Environment Design.

Learn how to optimize color in your art with CGMA course The Art Of Color And Light.

If you want more tips to leverage 3D tools, 3D for 2D Artists is the CGMA course for you.

Watch Luc’s one-on-one session with a student to see how instructor feedback can enhance your work.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.