Background Design 101

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About Course

Design backgrounds for animation!

Background Design 101 is an online course. We teach students to design backgrounds for traditional animation. This course is a credit course and is Included in our 3-year degree program.

Designing backgrounds for animation is the process of conceptualizing environments. This is based on the story of the animated film, and adapting it to the stylistic choices of the film. The primary role of the background artist is to design the stage on which the animation of the character and special effects takes place.

But I only want to draw Characters, not design backgrounds for animation!     WAAAAA!

Anyone can do background design right? Wrong! It takes skill and imagination to do it right! Most importantly, drawing backgrounds is not easy as it may seem. In traditional animation, the background is the drawing and/or painting of the background for a scene. It is not just another pretty painting! Backgrounds must be designed specially to not upstage the characters. It is important to have a clear focal point. That point should highlight the main actors of the film.

What about perspective??

You must also have a solid grasp of perspective. If you are like most animation students you just want to go straight to character design! However,  perspective is an important component of animation. You should know the basics of perspective in order to draw anything! People and trees, all need perspective. Therefore, don’t see this as a chore, but as a result of your desire to become the best, you can be!   That is to say, why not be more than just a person that can only do one thing? Do it all and do it well!  In other words, become a well-rounded artist that can design backgrounds for animation. For example, Look at comic book artists, they can do everything! As a result, they are superb draftsmen!

What do I do now?

Firstly learn the basics of 1 point perspective.   Secondly, study 2 point perspective. Further, learn 3 points. Above all, play with those concepts! After that the rest is easy! In other words, if you can understand composition and perspective you can do anything! Most importantly, know this, it really is not that hard. In addition, to these concepts, you have learned how to problem-solve.


In order to take this course, you need to have taken figure drawing or the equivalent.

Some of the topics discussed in this course are:

  • Drawings, Tones, and Colors of Backgrounds
  • Fantasy and Forest Backgrounds
  •  Dinosaur Lands
  • Designing Swamps
  • Composition and planes
  • tonal studies and abstract shapes
  • color pallets and monochromatic.
  • Warm and cool colors
  • Storytelling through background
  • Developing focus
  • Painting Analysis
  • Plein air
  • Focal points and character staging
  • Thumbnails and quick sketches
  • Details and finishing
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What Will You Learn?

  • Develop your draftsmanship skills
  • Get degree credit
  • Learn skill in a lucrative field

Course Content

Fantasy forest background
In this session you will create a fantasy forest background in a cartoony style.

  • Fantasy Forest Background
  • Fantasy Forest Tonal Composition session 1

Fantasy forest rough drawing
In this session you will work out the primary rough draft for your background

Fantasy forest tonal
learn to do a tonal study for your background

Fantasy forest color
Do the color version of your background.

Dinosaur land
in this session you will practice making thumb nails for your the next background we will be working on.

Dinosaur land tonal drawing
In this session you ill do the tonal study for your background.

Dino land rough color studies
This is your first try rough color study for this background

Dino land finished color
This will be your final finished background with color

Swamp drawing
Do a preliminary sketch of your swamp background

Swamp color
Finish and color your swamp background

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