Post-apocalyptic Viking settlement

Post-apocalyptic Viking settlement

by lmaryon on 11 Sep 2020

“The Old-Worlders built their machines to last - but what were they looking for?...” An old mining facility has long since been abandoned by its previous inhabitants. It has now attracted new settlers, who are also interested in whatever it was the Old-Worlders were trying to uncover.

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Hello! Welcome to my process breakdown for one half of my FMP for my Masters degree in Game Art. The other half, a break down of the character development can be found on my Rookies page. 

“The Old-Worlders built their machines to last - but what were they looking for?...”

An old mining facility has long since been abandoned by its previous inhabitants. It has now attracted new settlers, who are also interested in whatever it was the Old-Worlders were trying to uncover. They have built a new settlement from the old panels and remains of the excavation equipment.

This Is part of my Final Major Project for University. For this project I wanted to create a world that was a blend of Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi and Iron Age Norse culture. I wanted to create a place in the Polar regions with a specific "hook" based in an alternative future where Norse culture and religion is still prevalent - and perhaps magic and giants too!

I hope you enjoy :)


For this environment piece I wanted to create a place in the Polar regions that, for a specific reason, has attracted settlers. It needed to be typically Norse in aesthetic but with post-apocalyptic or Sci-fi vibes. And there needed to be a centre piece or focal point.

I started by making some quick thumbnail sketches. The sketches took about a minute each and was simply a process of creating interesting shapes and compositions. This process included the use of custom shapes, the air brush and gradient tool as well as some custom brushes for texture.

I wanted to invoke a mood, a snowy landscape with an eerie quality to it.

 I took my favourite ones and arranged them together to see them clearer. 

In one thumbnail I ended up drawing what looked like a huge drill in the background, this immediately sparked an idea to incorporate huge mining equipment into the scene, and instantly would become the focal point of my image.

This incorporation moved the narrative of the brief forward, from what started as a vague description of a simple snowy landscape to something more complex and intriguing.

With the final thumbnail chosen, I decided to move forward. I did not want to waste time re-iterating on ideas when I had something interesting already.


Now that I had a descent looking thumbnail to work with I decided to do some more research and studies of interesting Norse architecture with the intention of incorporating them in to the environment piece going forward.

I find that doing studies before committing to a painting helps me get in to the mind of the peoples of that culture I’m trying to emulate. But it also allows a level of realism to be achieved which goes beyond the mere surface level aesthetic – for example, the construction of these longhouse gables and how they were attached on to the house became apparent as I was drawing them – giving me a deeper understanding of the construction methods they may have used. They are also highly decorative works which was prominent in Viking culture of the time and something I wanted to include in my own work.

The colour studies  helped me to understand what I wanted to say with the colour palette. The spots of bright reds and oranges contrasted against the larger areas of deep blues suggested a fight against a cold, imposing environment - or at least an uneasy truce which could be broken at any moment by the larger party.

I received feedback which suggested that the orange light suggests a more primitive culture than the red or blue light, simply because it looks more like firelight than an artificial light. I took the feedback on board and proceeded with the orange and blue palette.

I then did a quick colour test with the palette I obtained from the studies and with feedback incorporated.

Revising Composition

My initial thumbnail, although it served its purpose, I felt that the composition could do with revisiting. I did some more quick thumbnail sketches. One I really liked because I feel it really solved the early problems and gave the scene a more imposing look, by tilting the camera up so that it was looking up at the scene.

Adding Colour & Final Rendering

For the Next step of the painting process, after I had established my composition and colour palette, was to marry the two together. I took my revised composition sketch and my colour study and layered them on top of each other using an Overlay layer. I then continued to refine the piece, adding detail as I went. The shape of the drill changed quite a lot as I got feedback from Tutors and peers but the overall composition remained relatively the same.

Conclusion & what I would do next time

I feel that overall this piece was a success, I feel that my general workflow succeeded and I am really happy with the results. I did implement some new process’ and adjusted old ones which I will highlight here.

I spent less time in the thumbnail stage:

This was a huge step forward for me as I tend to get stuck in the ideation stage of a project and waste time trying out different avenues. With this one I chose a thumbnail that I liked early on and went with that. This allowed me more time in the later stages of the project to polish the piece and get it to a good standard.

I used my colour study in my final work:

The colour studies that I made, made their way into my final piece. I used a new method of combining the grey scale and colour together, which is by putting the greyscale in an Overlay layer on top of the colour study, rather than the other way around. I can then colour pick from the colour study and refine the piece.

I got feedback at every stage of the process:

It was a huge advantage having access to the GA discord to ask for feedback. I was able to ask tutors and peers for their thoughts and I don’t think I would have been able to push the piece forward without their help.

What would I do next time?

Next time I would perhaps try to use my time to explore the geography of the area a bit more by doing a top down view of the scene and picking different camera angles. I might make a 3D model next time as well, so that I can explore different angles easily. It would probably be a good idea to try and use more photobashing techniques to quicken the process too. I spent a lot of time painting, which I don’t regret because it shows off my painting skills. However, as a concept piece it will have taken too long.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my process, I hope you enjoyed seeing how this piece came together :)

All the best,


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