Visual Development Step by Step

Sylvain Marc
8 Lessons (5h 54m)
8 Week(s)
English French Spanish Portuguese

Two Ways to Learn


most popular

  1. Watch Video Lessons at Your Own Pace
  2. Assignments Included
  3. Peer Feedback
  4. Switch Courses as Often as You Like
  5. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Critiqued Sessions

personalized instructor feedback

  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized paint-overs and feedback videos
  4. Peer feedback
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Physical Certificate of Completion (Mailed to you anywhere in the world)
  7. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Course Description

Visual development is a key role in the process of making an animated movie and creating whole worlds from scratch that will end up on the big screen and move audiences around the world. So when I thought about preparing a course about visual development, I thought of everything that is already available out there that covers the theory you would need to help you with your art: perspective, composition, values, contrast, and so on. But there’s one fundamental question that’s often unaddressed: What does it really take to become a good visual development artist and work in feature animation?

In this course, I’m going to share with you my own experience, my approach, as well as my thoughts and creative process in the form of a giant demo and making-of, if you will, as we put theory into practice. With a strong emphasis on environment design, you’ll come along with me as I take you on a journey through my brain and through my own process while I break down the steps of making artworks from start to finish, as if I were doing them for pre-production on an animated feature film. I will cover a wide-range of topics while I take you through the entire process from references and thumbnails, to rough and cleanup, to shading and lighting, and finally, color. I will even touch on character design in a dedicated lesson. Lastly, I will share some general tips and advice and my thoughts about freelancing remotely, which will hopefully help you as you move further in your career.

If you're interested in a career as a visual development artist for feature animation, this course will give you the know-how to create your own unique art that will help bring animated films to life!

With SELF TAUGHT classes, you get all access to the class videos as well as the critique videos but no personal critiques for your own work. To register for the SELF-TAUGHT classes click "REGISTER."

➡︎ For the ‘Critiqued Sessions’, students will meet up with Sylvain Marc LIVE once per week on Thursdays at 8am PT / 11am ET.

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Drawing Tablet

Lesson Plan

In this first lesson, I'll start by giving you an overview of my journey in animation from my first drawings, to my student work, all the way to my professional work, and share my early influences that helped me develop as an artist. I will also give you some insight about the role and responsibilities of a visual development artist and touch on the process of working on a film with a director to help them bring their vision to the big screen.

The real work starts here. In this lesson, I’ll pick a subject matter that will be explored during the entirety of the course. I’ll take you through the references I will use, how I intend to use them and why. We’ll then jump into thumbnailing both exterior and interior views of the chosen subject as I talk you through my thought process while doing it. I’ll also be giving you some tips on composition and lighting.

We’ll now focus on the interior view of our subject and push it to the finish line in the next few lessons. In this lesson, I’ll show you how I bring the thumbnail to the next stage: the rough. I’ll talk about perspective and how to add Procreate to the mix with one of its useful tools, and we’ll then move on to clean up the line. You’ll even see me make a big mistake in this lesson, which will become a teachable moment as I share how there are many lessons to be learned even when mistakes are made.

We’ll keep going into our creative task as we tackle the values and lighting of our scene. I’ll break it down into steps to make it fun! I’ll discuss how light affects the objects and creates volume, how shadows are cast and how light can be used to direct the eye to a point of interest.

Our journey continues as we move up to the finish line where we’ll color and paint our scene to make it a vibrant environment, sprinkled with some color theory.

Now that the environment is done, we can focus on character design. In this lesson, we’ll go back to our references to explore who our character is and do a few takes on them to try out various ideas and possibilities. We’ll then go on and add the character to the scene, work on their posing and integrate them to the final piece in a convincing way.

Now we’ll take all of our knowledge and put it to work in a crash course on the exterior environment, but with a slightly different approach.

Voilà! We’ve reached the end of the course! But before you go, I wanted to give you some final advice and share with you my incredible wisdom (sarcastic tone). So in our final lesson, I'll be going over the frequently asked questions I’ve received throughout the years. I'll cover topics such as my recommendations for someone wanting to start a career in visual development, how to build and organize your portfolio, I’ll share my experience of freelancing remotely with its pros and cons, I’ll touch on the money question and I will share some final book recommendations that I think will be very helpful as you continue your learning.


Sylvain Marc

Sylvain Marc is a French production designer, illustrator and animation director, born and raised in Paris, France, with almost fifteen years of experience in the animation industry. His experience ranges from art direction and visual development, to character design, direction, 2D/3D animation, storyboard, illustration, and comics.

As a freelance vis dev and story artist, he has worked with studios such as Netflix, Pixar, Laika, BlueSky, Sony Pictures Animation, Locksmith, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Framestore, Psyop, Passion Pictures and Hornet, to name a few.

When he's not doing art, you will find him gardening, planting trees, looking after his sheep, hens and cats, or building a ram pump to bring water up to the vegetable garden on his little homestead in the French-Basque countryside.