Designing with Color and Light

Nathan Fowkes
9 Lessons (12h 53m)
9 Week(s)

Two Ways to Learn


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  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 Schoolism Webinar Archives

LIVE Classes

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  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized Paint-Overs and Real-Time Feedback From The Instructors
  4. Watch Video Lessons and Peer Feedback as Often as You'd Like
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Digital Certificate of Completion
  7. Weekly Class Meetings LIVE on Zoom
  8. Access to Schoolism Webinar Archives

Course Description

This course is a serious exploration of using color and light to create compelling concept art and environment design for entertainment art projects. I'll take you step by step through the practical application of:

- Color theory to create powerful color statements.

- Color choices that create a variety of emotional beats for storytelling.

- Designing atmosphere for a sense of environment and mood.

- Lighting design.

- Building your concept art portfolio.

Additionally, I'll show you how the production pipeline works at an entertainment design studio and the role of the art department in the design process. We'll go through the entire process of developing an idea by taking it through the stages of thumbnail comp, tonal rough, color rough and final color.

➡︎ For the ‘Critiqued Sessions’, students will meet up with Nathan Fowkes LIVE once per week on Tuesdays at 12pm PT / 3pm ET.

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

In my first lecture I'll give an introduction and class overview that will put you squarely on the path to engage your audience through the theatrical use of color and light. I'll take you through the entire design and development pipeline for an entertainment project and show you how an art department and individual artists use color and light to create a project that thrills their audience.

Even a high fantasy project has to be believable in order to create an immersive experience for your audience. In this lecture, I will cover principles for understanding color and light on a practical level to give a compelling believability to your work.

Color design is potentially complex and confusing but there are simple principles that can make color manageable for you. In this lecture, I'll show you my techniques for organizing the complexities of color into engaging harmonies that will create a sense of mood and environment in your work.

This week, I will focus on the profound relationship between color and emotion. Gaining an understanding of which color combinations elicit specific emotional responses in your audience will enhance your ability to tell a complex visual story.

In this demonstration, I'll apply the techniques taught in the previous lessons in a demo done in Photoshop to show how lighting, color design and harmony work together in a concept illustration.

Atmospheric effects can have a profound impact on the emotional content of an environment. This week, I will share my tips and techniques for creating a sense of mood and environment in a piece of work using the effects of light and atmosphere.

Guiding the audience with passages of light and shadow can be one of your most powerful artistic skills. In this lecture, I will show you how to use light and shadow as design elements to guide the eye and tell a story.

This lecture will consist of my Photoshop demo bringing together all the techniques and principles we have discussed into a concept illustration. We'll focus on how to keep the complexities and challenges of concept illustration manageable and organized.

A color script addresses the color and light design of an entire project sequentially rather than in a single illustration. My final lecture will combine principles from all the previous week as I show you how to get all the different elements of dynamic color and light design working together in the form of a color script.


Nathan Fowkes

Nathan Fowkes is a veteran entertainment industry artist with credits on 12 animated feature films including DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt, Spirit, several projects within the Shrek Universe, How to Train Your Dragon, Blue Sky’s Rio 2, Ferdinand and Wonder Park from Paramount Animation and development art for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Additionally, Nathan has been sought after as a consultant for game studios to enhance the quality of their theatrical presentation. He has worked with numerous clients including Riot Games, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Disney Interactive, Rovio, Supercell and many others.

Nathan is also well known as a teacher of color, light, design and traditional drawing and painting. He is a regular guest lecturer at Art Center College of Design and has taught at The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art and the Laguna College of Art and Design. He's the author of the bestselling How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal and How to Paint Landscapes in Watercolor and Gouache. His work can be seen at