How to create beautiful scenes in Unity? 4 Easy Tips that just works.

No one cares about mediocre images and videos. Whether you want to sell your game, asset, or just have fun on a social page by earning likes and shares, you need an eye-catching screenshot or video. In this article, I show you 4 easy trick that helps you make beautiful scenes in Unity.

Most of the examples are part of my Level Design Challenge. My goal is to make 100 unique scenes. I do this to improve my skills and to test our assets. I've not yet finished this challenge, but I want to share what I have learned so far.

The examples I show in this article are made for our Deadly Dungeon: Infernal asset. Mainly because I enjoyed working with this kit, and the experiences are fresh.

Use a reference

You don't need concept art to make something great (though it helps a lot) but never work right out of the top of your head. Even the best artists use some sort of reference for their work. References help you stay on track, give you guidance, and you can always learn from other artists' work.

I used several references while I worked on the infernal series. As you can see, some of my scenes are very similar to the original artworks. In other cases, I went rogue and changed a lot.

Reference image and the final render.

Antonio De Luca made the piece of art that we used as a reference not only for the Demons Den scene but for the asset itself.

 The reference and the final result of Infernal Bridge. I differ quite a much.

Ilya Nazaron made this concept art for Lord of The Rings War In The North. As you can see, the result is quite different. I focused on the colors and shapes instead of the actual image here. Fun fact: I didn't even realize these are bridges and not chains. :D

Reference and the end result of the Hell's Gate

The original artwork is an illustration for the Gauntlet by ortsmor. I changed from the savage look to a more controlled tyranny feeling. 

Reference and the result image of the Infernal Fortress

Unfortunately, I don't know who is the artist behind this master piece. I found it on Pinterest. For this, I used the Lava & Vulcano Environment asset from Nature Manufacture (read the blogpost). 

 

Use the right colors

You can raise your level to a whole new level by just adding a few colored point lights to the scene. The important here is what colors you should use.

I would recommend starting with two complementary colors: red + green, orange + blue, or something similar. If you are not familiar with terms of the color wheel, color theory, and color harmony, here is a great article about them.

Never use two colors in a 1:1 ratio. It makes understanding what's going on difficult. You should pick one color that you use 60-80% of the time. The other one will give a contrast to your scene.

In this scene, I used a reddish-orange as my primary color and a cyan as my secondary. Orange dominates on the image, the cyan appears only in 10-20%.

 

Use Post Process

Post-process is a great tool to give your scene a more professional look. In Unity, there are two ways to get your effects: if you are using URP or HDPR, use the built-in Volume component.

If you go with the Built-In rendering pipeline, you can find the Post-Processing Stack in the package manager.

There are many different effects you can tweak, easy to get lost in those settings. Fear not! I show you four easy that can drive you a long way.

  • Tonemapping: a process of remapping the HDR values of an image to a new range of values (wiki). I use ACES almost all the time. This option gives a more cinematic look. In the URP/HDRP Volume, it has its own component, but in the Post Processing Stack, you can find it under the Color Grading option.
  • Vignette: You can use this to draw focus to the center of an image. The term exists in photography too. Start with the rounded version with 0.1-0.2 as intensity they play with it. Perfect when you don't notice the effect unless you start toggling it.
  • Bloom: Creates the illusion of extremely bright light overwhelming the camera. This gives your scene a shiny or glassy look, which is considered professional these days.
  • Depth of Field: This effect simulates the focus properties of the camera. This is very powerful and makes your scene more realistic. You can even make a miniature effect with this (called Tilt-Shift in photography).

Volumetric lights

Volumetric lights allow the viewer to see beams of light shining through the environment. It is also called god-rays. It simulates the real-word effect when the light refracts on fog or smoke particles.

It gives the level a more ‘realistic’ look, and you can draw the focus on certain parts of your scene.

Depending on what rendering pipeline you use, you can achieve volumetric lights differently. Important to know, volumetric lighting is costly in performance.

  • In HDRP, every light source has the option to use as a volumetric light. To learn how to use it, read the documentation.
  • In the Built-In pipeline, you can use Aura 2 to achieve this effect.
  • In URP, it’s kind of a headache. You might be better off to fake this effect by modeling a cone and put a transparent material on it. 
 

Further reading

 I recommend to read these articles next: 

If you want to learn more, I would suggest searching around in areas like photography and cinematography. These industries have a lot in common, and understanding one will give you an advantage over the other.

Finally, here is my speed level design playlist. One of the best ways to learn something is to watch someone doing it. :)

Thank you!

Hope you enjoyed this post. Please share this post with your friends and on social media. 

Do you have a question, suggestion or a critique? Let me know in the comments below! I appreciate all feedbacks! :)

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