I am no expert, but I have a few thoughts on the process; and some questions that might help you. Take them with a grain a salt.
• What is the end use of the level?
- Are you just doing a render inside UE4 or do you intend to use this for game play?
I ask because this will impact your level design. Obviously if you are just doing a render your placement of assets is based on lighting and the camera angles you intend to use. If you intend to let players into the level, then before you go laying out the level you should know how the player intends to travel through the world, are they driving a vehicle, flying; does it involve climbing or ledge grabbing etc…
It seems like you are just starting out so I am not sure if you are going to be testing out any gameplay mechanics. If that is your plan though; keep in mind that it is a good idea to “Block Out” your level before finalizing it, so you can test your gameplay mechanics with the flow of your level layout to see if it works well or not. Fully designing your level around any particular game play mechanic(s) without actually testing them might turn out to be a waste of time. Test first, and then decide your level layout.
As far as the process of building your level goes;
This can vary depending on your workflow. In general though, if it was me I would think of level design in terms of layers. As with any art project, typically you build things in layers. You start off with the basic form and layout of your level, and then you add the detail.
•Laying out the basic form includes building the level to suggest where the playing area is and where the player is intended to go. This should be subtle; hinting at the player.
Next, add the detail.
•Detail can include anything; textures, props, decals, particle systems, audio etc. that bring your level to life. Put in your assets, position and place them as you see fit, and then
add the detail. They call this “set dressing”. Where after you block out your level, you go in and dress it up.
- You could include lighting in this step as well, but I like to make that a whole step in and of itself because of how much work it can turn out to be. It helps to break your work
out into steps. It keeps things manageable and organized.
So to recap my thought process; if you were to think of this process in terms of layers, you would consider layer 1, the blocked out level that determines player boundaries directions. Layer 2 would include dressing the level and adding detail to bring it to life.
These are my general thoughts on the level design process and should be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps some more experienced than I can comment.