Concept Artist

  • Concept Artist

Before the character and environment artists can get to the business of creating in-game assets, the concept artist toils away perfecting the minute details of a soldier’s helmet or spacecraft. As is implied by the title, this person converts intangible notions of a would-be hero or planet into fully realized images.


When the creative director and art director get an idea in their heads about a new game character or world, the concept artist is responsible for generating a portfolio of images to clarify that artistic vision. The artist begins with a few vague descriptions like “reptilian humanoid with battle armor” or “cute flying bubble creature” and returns with several different examples. The initial concept art is sketched on paper, and then refined to paintings and 3-D models. The iterations are discussed in art meetings until a final design is agreed upon. In addition to fleshing out characters, the concept artist is called upon to produce detailed illustrations of weapons, environments, and props—anything that appears in the game world. Under the supervision of the art director and lead concept artist, this person suggests color palette and mood; he or she must maintain a unified visual style that is consistent across each design. It is typical to go back and forth over hundreds of illustrations, tuning the finer points, before one design is approved. This repetition requires patience and a keen attention to detail.

Skills & Education

Artistic talent is the primary job requirement; the concept artist must provide a portfolio of work that displays proficiency in drawing, painting, and 3-D modeling with the use of software like Maya, 3ds Max, and ZBrush. A particular college degree is not uniformly required, but an education in fine art, graphic design, or game art is preferred. To prepare for this position, you should have a strong sense of color, anatomy, proportion, and aesthetics. The concept artist must be capable of clearly communicating his or her ideas, both verbally and on paper, and understand how to take constructive criticism and apply it to the design.

What to Expect

Concept artist is one of the most highly coveted roles in game development, and it is not easy to come by. Job openings are limited and the competition is stiff; to stand out among the eager crowd you will need a first-rate portfolio that exemplifies top-notch skills. Though you may have a few favorite figures you like to draw, step out of your comfort zone and experiment with creating imaginative designs for creatures, human characters, costumes, architecture, and vehicles; variety and versatility are key. Avoid mimicking what you’ve seen in films or other games; employers look for original art that establishes a unique style. On the job, you will be expected to translate the abstract ideas of others into comprehensive images and deliver on tight schedules; you may be called upon to quickly draft images during brainstorming session or produce storyboards. Experience in game development as a character artist, environment artist, or game designer is a good start toward work as a concept artist; most often your first gig in this role will come from an internal promotion after at least two shipped titles and proven excellence at your craft.


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