Effects Artist

  • Effects Artist

Within game art there are a number of specialties, including that of visual effects; this can range from combustion and particle effects to water, wind, or foliage. Effects artists (or FX artists) are responsible for creating these assets for regular gameplay and cinematic cut scenes, in collaboration with game designers and the art director.


Effects artists have the distinction of overlapping responsibilities that include 2-D and 3-D art creation, as well as animation and creative direction. Working closely with the senior project leaders, the artist consults on the development, implementation, and optimization of visual effects (VFX) for a video game. He or she is also consulted concerning the integration of effects into the existing gameplay mechanics, and on the technique and style of the effects. Like character art or environment, the game’s VFX should adhere to a cohesive aesthetic as set forth by the creative director and art director. The FX artist is responsible for in-game and pre-rendered VFX, as well as post-production art to be used in cinematics, commercials, or promotional web content. In some cases, this person may also be called upon to produce concept art.

While it may be preferable to most artists to be left to their own creative devices, a necessary part of the job is participating in design meetings. The FX artist may have to take several passes at an effect’s design, presenting several versions of a car fire to a discerning group of opinionated decision-makers. When the third, sixth, or 20th iteration is finally approved, you will attend more meetings, in which additional changes will inevitably pop up. Flexibility and the willingness to quickly shift gears is a necessary trait when working in game design. There is no room for egos; being selfless is part of the collaborative creative process.

Skills & Education

An effects artist working in video game development must have solid skill set that includes traditional art and digital 3-D art; proficiency with 3ds Max, Maya, and similar software is required. Studios insist on a bachelor’s degree or equivalent professional experience. Majors in fine art, game art, or computer animation are recommended. Additional coursework in physics and advanced mathematics is encouraged, as your effectiveness in creative visual effects relies heavily on your ability to understand and simulate realistic occurrences like running water, explosions, or dust blowing in the wind. Additional required competencies include the development of shading tools, current-generation platforms and consoles, and scripting languages.

What to Expect

Previous experience in video game development is required, with at least one shipped title under your belt as an artist. Prior work history as a compositor, rotoscope artist, match mover, or in another area of motion graphics and game art is a great start toward a job as an effects artist. Moreover, similar positions that require the same skill set exist within visual effects studios that cater to the film and television industry. With three to five years of professional experience in this role, you will be qualified to move up to a lead role in FX or to cross over to animation. In most game studios, there are ample opportunities to parlay an inherent talent for art into staff positions within a number of related departments.


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