Lead Lighting Artist

  • Lead Lighting Artist

Lighting is an important element in the creation of a game’s look and feel. An environment is not complete without the mood that is set by shadowy dark corners or bright rays across a vast landscape. In an effort to provide levels that feel realistic and enhance the overall style of the game, studios require the artistic talent and discerning eye of lighting artists.


The lead lighting artist is responsible for the management of the staff of lighting artists. This person works closely with the art director and level designers to establish the aesthetic of the game and execute the design plan with respect to adding lighting and shading elements within playable levels and cinematics.  He or she will collaborate with art and programming staff to identify technical standards that affect art asset creation and runtime implementation, and then see to it that his or her department is made aware of those specifications. In coordination with the creative director and game producer, this person will help to construct efficient pipeline and workflow procedures, including the publication of a production schedule as it relates to the completion of all lighting assets.

During development, the lead lighting artist will monitor the work of department staff and offer constructive criticism, in addition to conducting regular performance evaluations and providing mentoring. It is this person’s responsibility to outline clear goals and expectations, and work to ensure that the team is equipped to meet those benchmarks. He or she will also be tasked with conducting research to identify new methods and software which may expedite the art creation process in regards to lighting 3-D and 2-D environments, and briefing the creative director and designers on the latest innovations as they become available. Depending on the structure of the particular studio, the lead lighting artist may concentrate on only specific scenes and levels, as he or she deems necessary, or may be the primary contributor to all levels, with junior staff supplying in-between work.

Skills & Education

A college degree in game art or game design is recommended, and coursework should include classes in still photography and fine art. This role demands an individual with a well-rounded understanding of traditional art techniques and artistic talent. Proficiency is required in 2-D and 3-D art software (such as 3dsMax and Photoshop) as well as level editors. A firm understanding of the technical constraints concerning runtime execution for graphics engines and multiple game consoles is necessary. As a supervisor, the lead lighting artist must be an effective communicator and be able to provide clear instruction to subordinate team members.

What to Expect

The role of the lead lighting artist is a senior-level position and requires at least three years of relevant experience within a game development studio, including at least one shipped title. Employment as a lighting artist is the natural path toward this position, but work as an environment artist, character artist, or a similar area is applicable. On the job, your time will be divided between participation in design meetings and collaboration with department heads, and the physical implementation of lighting effects into existing levels. As such, you must be capable of delegating work, but also monitoring your own performance in completing assignments within deadlines.


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