Lighting Artist

  • Lighting Artist

Lighting in video games, as with film, television, and theater, is necessary to establish an atmosphere within the game environment that is consistent with the time and place, as well as the emotional context. Lighting sets the mood for a showdown at high noon in New Austin or a deadly night siege in Raccoon City. 


Working under the supervision of the lead lighting artist, this person creates lighting and shading elements within game environments and scenes. Using software such as Maya or Lightwave, he or she applies lighting effects to completed environment and character art that is consistent with illustrated concepts and level designs and ensures consistency across all concurrent scenes. The artist is concerned with matching the lighting to interior environments, noting where the artists have placed objects like lamps, windows, or other sources of illumination. Likewise, for exterior locations, the artist is cognizant of the time of day within the context of the story, appropriately applying lighting effects to correspond with the position of the sun, moon, or outdoor sources of light. Details matter, and it is this person’s role to see to it that the little things are not overlooked; that includes glints reflecting from a pond, or the angle at which the sun shines through holes in a thatched roof. The lighting artist uses a creative eye and technical skill to enhance the game environments and contribute to the overall look and feel of the game, while adhering to the established art direction.

Skills & Education

Lighting/shading artists must have solid artistic skills, including a thorough understanding of color theory, composition, light, and form. This position demands an individual that is familiar with rendering, networks, polygonal modeling, and texture UV. In the practice of lighting and shading, the artist should demonstrate ability to work from reference material to light complex interior and exterior environments and how to simulate realistic lighting effects. Proficiency in the use of 3D software applications such as Maya, Mental Ray, Houdini, and Lightwave is required. A college degree in computer animation, graphic art and design, game design, or game art is recommended for this career. Additional courses or training should include advanced mathematics, physics, fine art, and photography. Real world lighting experience for film, television, or theater is also beneficial.

What to Expect

Within a game development studio, lighting artists work closely with environment artists, designers, and character artists to complete the look of game scenes. This is typically a mid-level position that requires at least one year of previous employment as an artist within a game studio. However, entry-level positions may be available for those with relevant education and that demonstrate considerable skill and talent through a portfolio. With experience and credit on two or more shipped titles, it is possible to advance to the role of a lead lighting artist or eventually transition to work as a & Shading Technical Director" href="" target="_self">lighting/shading technical director. The workweek at a game studio usually follows that standard 40 hours but can increase to 10 or 12-hour days during crunch time when the shipping deadline approaches.


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