February 20, 2024

4 min

Video Games

Juan Jimenez

Marketing Manager

How to Become a Video Game Artist, Part 1

If someone tells you that a career as an artist is challenging and has no future, pay no attention and correct them immediately.

We won't lie to you: yes, pursuing a career in fine art, illustration, concept art, or a mix of all three is extremely difficult. It's a career that requires years of dedication, effort, and sacrifice. You'll spend untold time learning the fundamentals, honing your craft, and handling several traditional and digital tools.

But that being an artist mean you will not have a future? Oh, the nerve.

There was hardly a more appropriate time to launch as a visual artist than now. An untold amount of content requires the services of specialists capable of providing the imagery necessary to make a high-quality production. Film, animation, television, and even some stage productions — such as theatre and opera — need artists capable of conceptualizing the director's ideas before they see their final form.

And this works in the same way in the video game industry.

Regardless of platform, game engine, or gameplay, any game produced today needs at least a small team ofartists who can translate the creativity and guidelines of the game designers and directors into a fluid, interactive environment.

Although the specifics of the art you produce will largely depend on its technical characteristics, the processof ideation and conceptualisation is more or less the same. As such, the line of progression is relatively simple to outline, and in our article this week, we will discuss how to embark on this exciting journey without getting shipwrecked along the way.

Fundamentals are everything.

The path of the video game artist— like virtually every other visual artist — begins at art school. Ideally, adiploma or bachelor's course covers most fundamentals; however, the academic offerings are so broad that a traditional art school is often not the best choice.

The art fundamentals you will need to master are:


- Composition and perspective

- Form language, primitives and three-dimensional object synthesis

- Human and Animal anatomy

- Lighting and shading

- Colour theory and colour management

- Principles of design

- Knowledge of animation


As you will see, there are countless ways to acquire such a wealth of knowledge. Art, graphic design oranimation schools can guide you along this route; nevertheless, we recommend you seek specific training tailored to your needs and learning pace.

While a traditional art atelier may be a solution and a part of your journey, the quicker you transition to digital media, the more comfortable said journey will be. Fortunately, you will find several online schools, YouTube tutorials, and colleges with fast-track diploma programs and bachelor’s degrees to choose from.

No matter what discipline you choose — and trust us, there are many — you will spend most of your timecreating digital art, either for yourself or your art directors or project leaders. So it's best to learn about digital media and tools as much as possible.

Information is like a bottle of fine wine.


Once you have developed and established your skills as an artist, you should choose a route or specialization within the games industry and prepare a portfolio to be considered by the studios or companies that could hire you.

Even though you might start as a generalist within the industry, the demand for specific roles within eachstudio — to distribute the work most efficiently and ensure the highest possible quality at every step of the process — will eventually force you to choose a path.

And each path has specific demands, which we present to you below.

Concept Artist


Concept artists are usually a fundamental part of video game creation, regardless of complexity. As the namesuggests, they devise and conceptualise all the visual assets a video game requires to express its gameplay and communicate its message.

The specialty of concept artists sketching: sketching a lot. Whether to create characters, weapons,environments, or props, concept artists, being the closest artistic discipline to design, must iterate several proposals and sketches before the art director selects the most suitable one.

As such, you should articulate and express your ideas and have an advanced grasp of fundamentals to createthumbnails, concepts, and first passes. You should also be able to synthesize and explain the movement and functioning of characters, creatures, and mechanical parts.

This route is one of the most sought-after and, luckily, one with several training opportunities.

Character Artist


Character artists define the look and feel of the creatures and characters you will interact with in the game.

They are usually the next step after concept artists, receiving ideas and basic designs from them to refine and express them with the highest possible quality.

Nowadays, character artists should know how to build and depict a character in 2D and 3D, so your training should include digital illustration and 3D modelling tools.

Ideally, a character artist's workstation will produce a character that meets project standards and is ready to be animated and programmed into the game.

Environment Artist


No matter how well-designed and high-quality a character is, it will be devoid of practical use in a video game without an environment to interact with and specific objectives to solve.

Luckily, environmental artists are there to lead this charge. They create scenarios, levels, and buildings to provide a background for the characters.

Depending on the design and concept of the game, environment artists will need to master their talents in 2D, 3D, or even a combination of both. Spatial skills, a sense of scale, and the ability to translate art direction and concept artists' thumbnails in practical applications are crucial to this role.

An environment artist must also work closely with the level designers to create and arrange all the elements that the level requires.

Prop Artist


Most of the time, characters in video games interact with other characters and their environment through objects. Whether they are weapons, utensils, keys, or similar, every game will have a wide variety of assets created to instill realism and purpose in each character's actions. 

This step is where prop artists come in, creating the objects that give context and meaningful objectives to the characters.

As in the case of character artists and environment artists, the game engine, gameplay and design determinehow complex a prop artist's work will be. 

A 2D game might only require the creation of objects in the form of sprites with basic animations that expresshow they work. But a high-quality 3D game, such as a shooter or an RPG, might require the creation of weapons or utensils in which buttons, lights, andmechanisms are activated and give life and credibility to the character and its scenery.



Once a video game's distinct visual elements are ready, it is time to make them work and respond appropriatelyto the player's actions. To make this possible, the work of an animator is vital.

Animators are often in charge of defining rigs - skeletons that direct the actions and movements of characters,creatures, and objects - and studying the patterns and behaviors of living things to translate them into the game and achieve an efficient suspension of disbelief.

It's a job that requires a lot of observation, patience, and multiple iterations to achieve an outstanding result. But without it, we could not conceive video games as we do today.

FX Artist


As a complementary discipline to animation and the implementation of characters, creatures, and functionalobjects, the visual effects artist must be able to create everything that makes a video game shine.

Sometimes literally.

Explosions, flashes of light, splashes of water, shimmers of power, clouds, and smoke are just a part of whatan FX artist must accomplish in a video game. Making these effects look realistic and consistent with the rest of the universe the artists have created a challenge, but it is one capable of creating the most exciting moments invideo games.

User InterfaceArtist


Players need visual and graphical cues to interact with a game and have guidance in their steps. A user interfaceartist or designer produces all the indicators, icons and numbers appearing onthe screen to make sense of your actions.

Each video game genre has a set of rules and conventions as to what information should be available to playersat any given time. A UI artist makes this information look as good as possible without impeding the game flow or turning said interaction into chaos.

Therefore, graphic or UI/UX designers often leap from web or application design to video games in suchpositions.

Marketing Artist


If you've read our blog often,you know that sometimes video games can only succeed through outstandingmarketing. And a crucial role in that sales process is that of the marketing artist.

If a game looks good, a marketing artist must make it look even better. Whether it's for posters, on cover art,or in digital shops, the marketing artist must have outstanding talents in graphic design, visual communication, and fine art to create advertising pieces that captivate the game's target audience.

Art Director


Finally, all the disciplines and roles you have seen above need a leader, a master puppeteer who directs and leads each of them to perform their work with the highest possible quality. This person is the art director.

Art directors define the visual guidelines and quality standards that govern the concept of a video game andexpress it in the most precise way. Although an art director can come from any of the above disciplines, concept artists — because of their talent for iteration and concepting — and marketing artists — because of their outstanding skills — tend to take this step in their careers the most.

However, such a demanding role requires mastery of every discipline, tool, and artistic resource. That is why,although it’s such a coveted position, few artists achieve it.



Now you would be wondering: what tools and techniques should I master to apply for each of these vacancies? How should my portfolio look? Is AI going to take over my job?

Those are topics we shall discuss next week.

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