February 20, 2024

3 min

Video Game Industry

Juan Jimenez

Marketing Manager

How to Become a Video Game Artist, Part 3

In the previous two entries of this series, we saw a general overview of the roles that a video game artist can aspire to in the industry. We also looked at the most recommended software for the job, considering that the industry evolves constantly and that different workflows can lead to high-quality results.

Today, in our final post, we will cover some aspects that we might have only covered superficially and, hopefully, delve into some common myths and doubts that this career path tends to create.

Should I attend art school to be a video game artist?


As we said in the first article of this series, pursuing a formal career in video game art is no longer as complicated as it was in the early days of it. There is an increasingly large variety of universities, colleges, and institutes teaching this career path: although art and design studies can be incredibly costly, there are options for everyone’s budget.

Several websites dedicated to video game art and its many disciplines are free to access and open the doors to learn from the best in the industry and submit your pieces to your peers for feedback and constructive criticism. Websites such as Concept Art Empire, CGSpectrum and DrawABox have tens and even hundreds of thousands of users a day and, through their forums and free content, delve into the different talents and skills you should train to perform successfully in this job.

Online learning websites like Udemy, Skillshare, and Domestika offer paid courses in video game art or complementary disciplines. Meanwhile, several digital portfolio sites, such as Artstation and ZBrushCentral, have free and paid tutorials to several skills.

Finally, the most recognized illustrators and digital artists have both YouTube channels and portals on Gumroad, Patreon, and similar patronage websites, where they sell more specific and personalised training for a one-time or monthly fee.

Artstation is also worth mentioning for an economic reason: since the site’s acquisition by Epic Games in 2021, a significant portion of Artstation Learning's courses remain free; you can access them simply by creating an account on the site.

Nevertheless, it’s best to combine these resources with a university degree or formal higher education if financially possible.

How should a game artist’s portfolio be?


An ideal video game art portfolio should meet three fundamental conditions:


- Be relevant to your desired role: If you want to get a position as a character designer, environment thumbnails or building designs will not increase your chances of being chosen for the job.

- Show the process behind each piece: as with case studies in design, the more insight you offer into how you get through from the conceptualisation of a commission to its final version, the more points you will earn in the eyes of your direct supervisors.

- Demonstrate adaptability to various styles:When dealing with art trends, it is always better to have a diverse portfolio. A character artist who can deliver equally well between a stylized style and a hyper-realistic style will be well regarded in any interview, as long as their quality is outstanding.


Having met these conditions, however, the possibilities are endless. While most recruiters and industry experts recommend having a personal page to showcase your work, several digital showcases, such as Artstation and CGSociety, offer the possibility to create a portfolio there — as long as you pay for a premium or professional account. This fee, however, might be lower than the cost of maintaining a custom-made web domain.

What is better for game art: being a 2D artist or a 3D artist?


Short answer 1: Either has rather substantial opportunities within the industry if you know what you're doing.

Short answer 2: Learn both. You'll always have work to do that way.

Being a 3D artist seems the more varied route in the video game industry. And, as the overwhelming majority of AAA companies decide to push the trend of graphic fidelity to its maximum expression, the number of 3D artists needed in the industry will only increase.

2D artists can mostly only choose between being concept artists, art directors, or marketing artists in most current work scenarios, and skills such as pixel art and 2D scene painting are increasingly out of favor. On top of this, 2D disciplines tend to be overly competitive: in contrast, 3D artists can choose to be animators, riggers, modellers, and technical artists, among others, increasing their chances of finding a niche where they will be financially and occupationally successful.

But the reality is that each of these visions has significant counterpoints. The AAA gaming space — while increasingly lucrative— is beginning to show some creative burnout. Moreover, its unbridled ambitions have increased video game development costs so that, while the candidate supply grows in theory, fewer companies can sustain a workforce of 3D artists with salaries and benefits significantly above the industry average.

The unusual advantage of being a 3D artist is that it is much easier to find lucrative gigs and alternative jobs: architectural visualisation and medical 3D graphics, for example, are well-paid for those who take the freelancer route. However, this does not invalidate a career as a 2D artist, which is the basis and foundation of everything else.

Will artificial intelligence eliminate the game artist’s jobs?


Short answer: No. But it might modify it slightly and require some adaptations.

As an advanced machine learning model, artificial intelligence still has a long way to go before generating original art. The operation of these models — which require the consumption and processing of millions of images and works whose copyrights are often directly infringed — means that what they generate is subject to certain technical limitations.

Moreover, several high-profile lawsuits and legal proceedings — the most famous of which, brought by artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz against AI collectives Stable Diffusion and DALL-E, was recently the subject of a hearing in the US Congress — are underway to establish clear parameters for what images and artworks can be subject to references in such models.

However, technology continues to advance at a rapid pace.And while most humans are just making up their minds about what to do with this breakthrough, the industry is already experimenting with artificial intelligence in some disciplines, such as art direction and concept art, to quickly and dependably iterate characters, environments, and more.

Besides, some game studios — particularly in blockchain-based, play-to-earn gaming — have started using artificial intelligence to produce official art for their products. And, in a more general sense, Marvel's latest streaming series, Secret Invasion, made headlines because of its animation studio's choice to create the series' opening using this technology.

None of this should deter you from becoming a game artist:at the end of the day, a well-crafted portfolio and a well-trained talent will overcome any of these pitfalls. But, as Sun Tzu could have said, it is necessary to know the battlefield before going to war.



This article concludes our brief but exciting tour through the world of game art. We hope you enjoyed this short FAQ: if you have any more specific questions or suggestions, feel free to email those at juan@wearehaptic.com.


See you next week!

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