Also known as: Lead artist, 2D artist
What does a concept artist do?
Concept artists are responsible for the style and look of a game. They are the first to draw the environments, enemies and player characters. Working with a brief from the producer, their sketches are used to help 3D artists, producers, programmers and publishers understand how the game will look.
The drawings of the concept artist are a vital part of the game’s development as they are the starting point of all the artwork and an important part of the marketing plans.
Watch and read
- How to become a video game concept artist
- Life at Blizzard: Meet Cole Eastburn, Sr. Concept Artist on World of Warcraft
What’s a concept artist good at?
- Art: be very good at drawing by hand, understand of composition, draw in a way that matches genre styles such as fantasy, sci-fi or cartoon
- Creativity: imagine how a character will look, starting from a written brief
- Using art software: create 2D and 3D art using a range of programmes, know the latest technologies and techniques
- Communication: work with the other artists and in the team, share the vision with designers and games developers
- Knowledge of games: understand gameplay, have market awareness, appreciate how art will be experienced as a player
Who does a concept artist work with?
Concept artists work with all the other members of the art department. They report to the art director and often work closely with the creative director.
How do I become a concept artist?
Concept artists usually enter the role having worked in other roles in the art department. Look at the job profiles for 3D modelling artist, environment artist or texturing artist for details of how to get into the art department of a games company. Some companies have a junior concept artist role, but you will be expected to have learnt the skills before they will take you on.
At school or college:
Learning traditional drawing, painting and sculpting is useful as a way to demonstrate artistic flair outside software.
If you want to go to university, it would be useful to take A-levels or Highers in:
- Art and design
- Graphic design
- Graphic communication
Or you might want to take any of the following vocational Level 3 qualifications:
- BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- UAL Diploma/ Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- BTEC Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
- BTEC Diploma in Graphics
If you can add some physics or computer science into the mix, that will give you a rounded set of skills that are ideal for a career in games.
If you want to straight into a job or apprenticeship, these Level 3 qualifications will equip you with relevant skills:
- Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
- AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Design/Design Production
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
- AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
- OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)
- BTEC Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries
Build a portfolio:
Learn the software, experiment with games engines and start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. This is essential. Go to build your games portfolio to learn how.
Look for an apprenticeship:
At the moment, there aren’t any apprenticeships for 3D modelling artists specifically. However, it might be possible to find an apprenticeship as a 2D artist and move into concept art from there. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Get a degree:
Most people in the games industry have a degree. Get one in games art, graphic design or any 3D digital art. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in games. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.
Search for jobs:
Use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you, then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. Even if they are not advertising the right role, if you like a specific company it’s worth emailing them to let them know you are looking in case something suitable comes up in future. Look for roles like 3D modelling artist, environment artist or texturing artist to get your started.
Look outside games:
It’s also worth considering computer artist roles in any other industry as using similar software will build up your skills. You can use this and any professional artwork you produce to continually improve your games art portfolio, putting you in a stronger position for an entry-level role in games.
You might also be interested in…
It’s not just games that value concept artists. They are also needed in animation, VFX and advertising. With the right skills it’s possible to move between industries relatively easily.
Film and TV drama
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Visual effects (VFX)
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Creates the illusion of movement, includes computer-generated, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation