Visual effects (VFX)
Also known as: Texture painter, Texturing artist, Visual effects (VFX) artist, 3D modelling and texture artist
What does a texture artist do?
Texture artists make surfaces look realistic on computer-generated (CG) 3D models.
They rough objects up or they make them shine – scales on a crocodile’s skin, reflections on car doors, skid marks on roads, creases in trousers.
They start with a 3D model created by a modelling artist that is usually a plain grey shape. The texture artists paint the details onto the surface of the models until they look like a photograph.
Texture artists sometimes create textures from scratch, so they have a good understanding of different kinds of real-world materials. Sometimes they work from a library of stock textures. Or they might use photographs – often photographs from the live-action footage of the film they are making – in order to digitally project them onto a 3D model as a basis for the texture.
Once a texture artist is happy with the textured surface that they have created, they can ‘bake’ (copy using a VFX program’s ‘baking tool’) the texture from one surface so that it can be used elsewhere as well.
Texture artists work for VFX companies or studios or as freelancers. Smaller VFX companies may not distinguish between texturing and modelling artist roles, and instead advertise for one position to do both roles.
Watch and read
- #PrettyCurious: Meet Sally Wilson, lead texture artist on Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- QnA: thoughts on being a texture artist
- Understanding the difference between texture maps
- Texture painting for action films
- Understanding the difference between texture maps
What's a texture artist good at?
- Art: have a good understanding of form, colour and texture, and know how these elements work together, recognise what makes an image appear realistic in terms of light, colour, composition and perspective
- Photography: understand cameras and cinematography, have technical proficiency, build a stock of photographs to use in the role
- Knowledge of VFX programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Blender, Maya, Photoshop, Substance Painter and ZBrush, continuously try to improve your ability with these
- Organisation: work within the production schedule, manage files and meet deadlines
- Collaboration: be able to work with other VFX artists within your pipeline, use each other’s resources and work effectively
Tools of the trade
These are some of the tools used by professionals:
- Graphics software (Adobe After Effects, Dreamweaver, Illustrator,Photoshop)
- 3D modelling, sculpting and painting software (Blender, 3ds Max, Maya, Mudbox, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, Quixel)
You can learn how to model using free software. Go to build your VFX portfolio for a list of what’s available.
Who does a texture artist work with?
How do I become a texture artist?
The most important thing to have in order to become a texture artist is a strong portfolio that illustrates your abilities. This comes from practice. If you can’t get straight into a texturing artist role, you could start as a runner or as a matchmove artist and progress to the position of texture artist from there.
At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in art, art and design, graphic design or graphic communication would all equip you well for this role. Or you might want to take one of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
- NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
- UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, you might want to take one of these Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
- Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
- BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
- BTEC National Diploma in Graphics
- BTEC National Diploma in Photography
- UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (3D Design)
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image & Audio Production)
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. NextGen Skills Academy offers VFX apprenticeships for school leavers. These involve a lot of learning on the job working in a VFX company.
If you can’t find an apprenticeship with a VFX company, it might be worth getting an apprenticeship in a related industry, which could give you some experience to help you find your way into VFX at a later point.
These are some apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
- Junior 2D artist (visual effects) (Level 4, England)
- Assistant technical director (visual effects) (Level 4, England)
- Creative and Digital Media (Level 3, Northern Ireland)
- Creative and Digital Media (Level 3, 4, Wales)
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Build a portfolio:
Learn the software, experiment with VFX programs and create a showreel that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Focus on producing a portfolio which includes relevant prep work to showcase your immediate practical skills. This is essential. Go to build your VFX portfolio to learn how. Watch ScreenSkills' advice on VFX showreels. It's really importance to develop your appreciation for VFX.
Get a degree:
VFX companies or studios generally prefer it if you have a degree in graphic design, or another VFX-specific course for this role. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in VFX. 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 VFX industry.
Get VFX industry skills:
There are various VFX image and video-editing programs, in which it’s useful to receive training. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of VFX courses that we either fund, support or have quality-marked.
Get to know people in VFX by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the sector. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Search for jobs:
Research VFX companies you’d like to work for. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for texturing artists. Even if they aren’t, send in your CV and showreel and ask them to bear you in mind for future roles or work experience. Keep looking on job websites too. ArtStation is a good example of a site that includes job listings in animation, games and VFX (remember to filter its job listings by country). ScreenSkills offers some advice from professionals on how to approach animation and VFX employers.
You might also be interested in...
Being a VFX artist or learning to code and being a level designer, 3D modelling artist, environment artist or texturing artist, all in the games industry. Becoming a compositor, environment artist or modelling artist in the VFX industry.
- Understanding Ptex - Is It the Future of Texturing?
- Getting Your First Job and Internship as a 3D Artist
- Life as a 3D Modeler in the Film Industry - VFX
- Weta Digital
- Wired – Design FX
- Which software is used for VFX?
- Blender Guru
- Khan Academy Labs – Pixar in a Box
- Creative Bloq
- CG Spectrum – College of Digital Art and Animation
- Art of VFX
- Bectu (the media and entertainment union)
- Computer Graphics World (CGW)
- VFX Voice
- Visual Effects Society (VES)
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