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The role and work of a Game Artist in the Games Industry

MAGESNovember 10 , 2018
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Since Game Art is a relatively new field, people tend to have a lot of misconceptions about what a Game Artist actually does. We’ll try our best to give you the basics in this post.

Designing breathtaking art for games on a daily basis can be an extremely fulfilling job.

For many, it might even be a dream come true.

The games industry (And the digital art industry) is growing globally. This means that the dream of being a Game Artist is more real than ever.

Before you deep-dive into making this dream a reality though, you may be wondering – what does a Game Artist actually do?

About Game Art and Game Artists

Game art is a huge selling point for games. Game Art and visuals are the first impressions a game makes. For many games, they are the main selling point. They’re arguably as important as gameplay.

A game without art will end up looking like traditional DOS or text-based games, but even those have some aesthetic to them. Architecture (or level design) can’t be captured without an artistic skill set either.

Game artists, then, are crucial to the process of creating games. They are responsible for creating 2D or 3D art for visual elements in video games. They work on components including characters, textures, colours, lighting, objects and the environment. Although the field highly relies on digital art skills, traditional hand sketching is still an important skill for many tasks.

Game artists imagine and visualize how the game will look. They choose colours, design characters, create textures, and create concepts for levels. They can also work on promotional material and website designs to attract more players.

The work of an artist varies based on their specialization. These specializations are not entirely exclusive of each other. Some tasks can require a mix of different skills. Artists can also choose to learn and specialize in a mix of skills. As mentioned in our previous post on the specializations in the games industry, large studios prefer extremely specialized professionals, while smaller ones require generalists.

2D or 3D

One of the key areas of specialization for artists. 2D and 3D art require different skill-sets and tools. For that reasons, artists can choose to specialize in 2D or 3D art.

3D art almost definitely has a higher demand. The evolution of computer graphics and design and animation software has led to 3D being the standard medium. A lot of gamers and consumers still find 2D art to be extremely charming, however, the industries are definitely dominated by 3D art. This will almost definitely continue to be the case, as new technologies such as VR and AR are also highly dependent on 3D art.

2D

Image by Tom Francis on Flickr

2D artists work on 2D games for the most part. Their work involves drawing sprites and textures for the characters, environments, effects, and more.

2D artists are required for 3D games as well. They can work on textures for 3D models, as well as the 2D UI elements in the game. The concept art for 3D art is often first drawn and visualized in 2D.

2D artists use software such as Photoshop or GIMP for creating the game’s graphics. While some use a traditional mouse, others prefer to use drawing tablets.

Don’t be fooled – both methods require training and practice. Neither of the methods is exactly the same as drawing with a pencil and paper.

2D animation is sometimes done frame-by-frame, which can mean separately drawing every frame. Other times, it is generated by using 2D skeletons and tweening.

3D

3D artists can have a variety of responsibilities. They can be responsible for modelling, rigging, animating, or effects. They may also be characterized by whether they specialize in characters, environments, lighting, or props.

The tools and skills 3D artists require depend highly on their specialization. Read on to learn more.

3D modeller

Photo by Creative Tools on Flickr

 

3D modellers are responsible for the individual art assets in 3D games. They create 3D models using modelling software like 3DS Max and Blender.

They tend to have specialities such as characters, environments, or props.

Character artists are interested in and knowledgeable about anatomy. They can create realistic humans, stylized animals, or fantastic monsters.

Environment or prop artists tend to look at the big picture. They design landscapes inspired by the most beautiful places on our planet. They create all the pieces required to make an environment feel natural and life-like. This can include furniture, vegetation, and similar assets.

The level of detail a modeller works at can differ. Some may specialize in creating life-like facial details for humans and other creatures. Others might specialize in low-poly art instead.

Animation and rigging artists

Animators are responsible for bringing life and dynamism to otherwise static characters. The goal of animation is often to provide realism and improve the experience of interacting with the game. A static environment and characters can get boring fast. Animation can add emotion to any scene or character.

3D modelling software such as 3DS Max, Maya, and Blender is used for animation as well.

Rigging is the process of creating connections between objects to make animating them easier. A common example is creating a skeletal structure for human characters. This makes natural animations like walk cycles, picking up items and swinging a sword possible. It is a key process that artists are always required for.

Animators may also work on facial animation, which is important for storytelling and conveying emotions. This is important for story and cutscene heavy games.

Animation is often inspired by physics and real life. Animators study how humans and animals move and translate that into their animated game characters.

Particle effects artist

Particle effects artists have a very unique job. They create special effects for games – anything from sparks flying off a sword to giant explosions or the dust that rises from the ground when a boot hits it.

The effects the artist works on assist with player feedback. When a player slashes a monster, it doesn’t feel real or satisfying unless sparks fly. A powerful moment in a game can be ruined by a lack of feedback and effects.

Effects artists work a lot with game engines, as engines have powerful inbuilt tools for creating and tweaking effects. They use 2D graphics software such as Photoshop for creating textures for the effects,

Concept Artist

Concept artists visualize and render the initial concepts or ideas of what the final art of the game should look like.

Creating the final art assets for games is a difficult process. Concept art helps decide on a final look and theme for the art before the actual assets are created.

Concept artists explore multiple themes and styles. This helps decide the direction for the art. The concepts are then used as a reference for the final art assets, whether they are 2D or 3D.

Concept artists are masters of illustration and traditional art and painting. They may use a traditional canvas to draw on, or 2D software such as Photoshop.

Art Director

This is more of an advanced role for experienced artists. Art directors have a vision for the visual design of the game. They are in charge of all the other artists and help them bring that vision to life.

They are responsible for the overall tone the visuals should have, which is likely to include colour palettes, lighting, and art style.

Their responsibility is to have a vision which matches the game design and impresses and immerses the players. They ensure that all the artwork matches the theme and nothing feels out of place.

An Art Director must also understand the strengths and talents of the whole team. They must extract the best efforts from their team to succeed.

Conclusion

It is important to keep in mind that there is a lot of overlap between the different specializations of Game Art. An artist can be skilled at 3D modelling and support that skill through rigging and animation. They may also create textures using their 2D skills.

Game Development, in general, is a multi-disciplinary field.

Yes, there is a lot to learn, but it also provides great opportunities to collaborate with others. Finding people that complement your strengths with theirs can lead to the most impressive projects.

The best way to learn is to find other people to work with. So don’t put it off – start your career as a Game Artist.

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