Also, if you want to know what different departments are doing, check out the other parts of our gamedev roles compendium:
Table of contents:
- Art Director
- 3D Environment Artist
- 3D Character Artist
- 3D Animator role
- Motion Capture Artist
- 3D Rigger
- 3D Prop Artist
- 3D Texture / Material Artist
- 3D Lightning Artist
- Concept Artist
- 2D Illustrator
- 2D Character Artist
- 2D Animator
- VFX Artist
- UI (User Interface) Artist
- Technical Artist
- Seniority levels
Art Director role in the game industry
This is the art beacon of the whole production. They are setting and maintaining the art vision and art style of the game. Their job is to make sure that the rest of the art team works towards achieving that goal.
They're keeping the game artists on the same track by mentoring and sharing feedback.
Art Director is the highest level of seniority in the art field. To become one, you should possess mastery in at least one art discipline (Animation, 3D modeling, Illustration, etc.) In addition, you need a high level of communication skills and own 6 Pokemon badges (I lied with the last one).
3D Environment Artist role in the game development
These folks are working in a tight co-op with level designers.
While level designers build the rough mock-up of the levels, 3D environment artists are making them pretty. They're building the whole game world from scratch by placing all the objects, adding light to the maps (where there’s no lightning artist onboard), or maintaining the camera movement.
They need to know how to guide players' attention and are the masters of a perspective in art. Add a bit of knowledge about UV Mapping and texturing to the 3D modeling skills - and you'll have a perfect Enviro Game Artist.
These folks' job is to model and texture the characters. The flow of work usually looks that they get concept art from the concept artist (accepted by the Art Director ofc - you can't work without the approval of an art honcho).
Characters, monsters, machines, vehicles. Someone has to breathe some life into all static models. These guys are adding motion to objects in the gameplay or in the cutscenes.
Besides knowledge about animation software, you should dive deep into the principles of movement. Learn how different objects are moving, how important the weight of an object is. Observe and practice.
Oh, and if you're curious about how to get a job as a video games animator - read our article.
A Motion Capture Artist is often someone who comes with an Animation background. These guys and gals oversee the mocap sessions (you know - people wearing special suits with sensors).
Motion Capture Artist checks if the sensors read all movement correctly during the recording. They also take care of cleaning the animation in case of any errors.
Before animators start their job, a model needs something called the rig.
The rig is basically a "skeleton" of the model. Thanks to these "bones," the animator knows which parts can move.
In smaller gamedev teams animator also takes care of the rig.
Prop Artists create all these little elements that are used by Environment Artists to fill the world with!
Crates, chests, trees, exploding barrels, trash, you name it ;)
These guys are either modeling these from scratch or pimp-up stock-bought models.
Prop Artists are often texturing their own models, so besides 3d modeling - add texturing to the list of needed skills.
Models without textures would be like Doom without the BFG. ;) No flava.
Textures are 2D images wrapped around 3D models. You might think of it as creating skin for each model.
Texture artists often combine different textures to create believable materials to sell what an object should look like to the player.
Lightning artists work with the game engine (they need technical knowledge) to place and set up light in the game. That means in the world, on the levels, in the rooms.
Concept artists' job is to create a visual interpretation of the design team's ideas, so everyone knows what the game (and in-game elements) would look like. So their work is more of a blueprint, a guidance for the other team members. (Like 3D Artists, animators, etc.)
They're working according to the brief they were given by the Art Director (or the Design team). They need to produce art fast to check the different variations.
Concept Artists can specialize in different topics. Like some people design only the environments or characters. Others may work only on vehicles.
If you would like to know more about specific specializations in concept art (like Character Concept Artist and Environment Concept Artist) - read our article.
This role is often confused with the next one, so it's good to know the difference before you set foot on a specific path ;)
While Concept Artist's job is to produce more of a sketch of an idea, Illustrators are spending their time creating finished game art pieces.
They make all those very detailed box arts that you can admire on the covers of boxes or promotional art that you can often see on the banners. They are the digital artists who create all posters that could be added to the collector's editions. You get the idea.
To explain the difference:
It's completely fine to spend a week creating a promo Illustration. However, concept artists taking the same amount of time drawing a variant of some clothing could be in trouble.
2D character artist job is to draw a character on a flat plane. They often need to draw a figure in different angles and the keyframes of the 2D animation.
This role requires serious drawing skills. Knowledge about 2D graphics software (like Adobe Photoshop) is a must.
2D Animator puts in motion all 2D characters, monsters, machines, or backgrounds.
They prepare frame-by-frame animation to create smooth transitions between the keyframes of the animation.
2D Environment Artist creates (draw) and puts the assets on the game levels or scenes. They create all the backgrounds, scenery elements according to the style of the game.
They make rough levels from the level designers and make them look good, fitting the game vision.
Smoke, fog, explosions, magical auras. It's all in the game, thanks to your friendly neighborhood VFX artists.
3D VFX artists create and place particles, which are eating up your precious FPS'. ;)
2D VFX artists create tons of custom animations.
UI Artist makes all the menus and on-screen indicators that assist the player's playthrough.
Health bars, Score, Progression bars - everything that is needed to give players proper feedback.
UI Artist's responsibility is to create clear, readable images fitting the game's art style.
UI Artists may be asked to implement their work in the engine, which needs technical knowledge.
It's required from UI Artist to know about User Experience (UX) Design. Which is basically thinking about how people will interact with the interface and respond to certain elements.
These two roles are often mixed with each other, so it's essential to know the difference.
This is where the world of art and programming collide ;)
Their job is to build/integrate tools to the game engines that make others artists' work less painful.
Technical Artist supports the art team in finding ways to improve their workflow and save some time on mundane tasks.
Having a technical artist in the team also frees up the programmers' time and focuses on more pressing matters.
Technical artists need to have both technical and artistic skills, but they are not required to create art assets themselves)
You can expect to have one team lead for each art department in big game studios: 3D Lead Artist, Animation Lead, and Environment Art Lead (see the pattern here ;)). In smaller (indie gamedev) teams Lead can work as an Art Director figure if the team doesn't have one.
Lead Artists have their experience level maxed. They are the overlords of one specific art discipline. They're making the assets, and they're managing the work of other artists under their lead.
You expect more experience from senior artists than from a regular one.
They often have more responsibilities and are given more freedom in fulfilling their tasks. (They are so experienced - no one needs to watch their hands while working ;)).
Juniors are at the beginning of their art careers. Therefore, they require the guidance of their more experienced peers. So they can level up in the art ranks 💪
They don't have the power to call the shots or to make serious art decisions. (At least yet!)
They're acting more as supports for regular and seniors in the team.
Helping them with simpler, mundane art tasks.
This concludes the ART part of our gamedev career guide.
Stay tuned for the next entry.
Also, if you think there're any game artist job roles that we could've missed - the comment section is all yours.
See you on our socialsTweet