There's nothing more jaw-dropping than a video game that takes you to another world, one flush with stunning visuals and action-packed graphics.
Those smooth designs may look like movie magic. But a lot of work goes into making a video game look and feel amazing. That's where concept artists come in.
Have you ever dreamed of being the one behind the scenes, creating the characters, landscapes, and objects that make up a video game?
In this article, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to break into the video games industry and turn your passion into a rewarding career as a concept artist.
What is Video Game Concept Art?
Before games come to life on the screen, they begin as sketches and concept art on a blank canvas. Game developers rely heavily on the technical skills and creativity of talented artists to help create the look and feel of their games.
A game concept artist will use either or both 2D (drawing and painting) and 3D (modelling and sculpting) software to create characters, environments, props, vehicles, user interface elements and any other in-game asset.
So if you're interested in becoming a concept artist for video games, here are five steps you should take to get started:
Step 1: Learning The Ropes
You have sketchbooks full of ideas.
You've created some digital paintings that have gotten some attention online.
You might even have built up quite the digital portfolio!
But before you can start working as a professional artist, you need to learn the ropes and gain a solid understanding of the fundamentals including lighting, human anatomy and colour.
One of the best, and possibly the most obvious, ways to break into video game art is by starting with formal training through an art school or higher education. Universities and colleges offer great programs that can teach you the fundamentals and introduce you to the hardware and software that you will likely use throughout your career. Plus, you’ll rub shoulders with other artists and industry leaders - who may just give you the leg-up you need to get that job!
However, depending on where you live in the world, this option might not be available to you. But don’t worry, luckily there is an easily accessible wealth of information available for you to go down the self-teaching route. There are tons of excellent tutorials and training courses available online including paid 1-to-1 mentorships or free YouTube tutorials. Books are also an excellent source to study from.
Step 2: Practice Makes Perfect
Success doesn't come overnight. To truly excel in this field, you need to put in the hours and continually practice your craft.
One of the best ways to refine your skills is to practice every single day. Think of it like a habit you need to form, like brushing your teeth. Set aside time each day, even if it's just 30 minutes, to work on your art.
Once you start to build a bit of practice and a portfolio, don't miss out on engaging in art communities and forums. These are great places to get feedback, find resources, and connect with other artists.
You should also look for opportunities to do freelance work that expand your horizons. This way, you’ll start to gain real-life experience of working for a client early in your career. You will find this beneficial further down the line as you take on bigger projects or join a team in a studio.
While you may be passionate about a particular type of style or topic, it's always good to branch out and try new things. Don't be afraid to push yourself and try your hand at textures, shape language and different lighting setups.
Step 3: Develop Your Art Style
As a concept artist or illustrator, one of your most important tasks is to develop your own art style. This is what makes you unique and sets you apart from other artists in the field.
It's hard to find, but once you do - it becomes the key to unlocking the door of your career.
If you’re struggling to find your own art style, you can start by studying the work of other artists you admire. Then, begin to experiment with different techniques and mediums. Try new things and see what works for you. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - that's part of the learning process! Trial and error is essential to finding your own style.
Be careful when mimicking your favourite artists too closely. It's tempting to want to emulate their work, but it's important to find your own voice as an artist. Remember, your goal is to stand out from the crowd, not blend in!
Want a pro tip for discovering your own art style? Get out and get inspired by real life! Museums, nature and even your own city can provide endless amounts of inspiration for your art.
4: Build Your Portfolio
One of the most essential elements of your career as a concept artist or illustrator is your portfolio.
This is essentially your resume; it shows off your skills and experience to a potential employer.
Your portfolio needs to feature your best work, so take your time putting it together. Choose pieces that show off your skills and highlight your unique style.
When it comes to displaying your portfolio, there are a few different options. Online portfolios are the best way to show your work, with ArtStation and Behance being the most common platforms to use.
No matter how you choose to display your work, just make sure it's organised and easy to navigate. Consistently add to it, and keep it updated with your best and most recent work.
5: Network, Network, Network!
Last but not least, the key to success as a concept artist or illustrator is networking.
There are tons of ways to get involved in the art community, both online and offline. Attend art shows and conventions, join professional organisations, and most importantly - make friends! The more people you know, the better your chances of landing that dream job.
Don't forget about the power of online networking. From Twitter and Instagram to Discord and LinkedIn, there are endless opportunities to connect with other artists and professionals. Get involved in online communities like Mooncolony’s Discord server to showcase your work and get first-hand feedback from professional artists.
A sense of community helps your mental health, feedback from fellow artists enables you to grow, and friends in the industry might invite you to work together on exciting projects or recommend you to their friends.
Are You Ready To Become a Video Game Concept Artist?
If you want to step into the shoes of a video game concept artist, this pathway should help you get started.
Just remember - it takes time, dedication, and a whole lot of hard work. But if you're passionate about art and games, it's definitely worth it.
So what are you waiting for? Start working on your portfolio today and take your first steps towards a career in the exciting world of video game concept art! The only obstacle is your own imagination - so let it run wild!
If you want to give your career a leg-up on the competition, make sure to join Mooncolony’s Discord server! Here, you can showcase your work, get professional feedback, and make friends in the industry.
Adventures await. Are you in?