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Concept Artist

The role, salary, software and skills of a film and game concept artist

Student work by Penny Gaubatz

Concept Artist job description

Concept art is the initial creation of the look, feel, and style of a work from a design brief. It sets the tone and visual style for a project - a film or a game for example - and is a point of reference for everyone involved in the project.

Visual storytelling is the key task of the Concept Artist, they imagine characters and worlds from off the page and bring the story to life. If you have a talent for visualizing abstract ideas a career as a Concept Artist could be for you! 

Role and responsibilities

The role of the Concept Artist is crucial as their work will be the stylistic building blocks upon which the animation, video game, cartoon, etc are built. They interpret a design brief from a client or expand their own original idea by illustrating the key characters and environments of a work. This preliminary artwork will be simple but expressive as it will be developed and expanded further during the development process. 

The responsibilities of a concept artist are:

  • Liaising with the producer, art director, game developer, etc regarding the brief for the project
  • Researching concept subjects, styles & genres 
  • Creating detailed key designs from a written brief
  • Presenting a series of drafts of the concepts for approval
  • Responding positively & proactively to feedback 
  • Drawing up specification sheets, establishing dimensions & details for others to follow
  • Working to a schedule
  • Using traditional & technological approaches to creating designs in either a 2D or 3D environment
  • Assisting in creation of marketing materials and assets
  • Continuing to develop concepts & designs for the duration of the production process

Software and other tools used

Concept Artists work with a selection or combination of the following software. Some artists prefer to sketch out initial drawings using paper, pens and/or pencils, however, all final artwork is delivered in digital format

Software used by concept artists can include:

  • Paper & drawing tools
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat
  • Corel Painter
  • Zbrush
  • Mudbox
  • CAD
  • Quixel
  • AutodeskSketchBook
  • Tablet & digital pen

Skills Required

Concept artists must possess a practical imagination to be able to bring the ideas of others to life. Interpreting a brief is the key skill for a concept artist, and what follows from this is constant development and refinement until the final design is approved. 

Employers may look for the following skills in a concept artist:

  • Strong drawing skills, with a specialization in concept design
  • Ability to draw in a variety of styles
  • Knowledge of anatomy and zoology, costuming, physical settings and history-related references 
  • Solid awareness of facial expression, pose, posture, gesture and movement
  • Able to draw from written briefs
  • High level attention to detail
  • Solid understanding of visual language - texture, color, dimension, scale, perspective, shade, composition, depth of field, proportion, spatial awareness, etc
  • Good communication skills, ability to explain concepts and support artistic choices
  • Skilled in technical drawing
  • Excellent time management skills, ability to consistently meet deadlines
  • Team player, skilled at working independently
  • Knowledge of the animation and/or game development processes

Average salary

Most concept artist will work as freelancers on films, animated features and short and game production, however, they can attain full time positions at animation studios and gaming companies.

The average wage of a concept runs between USD 60,000 for a junior position to upwards of USD 85,000 for a senior position. (Source: Glassdoor)

To learn more about this field, read: What it's like to be a professional concept artist (Interview with award-winning Blizzard Entertainment Concept Artist Tyler James)

 

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