FX Artist - Games

The role, salary, software and skills of video game FX artist

Student work by Tuck Abbot

Game FX artist job description

Video game FX (effects) artists work in teams to create effects that enhance the sequences and actions of the animation within the game. This may include explosions, power ups, character and gameplay effects, etc. The two main areas of VFX in video games are gameplay and environmental effects. 

Gameplay effects enhance the gaming experience, they include character powers, magics, explosion textures, etc. Environmental effects provide realistic visuals, they follow the laws of physics in replicating real-world phenomena and reactions, these include waterfalls, mist, rain, smoke, etc. 

Visual Effects artists work with textures, meshes and animations using software such as Houdini, Maya Fluids and Blender to create the effects which are then integrated into the final render of the game. 

Role and responsibilities

Video Game FX Artists are in charge of creating the visual effects (FX) required of a game. They usually work within the animation or motion graphics team, specializing in adding particles, animation, weather, smoke, fire, explosions, atmospherics, light/energy etc as required by the project. 

VFX Artist responsibilities may include:

  • Researching real world examples of effects, eg: explosions, floods, etc
  • Liaising with design and programming teams on scope of effects
  • Working with game designers to plan schedule
  • Creating effects templates and animations
  • 3D modeling
  • Curating the quality of effects
  • Collaborating on creating prototypes
  • User interface design
  • Matching the style and genre of the game
  • Maintaining workflow documentation throughout project
  • Correcting glitches as picked up by quality assurance testing
  • Collaborating on the development of the game
  • Keeping within budget
  • Working on post processing
  • Scripting as required

Software and other tools used

Working as an FX Artist requires software skills within a variety of platforms. A basic knowledge of programming software is vital as they need to deal with game programmer teams in articulating their technical needs for each project. A good working knowledge of Microsoft Office suite is required for scheduling and maintenance of project documentation.  Proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite, animation software and special effects tools. 

The following software may be used by FX Artists:

  • Houdini
  • Maya
  • Nuke 
  • Adobe Photoshop, After Effects
  • 3D Studio Max particles/dynamics systems
  • Substance Painter
  • Matte Painter
  • Max Script
  • Python
  • HLSL

Skills required

A high level of visual creativity and knowledge of real-world dynamics are essential for becoming a VFX Artist for Games. These are innate abilities that are built on with special effects training. 

Employers may look for the following skills:

  • Solid knowledge of the principles of animation
  • Experience with animation software
  • Proficiency with special effects software
  • High-level visual skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Understanding of the fundamentals of art - color theory, lighting, shape, depth of field, composition, movement, etc
  • A love of playing games and sensitivity to the user experience
  • Ability to adapt to various art styles and genres
  • Organizational and analytical ability, problem solving skills
  • Good time management skills
  • Ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
  • An understanding of the production process
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to take constructive criticism and adapt to changes

Average salary

FX positions typically aren’t entry level, they require a few years experience in animation with a specialization in FX. A typical path towards specialization would be to start as a compositor, rotoscope artist, clean up artist, etc, moving through more complex roles before getting into an FX team. 

Wages for FX Artists start at around USD $31,000 and peak at around USD $107,000.

*Source: Payscale


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