Game Artist

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

Student work by Yolac Yurekli

What does a video game artist do?

A game artist is often a generalist animator and/or 3D modeler who creates both 2D and 3D art for video games. Working from design briefs and concept art, game artists give expression to the script from the storyboard to populate the world of the game.

They work on all the visual elements required to put a game together, including characters, objects, textures, assets, environments, props, vehicles, weapons, etc.

Many game artists will specialize in one or more of these areas as game development becomes increasingly sophisticated. The extent of the role also depends on the size of the studio and project.

During the course of their career they may take on a variety of positions within an animation and/or modeling or assets team, leading to an ever-increasing deeper understanding of the process.

Game artist job description

Game artists design preliminary sketches and develop them according to a video game’s general style. They then create 2D or 3D models from these sketches under the supervision of the Lead Artist. These elements create the world, its mood, and unique personality. 

There are various areas of specialization for game artists, including character design, architecture and landscapes, lighting, modeling, special effects, texturing, and animation.

Role & responsibilities of a game artist in the gaming industry:

  • Liaising with lead designers and developers regarding the style and feel of the game
  • Researching references and resources required to produce the assets of the game
  • Sketching concept designs and key elements of the visual style
  • Building 3D models of all assets in line with the technical limits of the game engine
  • Applying textures to all visual elements
  • Adding lighting and shading effects to all elements, ensuring consistency in color, intensity and lighting levels
  • Animating characters and creatures
  • Integrating special effects to textures, scenes and events, including muzzle flashes, weather effects, particle systems, sparking wires, smoke, haze, billowing dust, steam vents, explosions, etc
  • Creating sound effects, conducting audio mixes and design
  • Designing promotional materials, packages, posters and websites for the launch of the game
  • Producing prototypes for testing
  • Working with motion capture
  • Maintaining production documentation
  • Advising on new technologies
  • Problem solving both creative and technical issues
  • Adhering to the production schedule
  • Curating and cataloguing of the asset library
  • Designing with the user experience in mind


Skills required to become a video game artist

Game artists are skilled in many aspects of game development. As their careers progress they may specialize in an area that interests them most and serves their specific talents.

Games are produced by teams, so communication and interpersonal skills are vital to aid in the smooth running of the game production pipeline

Video game studios may look for the following skills in game artists:

  • Training in game art and animation
  • Knowledge of lighting, perspective, material finishes and special effects
  • Cinematic eye for lighting and shading
  • Strong drawing skills, ability to visualize and design from abstract ideas
  • Solid knowledge of game genres and latest trends in gaming
  • Ability to work from storyboards 
  • Advanced understanding of visual language - texture, color, dimension, scale, perspective, shade, composition depth of field, proportion, spatial awareness, etc
  • Talent for visual storytelling
  • 3D modeling skills
  • Knowledge of 2D and 3D animation, and familiarity with the principles of animation 
  • Systematic and logical work practices
  • Working knowledge of industry standard software and ongoing professional development
  • Team player, ability to work independently
  • Experience in working with audio files
  • Ability to create special effects
  • Knowledge of anatomy, zoology, layout design, texturing and asset creation
  • Ability to take on constructive criticism and delivering amendments based on feedback
  • Used to working under pressure and consistently meeting deadlines

What software and tools do game artists use?

Game artists may work with any manner of gaming and animation software.

Game artists may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects
  • Maya
  • Blender
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Mudbox
  • Zbrush
  • Substance Painter
  • CAD
  • Quixel
  • TVPaint
  • ToonBoom Harmony
  • CelAction
  • Unreal Engine
  • Nuke
  • Unity 3
  • Python 
  • C++
  • Houdini

How much does a game artist make? 

The average salary of a game artist ranges from USD $42,000 to USD $80,000 depending on skills level and studio size. (Source: Glassdoor)



Want to know more? Download your free guide!

Here's your guide to starting your career in the video game industry.


Game development courses taught by industry experts