Look Dev Artist

The role, salary, software and skills of a look dev artist

Student work by John Olofinskiy

What does a look dev artist do?

Look dev artists (also known as surfacing artists or surfacers) play a crucial part in both pre-production and post-production processes. They oversee the overall look of the initial artwork and concentrate on developing the aesthetics of the game in pre-production. In post-production they create the final finishes on the game’s textures. 

The texture artist will provide the textures chosen for assets then the look dev artist will add shading, special effects, contours, etc. They will also develop the differing conditions of a texture, for example how it will react to elements such as water, light, wind, fire, etc. In terms of character design, they may work on skin textures such as goosebumps, heckles, burns, etc. 

Establishing visual style is an important responsibility of the look dev artist. They work within genre, geography, and mood to help establish the world of the game. They keep these style filters consistent throughout the work to maintain a seamless gamescape. 

Look dev artist job description

As the title suggests a look dev artist focuses on the development of the visual style of the game. Overseeing all elements such as layouts, environments, characters, objects, assets, etc are in line with a uniform look. This involves setting the style, color scheme, genre, and execution of the artwork.

Look dev artists put the finishing touches on textures to keep them in line with the aesthetics of the game. They curate the color scripts of the game, determining the mood of a scene or level. This is done by determining rendering processes and the stylized asset designs.  

Role & responsibilities of a look dev artist in the film and games:

  • Create mood boards, color schemes, and lighting plans as references for animators and designers
  • Produce a variety of variations of designs and concepts for approval
  • Maintain production documentation
  • Establish format procedures and guidelines
  • Ensure that textures are believable and work well on screen
  • Test ideas to achieve maximum quality results
  • Provide rough preliminary composites of renders for review
  • Apply texture maps, set up scene templates, and define standard render passes

Skills required to become a look dev artist

The Look Dev Artist has to have a keen eye for detail and the ability to look at the big picture of a game. They are adept at interpreting visual styles across all environments, backgrounds, characters, and assets. Working with a clear vision of the final integrated aesthetic is a vital skill for the look dev artist.

Video game studios may look for the following skills in a look dev artist:

  • Strong understanding of visual language - texture, color, dimension, scale, perspective, shade, composition depth of field, proportion, lighting, spatial awareness, etc
  • Highly experienced in texturing and adding effects to textures
  • Able to produce multiple revisions of artwork as briefed
  • Experience with fur and hair grooming and cloth simulation design
  • Able to create photorealistic finishes and visual effects 
  • Familiarity with texture mapping and finishing

What software and tools do look dev use?

Look dev artists may initially sketch out designs and storyboards with pen and paper, however, all artwork is finished and presented digitally.

Look dev artists may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Cinema 4D
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Nuke
  • Houdini
  • Keyshot
  • Katana
  • Clarisse
  • Substance Painter
  • Substance Designer
  • Quixel
  • Krita
  • Affinity Designer
  • Clip Paint Studio
  • Renderman
  • Arnold
  • vRay

How much does a look-dev artist make? 

The role of a look dev artist is not an entry-level one, it requires at least 2-3 years of experience in game art design to take on the heavy responsibility of overseeing the entire look of a game. The average salary of a Look Dev Artist ranges from USD $32,000 to USD $77,000. Source: Glassdoor



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