Concept Artist: Professional Overview

A concept artist is a specialist who creates the first rough images and sketches of characters, environments, and objects. He translates the ideas into a drawing, which the rest of the project team then works with.

To create concept art, it is necessary to be able to do more than draw. You must be fluent in popular 2D and 3D drawing programs, clearly follow the requirements specification, and understand the customer.

What is the job of a concept artist?

Concept art (from the English concept art) is an art form in which artists create concepts and ideas for various projects such as films, video games, comics, etc. It is used to design the appearance of characters, terrain, objects, architecture, and others. Project elements. Concept art helps artists and designers visualize ideas, define the style and aesthetic of a project, and attract investors and potential customers.

The main goal is to present the general idea of the project for further development. A concept is an important tool for many other professionals. Even though concept art does not pay attention to details and nuances, it is significant as it largely determines the product’s final appearance. Concept art focuses on setting the overall tone and mood of the work.

This helps set the direction for other specialists and stay consistent with the initially approved idea, saving the project client time and money.

A concept artist is a specialist who plays a key role in creating art. He develops the initial idea and visualizes it through sketches of art. He develops the initial idea and visualizes it in the form of sketches. This helps the team of artists, designers, and other experts understand the basic concept of the project and give it a certain style and mood.

The main job of a concept artist is to help create the final product that will meet the client’s or company management’s expectations. Although concept artists do not have to be experts in the technique, they still need to be proficient in drawing and composition to convey their ideas as accurately as possible. He must be creative and have a sense of style to create unique, high-quality concept art.

There are a number of directions for the work of the concept, among which it is worth noting three main ones:

Character concept art

An image artist can create concept art for various living beings, including ordinary people, monsters, cartoon characters, video game characters, fantasy creatures, and more.

The character’s overall appearance is determined during the character concept stage, including personality traits, postures, body language, facial expressions, behavior, and emotions. The result can also include clothing, hairstyles, and accessories to create a unique and memorable look. This helps define and convey its main features in the final product.

Environment concept artist

When working on the environment for the characters, the concept artist creates a general idea of the appearance of the characters’ environment (location design, stage backgrounds, architecture, etc.), including its elements and details (bridges, forests, castles, cities, etc.). This is an important process that helps to convey the atmosphere and mood of the place, as well as its functionality and main characteristics. Environment and entourage are important to creating a complete game universe or movie.

Modeling and rendering objects

The specialist develops the design of various items such as aircraft, weapons, all kinds of equipment, and so on. The concept artist uses various techniques, such as sketches, separate angles, storyboards, and object layouts, to convey the meaning of the project. The main goal is to convey the main idea of the work, and sometimes simple line art and photographic references can be more effective than a detailed sketch with superimposed lighting and shadow effects.

Many people think that the job of a concept artist is just to create rough sketches, which are then finalized by others. This may happen in large studios, but even experienced concepts seek to expand their horizons and try themselves in other areas.

While working on commercial projects, they can quickly switch from idea generation to line drawing and even technical tasks such as slicing and preparing images for animation. Their main thing is to maintain a creative approach and professionalism in any field of activity.

Advantages and disadvantages of being a concept artist

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of being a concept artist.

On the one hand, this is an exciting and creative profession that allows you to create fantastic worlds and get into the credits of famous films and games. In addition, it is characterized by a free schedule, which allows you to work as a freelancer and choose interesting jobs.

The skills of this professional can also be applied in various areas such as industrial, fashion, and interior design. In addition, with sufficient English, you can work abroad, expanding employment opportunities.

An unpredictable workload is also a disadvantage of this profession, as orders often come in unevenly, and tight deadlines and high demands lead to overtime and stress.

Criticism from game designers and leading artists leads to depression, so it is necessary to have strong psychological stability. It’s also important to consider that repetitive tasks and constant deadlines can spur creative burnout.

Required skills and abilities of a concept artist

Becoming an all-around concept artist is the best choice, as it expands the possibilities of finding a place. However, many employers in the film and game industry in the international arena insist on hiring highly specialized experts, believing that they have a unique style and high level of skill by concentrating on one area.

At the same time, regardless of the field, each concept artist will need the following skills:

ability to draw in a variety of freehand styles

This is a basic skill that any artist should have. But make sure to distinguish concept artists from illustrators, who are required to have impeccable drawing skills. In the work of a concept artist in the film and games industries, the clarity of the image is more valued. The more detailed the proportions and dimensions of the result of his work, the fewer possible problems there will be at the next stages, such as modeling, animation, and programming.

Understanding color, details, composition, and, finally, overall style

These elements help to control the attention of the viewer and his gaze. In addition, they are an integral part of creating locations and characters in games and movies. Well-thought-out composition, style, details, and colors allow for more visual and convincing concepts that better convey the intended atmosphere and idea of the project.

Understanding and ability to practically use software

Concept artists must be proficient in the software most widely used in the industry. Among these programs are:

  • blender;
  • ZBrush;
  • modo;
  • 3D Max;
  • Maya;
  • Sketchbook Pro;
  • CorelDraw.

Note that the list contains both 2D and 3D packages. This is due to the fact that creating a base for a future concept may be more convenient and faster in 3D, after which it will be possible to finalize the drawing in a 2D program.

Knowledge of design fundamentals

Understanding the basis of this activity allows artists to create the necessary mood and convey important plot points in the game. A well-thought-out design can point the player in the right direction and help them understand what is happening on the screen. Moreover, with the help of specific chips, you can create the desired effect for the player, for example, by placing a bright and recognizable object on the location, which will be a navigation point and tell the player that there is something important in this place.

Understanding business requirements

The main objective of any business is to make a profit. Therefore, each team member working on the project must be aware that even a minor mistake in creating content can result in high financial costs for the studio to correct and remake it.

The task of the concept, located at the beginning of the production chain, is to be as responsible as possible. If he doesn’t think carefully about his actions, this can lead to the fact that in the last stages of work on the project, he will have to redo the content, which will greatly slow down the work of the entire team. This is especially true for remote contact schemes and outsourcing, where the ability to correct a mistake before its implementation is very limited.

The speed of work and the ability to “fit” into the deadline

One of the main qualities of a concept artist is the speed of work. The sooner he presents the result of his activities, the sooner production of the game can begin. After all, without an idea, other specialists cannot join the process.

It’s also important to remember that the concept artist must create multiple versions of the illustrations so that the designer and art director can choose the best one.

Personal qualities of a concept artist

To become a successful concept artist who will create unique and engaging media products, you need to develop certain personal qualities. In particular, communication is a key skill since the work of this profession involves constant interaction with other professionals. It is important to be able to build relationships with management, colleagues, and customers.

The initiative is also needed, as customers highly value new and original ideas. The manifestation of interest in the project and the proposal of fresh solutions are valuable.

The ability to meet deadlines is just as important. You need to organize your time to complete the work on time properly.

You must have a rich imagination and broad outlook to create compelling concepts. You need to constantly replenish your background and look for new experiences that can inspire you.

Finally, presenting your work and selling your skills are importantA concept artist must be able to tell a story through visual language, convincingly justifying decisions.

How to develop skills as a concept artist:

  • Learn to stop on time. This is especially important because every concept should be able to say “no” to perfectionism. The main purpose of your work is the thought process, and if you devote less time to careful drawing, then there will be no space or time for reasoning. Details can be added later, and the artist’s task is to set the general direction.
  • Learn to think strategically. If you present the final result of your work at the initial stage, this will greatly facilitate the whole process. The image of the future drawing formed in your mind will help you focus on the process and avoid mistakes. If you still can’t do it, don’t worry; it will get easier with time, and everything will work out.
  • Stay focused on details. Spending much time on each drawing is necessary if it has not received final approval. Prepare several dozen sketches, from which you will choose one or two for further development. This approach will save time and effort.

Getting Started as a Concept Artist

At the start of training, it is important to say goodbye to the main illusions of this specialty and make sure that three essential elements are responsible for success in further work:

Step 1: Interest in and desire to do this business

Suppose your desire to work in conceptual art comes only from the expectation of a high salary close to the income in the IT or gaming industries. In that case, it may be worth thinking twice about choosing this particular direction. The profession will require a stable interest and maximum involvement; otherwise, it will take more work to succeed.

You can’t make money by drawing. The explanation is simple: a concept artist must be fluent in three to five specialized programs, including 3D modeling.

Of course, no one will require super knowledge at the beginning of work, but if you decide to become a real specialist, then be prepared for a long study period. You must understand the software, train, and acquire skills as digital art develops exponentially.

A good salary can be seen as an incentive, but when facing the need to render 300 instances of the same theme, you will realize that sincere interest is a more powerful motivation. You can become a good concept only if you constantly work on professional growth, which is only possible with love for your work.

Answer for yourself: do you like to draw (meaning the process itself, not the final result), think, analyze, and find the best solutions? If yes, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Understanding the profession

To avoid disappointment in the future, it is necessary to understand from the beginning what is hidden under the concept of “concept artist.” This professional’s work takes place at the very early stage of the project when you need to come up with and visualize ideas for subsequent transfer to other specialists. Because of this, this is an artist with complete freedom of creativity, which no one limits.

It is only sometimes possible for a concept artist to fully realize their creative ideas. The work takes place within the framework of a clearly defined technical task, which often leaves little room for experimentation. And although this profession may seem exciting and interesting, many can quickly get bored with its routine in practice.

The main thing is to maintain a balance between three components:

  • To feel and be able to convey the mood of the project;
  • Fulfill all the wishes and requirements of the project manager or customer;
  • Highlight a few important aspects to help you fall in love with the project and do your job pleasantly.

Find a balance between these factors, and you can succeed in this profession. In addition, to delve deeper into the topic, it is recommended to communicate with colleagues in specialized communities.

Step 3: General analysis of the profession

We recommend analyzing the potential of this specialty. Focus on more than just wages; pay attention to the demand for concept artists, the various areas in this activity, the possibility of participating in international projects, etc. It is important to compare this data carefully with your capabilities and interests.

When choosing a vector in CG painting, it’s better to focus on what you like more: working with games, animation, or other areas. But do not worry too much about this, as many of the knowledge and skills in this area overlap and complement each other. Moreover, you can always expand your skills to become more in demand.

Concept Artist Training Options

How do I become a concept artist? You can self-study or attend special courses to learn a profession from scratch. Higher education can also provide basic knowledge and skills that can later be used in a profession.


There are no universities designed specifically for training concept artists. However, some higher education institutions can provide certain skills required for this profession.

We recommend that you pay attention to training programs for the “illustrator” profession, as they can provide important knowledge for future work. Currently, 24 universities and 12 programs are available that can be useful for those who want to become concept artists. Especially useful will be the study of illustration, easel graphics, and design in CGI and comics.

Online courses

Today, courses are the most effective way to gain knowledge and skills for mastering the profession of a concept artist. They offer a flexible learning schedule and the ability to study materials at any convenient time. You will be able to get the necessary theory and practical skills that are important for starting a career. Leading online schools provide curators and mentors who, if necessary, will provide support and help answer any questions.

The training programs are focused on the modern labor market, which gives a high chance of finding a job in this area immediately after the end of the course. Many schools also offer help with resume writing and internships, increasing the chances of getting a job quickly. Also, remember freelancing: a concept artist can work remotely simultaneously for different companies and earn very good amounts.


This path can be a great choice for those who want to become concept artists. In this area, there are examples of successful self-taught people who have achieved significant success thanks to the knowledge and skills they acquired without active outside help.

Of course, independent education can be quite a complicated process since you need to understand what materials to use, how to organize the development of new things, and how to stick to the plan. However, if you are willing to put in a lot of time and feel strong enough to support your learning, you can become a good conceptualizer without spending much money on education.

Thus, when there is a firm decision to become a concept artist, where to study is unimportant. It is important not to stop there and to continue to improve your skills even after you become a professional. In the field of concept art, new trends and directions often appear, so you need to be aware of the latest trends and be able to use them in your work to satisfy the needs of customers.

Demand and salary of a concept artist

So how much does a concept artist make? In CIS countries, the profession is just gaining popularity, associated with a few vacancies. However, a well-established concept with a powerful portfolio will always find a high-paying job in an organization or as a freelancer.

Concept art artists receive different pay depending on many factors, such as experience, type, and work location. On average, in developed countries, particularly the USA, the salary of a concept artist is higher. In the US, the average income of such professionals is $102,000 per year.

However, avoid jumping to conclusions, as this difference is due to many factors. In the US, this profession is in demand due to a large number of studios, film companies, and game development firms, which creates a greater demand for the services of specialists. Hence, it raises their salary. It is also necessary to consider the difference in the economic situation between the countries and the differences in the position of such a specialist. Therefore, it will not be possible to unambiguously answer the question of how much a concept artist receives.

Search for a place for an internship and first orders.

If you want to develop professionally and do concept art not only for yourself but also for the purpose of earning money, then sooner or later, you will face the need to find a place for an internship. In this case, two options can also be useful when looking for a place of permanent employment:

  1. Select the companies you would like to work for and conduct an in-depth analysis of their design and style. If, for example, we are talking about a film studio, it is worth watching films that have been released or have become popular. If this is a game industry, spend some time playing the game to understand the essence of the product. Then create a portfolio that will match the style of a particular company. Life hack: draw exactly what an art director could put into a project. Complete your portfolio with a cover letter expressing your desire to collaborate.
  2. If you want to maintain your style to please the customer, find an employer who creates similar novelties. Get ready for the fact that it will not be fast. Further, the algorithm of actions is the same as in the first variant.

Artemy carried them out and removed the fictitious version from the “collection of orders,” replacing it with a new one. The fictional portfolio gradually became real. A future game concept artist can also use this tactic. The personnel officer will likely need to check whether the real game was developed on which the art was created. As a last resort, the project was not completed.

The concept artist profession has an undeniable advantage, expressed in the possibility of remote work. Many artists dream of working for famous foreign companies such as Riot GamesHello GamesRockstar North, Wargaming, Mojang, and Rovio. They consider employment in these organizations to be great luck.

To summarize, the profession of a concept artist, despite its creative nature, requires a professional approach and organization from the applicant. Someone may be afraid of the small number of vacancies and orders in this area, but it will be easy for a good specialist to find a job with decent pay. Moreover, this sector is rapidly developing, and the skills of an artist can always be used to quickly retrain into a related expert, for example, a 2D illustrator.


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