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  1. #1
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    Oct 2002
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    Concept artist: What does it take?

    Hey all, I'm still at school but I really wanna get into the concept art buisness when i'm done with school (another 5 years or so, doing an other school after this one :p)

    My dream (now) is to work for blizzard (or something simulair with a big fantasy feel to it) I know it's probably quite impossible cause i'm probably not the only one thats aiming for a job there, and I live in The Netherlands But still it can't be bad to have a dream right?

    Now back to my question: What does it take, in what do you have to specialise for concept art industry?? Is it originality and different characters? Scenarios? Buildings? Or is it more on 'how well you draw' instead of being original? Or is it all the things together? and what is the level you have to reach before you even have a shot at a job in that catagory?

    Thanks in advance

    David Smit

    (sorry for my terrible english still learning )

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  3. #2
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    Sep 2002
    York, PA
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    Your english isn't terrible at's great! And if you keep pushing you could work for blizzard!

    I am really new to art myself but I have read a couple different things about people wanting to become concept artists. All the pros say the same thing..."Draw from life!". They strongly strongly suggest taking as many drawing from life classes that you can...figure drawing...anything. Also they highly recommend sketching at the zoo and learning animal anatomy. Having a good grasp on anatomy will lead into good creature designs. You also need to be able to create good environments...buildings and structures...but I think anatomy tips the scales a tremendous amount in your favor if you are good at it. Focus on that and just drawing from life in general and you will achieve it.

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  5. #3
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    Nov 2002
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    The very most important thing above even above solid drawing skills is your imagination . A concept artist is responsible for coming up with new crazy and imaginative ideas . When ever you see an interesting character in a game or a wacky car or tree some concept artist had to imagine that !! What would final fantasy be without someones amazing imagination !! Someone has to think up those creatures and puzzles and spell effects !!

    The next thing is the ability to draw and render ! Solid drawing skills , the kind that you get from drawing 8 hrs a day everyday is what is needed to really impress most art directors . A lot of marketing departments use the artwork from the concept artist to help sella product so an interesting stye is important sometimes. The ability to adapt your style to the needs of diffrent games is very important also . A mario game has a whole diffrent look and feel to it then say Counter strike but someone needs to concept the ideas for those games ! Being able to draw anything and quickly is part of the life of a concept artist . Creating dynamic and exciting characters ,fun environments even need to know how cinematograhy works !! At some point in your career you will be asked to create story boards for a cinematic and that takes knowledge of how cameras work and how to make a story flow !!

    My best advice is to loo at Star Wars movies and books ! Also there is a book out there called THE ART OF FINAL FANTASY 9 is it filled with awesome concept art from final fantasy 9 and has everything you would need to be a concept artist , but remember the most important thing is your imagination !!

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  7. #4
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    Nov 2002
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    Hey Bylo I'm in more or less the same situation than you. I want to work for Blizzard myself. What everyone else said basically, don't limit yourself to drawing only a few themes, get experience in everything!! I know that because I don't actually have any experience in the industry I shoudln't be posting, but I had to say something to a fellow Blizzard fan. Good luck man.:chug:

  8. #5
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    Aug 2002
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    What it takes to be a concept artist (and I'm speaking from very limited experience here. Just one game project)--

    most important thing I learned was never to take off on your own. you'll have your moments, but 99% of the time, a great concept artist knows he's part of a team, and shares the imagining with the rest of the other guys in the creative process----at least in the conceptualization stage. The visualization part is completely up to you, and that's where all the technical skills come in--Originality counts for something, definitely, but faithfully translating those cool ideas into images that appeal & excite & communicate something about whatever it is you're visualizing...that's key. And of course, all the really grand ideas are almost never a one-man job.

    rambling.... out
    It's got to be more than a memory, or is life just a fantasy and a piss in the sand?

  9. #6
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    Jul 2002
    Austin TX
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    i made this post in response to the ad for a concept artist at ROCKSTAR GAMES but...

    it fits better

    I think..that there is tremendous talent on the art forums. I also think that somtimes if the talent knows exactly what the position is that they will have a better idea what to show to nail the position...and perhaps even guage if the position is right for them.

    many companies use level designers as game play thinkers...not necessarily visual conceptual scenery guys.

    often times the level designer will come up with the general flow of the level and the kinds of events that happen on a sort of overview map and ROUGH block in of the area. Now, rockstar may vary on this pipeline a bit, but all teams need someone who can make the general mundane reality of things look visually appealing and appropriate to their game. A great team will need a conceptual artist to add a creative and beautiful twist...add mood..add feel...and delineate specifics so they can be quickly built by the 3d team.

    the question is...can you take a blocky rough sketch filled with notes and turn it into a more realized image that has all the necessary gameplay elements, story elements and also LOOKS FRIGGEN FANTASTIC? could a 3d modeller build in wireframe (exactly) from the sketch you provide? Does this sketch have all the necessary elements? It better...the producers and leads will probably have to sign off on it.

    can you do this during a meeting with teammates? a football coach might scrawl out a play on the dirt?

    I did not hear of any game play conceptualization in their post...just the ability to set up scenes and environments and at the same time give them that nasty gritty underworld feeling that rockstar is moving toward.

    It sounds like they are pushing it to whole new plateau...most companies will not devote an entire position to the said job. In my experience I feel that that job is a necessity to creating a great project. The fact that this position is available on this project says a lot.

    in order to get a game with environments that are not just that same old dark street with bland buildings and boarded up windows, someone needs to figure out what goes in these sets. This person needs to show how the environments can be set up so they feel natural and appropriate. Games are moving past that basic mundane empty hallway thing that most 3d games are so good at...levels now need to be filled with a multitude of props and sets just like a movie would.

    The technology is finally supporting this visual venture. Because of this, coming up with layouts of given sets (within the gameplay that the designers have laid out) has become a full time position with any team that is trying to do things right.

    Sometimes there is room to throw in some gameplay ideas...often times gameplay will restrict how the environment can be set up. (things to jump on or over...areas to battle etc...) The key in a position like this is to take the basics of what the writers and gameplay designers need and bring it to a whole new visual realm...while keeping all the requirements they need.

    sometimes what a level concept guy has to do is whatever the designer tells them...but nearly always the job is also to take an alley they need and make it work visually...and make not just another alley with a dumpster and a friggen barrel of fire...but to set up an interesting scene using the props that are available in their library and to come up with new props at the same time. these usually need to be quick to build and will need to add to the feel of the world. craetivity here is a must.

    now that the technology and engines allows for character and setting specific props, a lot more can be done with the scenes. PC's and Consoles can handle higher poly counts and thus the environments can be filled with cool stuff.

    Once the story and necessary gameplay elements are outlined in a given level it then needs to go on to someone who can stage character specific environmental ideas with populate it with story appropriate architecture for the given scene and prop ideas...if time allows this can also include texture and lighting suggestions within the concept.

    Since they are wanting these quick I would assume that they are wanting linear environment drawings...not fully rendered scenes that take days to paint. Most games need mood illustrations to set lighting feel and texture feel...but for the most part a pleothera of quick concept sketches need to be cranked out so that the people building the levels have resource to work from. often, one or two mood images will do..but then the builders will want to know the details. "what is this place?...what is this world?...what does the outcropping look like?...what does the statue look like?" the builders dont have a lot of time to figure this out...since you can draw faster than they can model it is easier for you to do it and for them to work from it.

    if a team has a guy who is doing this job then it is easy for the producers to sign off on the images and then pass them off to the level builders/texturers/lighters for construction. this position keeps the levels unified and also makes sure someone is taking the time to set things up as best they can within the given schedule.

    its just too hard nowadays to think up what you are going to texture light it...and to have gameplay in it..and HAVE IT LOOK these positions are broken up into chunks and different people attack the area that they are best at. if all the ingredients go in right then you have a successful stew. a successful stew feeds the masses...and on to the next project you go.

    I hope this helps...rockstars pipeline may vary but this will explain a bit of what concept artist does on a game is deeper than above though...often times other kinds of illustration needs to be done. (such as character art, ads, posters and other cool stuff)....

    regardless...THIS IS A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU PEEPS....get some level art together and send it off.

    if it was me...Id spend the next five days doing nothing but watching warriors over and over again while i paint city scapes..alleyways...streets....interiors...pawnsho name it...urban madness...grit...dark...and Id be sure it had a creative twist too just to entertain myself...after all..any artist at a game company can imagine an alley in a game like that. (dark..fires...garbage blowing in the street...wind...buzzing streetlights...old architecture mixed with new advertising...graphiti...) ...a concept artist specializes in making that boring mundane alley that anyone can picture into something that is exciting and fresh to view. how you set that up so that it is interesting and creative is up to you.

    good luck all.

    jason manley

    PS...this is only one aspect of what a concept artist does over the life of a project. If the project is already rolling then the characters are probably done...and if it is not, then someone else already has them scheduled.

    environments are a blast...a challenge...and intense...if you want a job doing this kind of thing...APPLY WITH THESE GUYS...its not like you would have to worry about job security now that rockstar is rockstar....rad dark titles...high budget titles..big exposure...


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  11. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Beacon, NY
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    Hi Bylo,

    I copied this from one of the Administrator's threads back last May before all the post were lost. Jaymz had some really good info that helped me out alot so I thought I'd post it again for all the noobs!

    Portfolio Advice
    Hi all.

    I thought I'd just post up a quick thread about portfolios. Every year, I do a recruiting trip with LucasArts and I always get asked the same questions: "what should I put in my portfolio?"

    Here're some suggestions.

    Research the company
    The first thing is to research the company you are applying for. Do they do dungeons and dragons games or sci-fi games? If they do D&D stuff, then you should probably include some fantasy concepts. Do they work with more of a realistic style or cartoony? If it's an animation house, they might have specific requirements for portfolios and demo reels.

    Tailor your portfolio to the company

    I remember this one portfolio I got with a series of nude elf girls drawn in manga style...needless to say, he did not get an interview. I also get very competent 'fine art' portfolios focusing on figure work and landscapes, but have little or no computer experience or have actual concept work. It's a shame to turn some of them away, but our company just doesn't want invest in training them to do the concept or computer work required for them...even if they had the necessary skill base.

    Portfolio Content

    *Character designs

    Pay Attention to detail and costume. Pose is nice, but remebmer that design is most important. Be original. Do not use existing designs from ANYWHERE. Chances are...employers will recognise it. On a design you are particularly proud of, show the design from start to finish. Sketches, finals, colors, close ups, references, details, equipment, etc...

    *Creature designs

    Same thing as above. This can also include aliens, monsters, etc. Be original. Pay special attention to texture and anatomy. It might be helpful to draw a full aciton pose as well as an orthos of front, side, back of the monster.


    A few pages should be fine. Pay special attention that it's readable and not overly detailed. They should be quick and demonstrate good pacing.


    This includes anything from vehicles to engines, to guns, to steam engines, to robots, etc. Show good design as well as good rendering. Some portions might require close ups. Demonstrate that you understand how machines function. Color is not as critical, but still nice.


    Have a good mix of interior and exterior environments. Show value, mood, space, and composition. Perhaps you can explore a specific idea...from a space station to a castle. It's helpful to demonstrate that you are good with organic and inorganic elements.

    *Work from life

    Show a few of your BEST work from life. Landscape paintings and/or figure work. This gives recruiters a good idea of where you are in terms of skill and control. Gestures are good too to show that you can draw fast, but a few pages should do. Gestures are more important for animator portfolio than concept art portfolios.

    *Personal work

    Optional, but if you have other pieces you are very proud of that do not fall in to other catagories. Selfportraits, finished illustrations, published works, etc.

    For film, the effects house often hires at least one concept artist for each catagory listed above. For games, we often don't have the luxury to hire so many individuals, so having a variety of work is specially important. That said, the single most important thing to remember is to INCLUDE ONLY YOUR BEST WORK . A single bad piece can ruin how an employer looks at your work. For example, if you are strong in several of the catagories above, but not so good in machinery...then leave them out! They will bring more harm than good!

    A final note on portfolios, you don't have to submit anything too fancy. Just a simple book of transparant slips is fine. Most portfolios are a book with around 20-40 pieces of work. Make sure they are nice clean, colored reproductions. And of course, always include your Resume and cover letter.

    Best of luck,

    -Jaymz Mon May 20, 2002 6:18 pm

    Jason Manley

    Site Admin

    Joined: 10 May 2002 are amazing.

    thanks for putting up the info.

    one thing to add from my perspective. I very much enjoy good life drawings. this would be an example of researching the company and the artists there. I cant stand carbon copy disney style gesture portfolios. I like a great page of stuff like that (see justin kaufmans sketch page on his gallery)...I just dont like to see only that...unless its just fantastic stuff like Justins.

    personal work is important for me to shows also shows whether a person is into art for arts sake or for the dough. Sadly I dont do as much personal work as I used to...but I do my best to bring my personal tastes to my work...and that is what I like to see in others portfolios at the very least.

    james is right about not including junk to fill the portfolio. you will be judged on your poor pieces. no poor pieces in the portfolio makes you look consistent and strong in your skills.

    I actually prefer jpegs sent thru email...and a cd or portfolio to come later. Emailing jpegs can clog peoples boxes quickly so make them compressed and have them look as good as you can. do not send the entire image library in your posession...send three or four images...even on one page...that will get my mouth watering if they are good and I would contact you for more....its like a fresh apple pie...if it smells great then you want to eat it right? if it smells like day old tuna then....well then ya need to keep working on your portfolio.

    do not pester the person who you sent your stuff to...a few emails or a call or two is fine...but constant badgering and not listening to the contact will get you pushed out.

    and finally....IT IS NOT JUST your portfolio...a good portfolio is a given...being able to hang with the crowd at the company is important too. after all, you will be friends with many of the peeps you work with.

    I remember james telling me that when he got the job at lucas...he said "its just as much about being friends as it is having a good portfolio"

    i agree.

    sorry for the bad grammar...gotta go.


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  13. #8
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    Jul 2004
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    Smile Thanks Eric Unsl For that post.

    Hey man your post helped me alot on what to expect. I took some notes off it and next fall I am going to college to take general classes and study art. I really would like to be a concept artest. So baisicly now I know waht to expect.

  14. #9
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    Jan 2004
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    I've got a couple of years experience doing concept work for a feature animation. The Studio is small and the concept team is smaller. There are only 4 of us full timers to handle concept art for the big feature animation project and the various smaller projects that they get so often. We have a few interns and later on a few more full timers to help us out. One thing I found was the more adaptable you are, the better you'll do.

    Concept art ranges from coming up with ideas, putting those ideas into comprehendable layout designs and eventually you're going to write notes about it to ensure the 3D or production people know how to make things work. Concept artists also do storyboards, color keys, and when the conceptualizing period is over for the project, you have to move into production and continue the project....unless your studio has a constant stream of fresh projects coming in that will require your services all the time (like Pixar).....otherwise, expect to move into production. Whether its texture or background painting or even low poly props modelling, maybe filling in as a motion capture actor or even move into scheduling and paperwork when the production phase starts, or even doing editing or motion graphics in post production.

    I think a concept artist is an all rounder, good in everything, not exceptional but good enough to get by. But because he's good in everything, he does everything. Its not an easy job.
    There are 3 sides to every story. Yours, mine and THE TRUTH.

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  16. #10
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    Apr 2003
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    What does it take?

    Here's what it took me. But then again I'm not at Blizzard though I am a pro artist for circa 15 years now. And I'm self taught.

    1) I always loved drawing and have been drawing since I was a toddler.
    The weak point was between 14 and 18 years old. That's when I chose to continue or not to continue drawing.

    2) Learn the following. You should know them well enough so you don't have to look them up in front of a client.

    Anatomy and action poses. That is, how to create them.
    Drawing costumes, make up and hair.
    Values (wait with color until later, when you fully understand values).

    Between all the Andrew Loomis books downloadable from

    and the books Shot by Shot by Steven Katz, The animtors survival kit by Richard Williams, Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and my humble tutorial below you should be well on your way. It's all there, now you "just" have to take it in and be aable to apply it to your own drawing skills.

    This and checking out every "behind the scenes" DVD and "Making of" art book out there is what got me to where I am today. That and total self discipline to work hard at it - drawing, drawing, drawing and drawing.

    What to draw you ask? Pick your favorite book and redesign all the charcaters, sets, props and FX in that. I chose Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

    Focus, patience, passion and preserverance. That's what it takes for me.

    "To achive the impossible you have to attempt the absurd."

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  18. #11
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    This has been an awsome thread so far. Thanks to everyone who has posted so far!

  19. #12
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    Oct 2004
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    Im New At this


    Hey, im only 15 so im pretty young, but i really do want to get into art mroe and more. Im ok i guess now, i really gotta start with color more. But i just want to say that you guys have really helped me out. thanks

  20. #13
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    Mar 2006
    Cape Town, South Africa
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    Im quite scared actually!... there so many of us younge guys out there that want to work for big gaming companies like blizzard one day.
    I actually wouldn't mind knowing how many kids my age (18-19) want to do a job like that?
    We can take over the world with our awesomeness one day, gl with the dreams we share peeps.
    Viva le Concept artists!

  21. #14
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    Aug 2006
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    What an old old old thread!

    There's info about the games industry in my sig. . . clicky. ..
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  22. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Thanked 6 Times in 5 Posts
    This thread, however old, has been extremely helpful and has made me realize that if I mean what I say about working for the big boys (and girls!) one day, then I truly need to get serious, dig in my heels, grit my teeth and practice!!!

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