Ceased Trading. 12th Sept 2013

Getting the Job: Art

Getting into the game industry can be very difficult, even with good skills. The guidance and advice section will give you more direct advice on what you'll need to be good at and which areas to concentrate on in order to significantly improve your chances.

If you're interested in a work placement please click here to find out more.

Art Overview

See the job role sections below for specific details about getting each job:

3D Modeller & Texture Artist

There are two primary requirements here. Above all else, you need good artistic skills; a general grounding in traditional art is of paramount importance. This should include, but not be limited to, good drawing skills, anatomy, an appreciation of form, composition and colour theory. The ability to demonstrate good traditional artist skills is becoming more and more important.

The other big requirement is well-practised abilities in the use and application of 3D modelling software like Maya, 3DS Max, XSI or Lightwave. These packages are the industry standards and as you'll be using them day in and day out, you'll need to be good at at least one of them. You should have a solid grasp of the following basics: low to medium density polygon modelling, mapping (laying out UVs), and applying basic materials to a model.

Good levels of competence in the creation and application of texture maps using at least one image creation package such as Photoshop, Painter or Z-Brush are also required. Additional experience in 2D vector art packages such as Illustrator is highly desirable.

Role Specific Requirements
The basic requirement of any application is to convey your ability to turn ideas and drawn concepts into functioning game-ready 3D models. In addition to modelling and texturing skills, traditional art skills like drawing are also important.

  • Concept art / initial sketches from which you built your models.
  • Clean, clear renders of your completed models. Try to include details on things like the polygon counts and the number and sizes of the textures used.
  • Images of the texture maps you used in the models.
  • If you wish to include 3D meshes, make sure that all textures are also included as well as renders of the model as specified above.
  • Preferably the portfolio should include realistic objects built and textured from photographic reference (other work is welcome but if no realistic work is included it will be missed).
  • General art skill support work such as drawing, concept art etc.
  • Any support details such as the project briefs, people involved and outcomes.
  • There are many sites on the Internet that specialise in the creation of art assets for modifications of existing commercial games. These sites contain a wealth of information regarding the creation of game quality art assets. All prospective game artists can learn a great deal from these sites. They also give you the opportunity to create some art yourself and see it running in a real game engine
  • If you have a PC but don't have the software, visit the main sites of the 3D package manufacturers and download free personal learning editions. These will allow you to learn the packages and get in all those vital hours of practice!
  • Scour Ebay and other sources for books and learning materials. Many people get rid of books soon after they have worked through them and usually sell them on for a fraction of their original cost.

Technical Artist

Being a very versatile job role, the Technical Artist is required to be a general artist with a strong technical awareness and abilities. Artistic requirements are the same as the other artist roles, with the added ability to communicate and work closely with programmers.

On the technical side of things, Technical Artists that have the ability to programme plug-ins or write scripts and even create shaders rank very high on any list of desirable candidates. Practise your scripting and plug-in programming by creating tools that speed up and facilitate artists and animators in their daily work. Examine the ways that artists and animators work and look for ways to help them save time; even if it is a small saving, it all counts!

From creating effects, manipulating skeleton structures and processing data to improve the visual quality of the game or the toolsets of the art department, the Technical Artist is now becoming vitally important.

Role Specific Requirements
As this is a fairly new role, the requirements are pretty specific. In addition to the basic artistic requirements, the Technical Artist must also demonstrate an understanding of the technical aspects of the role.

  • Good work examples that demonstrate solid artistic abilities for modelling and perhaps animation. See above for details.
  • Scripts and plug-ins submitted with details on why they were created and what impact they had on the production pipeline. These may have been created as part of a live project or just for you to improve your own workflow.
  • Any support documentation that you feel demonstrates your knowledge of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different hardware platforms or game engines.
  • Details on your part on any project work where you acted in the capacity of a technical artist, even if this was just at college or university.
  • Practise speeding up repetitive art and animation tasks using scripts and plug-ins - it's the secret to success in this role.
  • Learn as much as you can about the game production pipeline and look for ways to speed things up and remove bottlenecks.

Visual Effects Artist

The requirements for a Visual Effects Artist are pretty impressive. In addition to the obligatory traditional art skills, you'll need to have excellent 2D art abilities, a very acute awareness of the technical restrictions of both the game engine and target platforms, and above all the creative vision to create stunning effects.

The ability to solve problems and experiment, often without much guidance, is also essential, as many tasks are fairly open-ended. Being able to predict how to transfer effects from one game platform to another and exploit the strengths of different target platforms is absolutely vital.

Visual Effects Artists normally stem from a career as a regular game artist. The likelihood of landing a job as a Visual Effects Artist straight from college is pretty remote due to the technical requirements of the role. But if it's eye candy you'd like to create, then this is the job to aim for!

Role Specific Requirements
This one is all about eye candy. All you need to show is how cool your effects work can be and how you've gone about creating those effects.

  • Any concept art or initial sketches of the effects.
  • Any briefing materials used to initiate a special effect.
  • Texture maps and / or models you created as part of the effects you have created.
  • Animations/videos of effects systems or particles that demonstrate your ability to create compellingly impressive effects.
  • Traditional art examples - anatomy, life studies etc.
  • Study all the visual effects reference you can lay your hands on and practice figuring out how you would go about implementing the same effects in a game engine. Look at 'making of' sections of DVDs and effects publications like Cinefex for inspiration.
  • Become expert in the use of particle systems and focus on creating effective textures for use with them.
  • Play plenty of games and maintain a clear picture of what the current state of the art is in terms of visual effects, especially games that are recognised for exemplary effects.

Concept Artist

Drawing, drawing and more drawing!! Different styles, different rendering techniques and all sorts of subjects should form the backbone of your career focus.

A good mix of traditional as well as digital art is a must. Being able to communicate your ideas quickly and effectively is absolutely vital, so whether you have a pencil, stylus or brush in your hand, make sure you can draw well.

In terms of drawing skills, most good Concept Artists study subjects like anatomy in order to facilitate and improve their work. Concept Artists able to tackle any subject matter will always do well.

Role Specific Requirements
This one is pretty easy, as you only really need to supply lots of high quality drawn artwork. That said, there are some bases that need to be covered.

  • Show images in different styles - both in terms of rendering style and drawing style. The biggest strength of concept artists is to adopt any style necessary.
  • Try to include some art as layered Photoshop files - that will be very useful for the reviewer to understand how you work.
  • Where possible please include the time it took to complete each piece. Although you probably won't work at the optimum speed required for the industry when you begin work, the duration for each piece gives the reviewer more information about you and what needs to be done if you are successful.
  • Traditional art examples - anatomy, life studies etc.
  • Visit web sites like www.conceptart.org to get tips on technique and immerse yourself in the incredible art of other concept artists. (Please see our Resources section for more details)
  • Draw everything. Don't limit yourself to characters or objects or environments. A good Concept Artist can draw anything at a moment's notice in a variety of styles.
  • Many games require the artists to emulate art styles, especially if you are going to work on a license or a sequel. To train yourself in the art of emulation, find a few art styles you like the look of and practise copying them. The workflow you learn by doing this will help you learn new styles and develop a way to synchronise with other styles.

GUI Artist

Being essentially a 2D graphic design role, it stands to reason that good graphic design skills are paramount. Of particular importance are good layout awareness, a sound knowledge of colour theory and excellent typographical skills.

The ability to comprehend and design menu structures and visual elements that represent game functions is fundamental. GUI Artists' responsibilities can range from just doing a few simple images all the way through to designing the flow and function of the front end and/or HUD.

The ability to draw well on paper is a real bonus too. When meetings about the GUI or the HUD begin, GUI Artists often have to draw on the fly to try out ideas during the meetings. In any case, GUI Artists will usually have to have a paper design approved before production on the final assets begin.

2D art packages like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are the industry standards here, although the ability to model and render objects in a 3D package is a distinct advantage. Many GUI and HUD elements are now rendered in 3D before being manipulated afterwards in Photoshop.

Role Specific Requirements
The things you need to include for a GUI Artist application are pretty straightforward. The bottom line is that you need to show a good comprehension and appreciation of layout and visual style.

  • Great examples of initial concept art at various stages from thumbnail concepts right through to full colour visuals and mock-ups of GUIs and HUDs.
  • Final textures for use as a game GUI or HUD with any associated brief or requirements list.
  • Mocked-up screenshots showing how your own designs would work on-screen. If you have redesigned an existing GUI or HUD, include both versions for comparison and indicate where you think you have or have not improved things.
  • Graphic design layouts showing good use of layout, type and colour.
  • Traditional art examples.
  • Study every layout and screen design for as many games as possible. Take care to study why screen elements have been placed where they have and try to work out the underlying flow of in-game menu systems.
  • Read books on user interface design and layout and build a solid working knowledge of iconography. Universal iconic representations of game elements can be very difficult to create, especially in our global cross-culture game industry.
  • Practise your skills by re-designing the GUI or HUD for existing games. In this way you can evaluate what is already there, play the game and try to improve on or change the style of the GUI. This is especially useful if you think a particular game suffers from a poor GUI.
  • Develop a good library of fonts. Always be careful to maintain details of where the font comes from and if possible which foundry or artist produced them. In this way, if you decide to use a font in the game, the studio will be able to pay for the rights to use the font.

Texture Artist

The essential quality here is the ability to draw and create very high quality texture maps and imagery for application onto models or incorporation into shaders. Texture maps can be created using a very diverse number of techniques with a growing number of art creation packages. A very desirable quality is the ability to adopt different art styles as per the requirements of any given project.

Being an artist, it is important to have a solid grounding in traditional art skills that should include but not be limited to good drawing skills, anatomy, an appreciation of form, composition and colour theory. The ability to demonstrate good traditional artist skills is becoming more and more important within the industry.

Equally, Texture Artists must understand the fundamentals of texture co-ordinate layout and mapping (UVs) and also clearly understand the different types of maps and how they relate to each other.

Role Specific Requirements
As the name suggests, the basic requirement is for you to demonstrate the ability to create compellingly accurate and detailed texture maps. A broad range of styles and speed are key here.

  • A good range of examples of different types and styles of texture maps.
  • Try to include a few layered Photoshop files thereby allowing the reviewer to gain an insight into your workflow technique as you build up a texture.
  • Examples of different types of texture maps such as diffuse, bump, specular and normal maps. If possible demonstrate how they are all combined to create a finished surface effect.
  • General art skill support work such as drawing, concept art etc.
  • Any support details such as the project briefs, people involved and outcomes.
  • Practise and demonstrate a wide range of skills and styles. This may seem obvious, but many job application portfolios only exhibit one style. Having a varied portfolio of styles will separate you from the rest.
  • Draw as much as you can and invest in learning primary packages such as Photoshop as much as you can. The secret to being a good Texture Artist lies in being fast as well as good.
  • Look for and collect good texture reference. The Internet is a useful resource as well as photography and even generating your own library of base textures. All good Texture Artists have a vast library of source images upon which they can draw when creating new images.

Submission Guidelines

All artist submissions have many common requirements:
Applicants for all artistic areas in the game industry must be proficient in the basic components of art. The ability to draw and communicate your ideas visually is overwhelmingly important, as well as other core skills such as understanding colour theory, anatomy, proportion and an overall appreciation of good visual aesthetics.

Applications should consist of a covering letter, an up-to-date copy of your current CV / resume along with a portfolio of your BEST work and any application form if required. Artwork should either be supplied printed on good quality paper or preferably on a CD-ROM or DVD. For CD-ROM or DVD submissions bear in mind the following:

  • Images should be correctly labelled and supplied in either JPEG or BMP formats.
  • Turntable and fly-through animations should be supplied in AVI or Quicktime format and should be encoded with an easily available generic codec.
  • If you can include the codec on the CD-ROM or DVD, so much the better.
  • Make sure any materials you supply have your name and contact details clearly and legibly marked on them.
  • Include your cover letter, CV and work on the same disc.
  • Don't compress or zip the work on the disc.

All you have to do is show your work in a very accessible, immediate way. If the employer has any trouble seeing your work for whatever reason at all, you are already going to be in trouble or worse still your application will be discarded! Other things to remember:

  • If the work has been a collaborative effort between yourself and others, please clearly specify your involvement in the work.
  • Only include work you are sure represents you and your best efforts.
  • Keep your CV to a maximum of 2-3 pages in length and be sure to have other people proof-read it for you to remove mistakes and pass back feedback to you in order to improve it.
  • Be clear on what the job role you are applying for involves and make sure that your portfolio of work is relevant!
  • Lastly, if you are an artist, don't refer to yourself as a designer! A designer is a different role in the game industry, in that a designer designs the mechanics of the game - nothing like a graphic designer. Failure to appreciate this casts doubt on your knowledge and desire to enter the industry.


For more information on specific job roles, see our Job Roles: Art section.