How to Make Concept Art for Video Games
December 2nd, 2021
Your favorite video games, animated films, and fantasy movies were brought to life by concept artists (also known as conceptual artists). Concept art is used in various forms of media such as animation, comic books, video games and movies based on fiction. Concept artists are responsible for the visual development of the world and characters of a project. They create an early draft and communicate ideas before the final product can begin.
Video game concept artists are incredibly skilled at drawing, versatile and curious about everything.
In this article, we will review the process on how to make concept art for video games and learn the different types of video game concept art, why it is important to have a strong visual library, and how you can create one.
Understanding the Different Types of Concept Art
There are three types of subject areas that concept artists work on: character concept art, prop concept art, and environment concept art. You will often have to draft many styles before finding the right fit. It is true that a concept artist can do it all, and all these concepts need to work in harmony to create a compelling video game experience. According to Rocco Commisso, Video Game Art instructor at triOS College, “The best advice in my twenty years was given to me while I was doing concept art for Disney. You can be a great artist and be asked to redraw a character a thousand times. No art is so precious that it can’t be improved. It’s not talent, it’s grit. Always keep exploring and learning.”
1. Character Concept Art
As the name suggests, this is when you develop your characters — their looks, style, and traits. The first step is to research your character and find inspiration. Once you have gathered the information, you will then move on to the second step, which is to visually develop your character. As mentioned earlier, you will need to create different variations such as colors, outfits, poses, facial features, body structure, etc. to find the right look and feel.
2. Prop Concept Art
This is a crucial part of storytelling. They complement the character and help enhance the world and set the scene. Props in video games can refer to various kinds of objects. Interactive props include weapons, cars, planes, and other vehicles that usually aid the character to complete missions or tasks. The other kind is static props that include crates, barrels, chairs, etc.
3. Environment Concept Art
Here is where you create a world for your characters to live in. From enchanted mountains to mystical forests, medieval castles, and dragons — you will need to envision a world and bring it to life. This is done through the use of color, contrast, textures, and being mindful of balance, proportions, and the mixing of themes.
The Importance of a Visual Library
A visual library is a collection of images, patterns, colors and experiences that are stored in your head. Having a strong visual library is hugely beneficial for concept artists — you become a better designer and you can create original video game art that is ‘cool’ and interesting rather than ordinary and generic.
There are many ways to improve your visual library. Start by mindfully observing the world around you such as trees, birds, animals, architecture, and people. Draw an object that interests you using reference and then draw it again just using your imagination. Another great tip is to carry a sketchbook everywhere you go. Every time you have the chance, draw something you see — this will not only help you improve your drawing skills (since you would be drawing things you wouldn’t normally) but also help your brain strengthen your visual library.
Another way to expand your horizons is by playing video games, watching movies, studying history (fantasy and sci-fi are often inspired by historical figures), travelling and reading books to help activate your imagination.
How to Create Video Game Art
Creating video game art is a process. It requires you to understand the problem you are trying to solve, do extensive research, create different versions of the same thing and a lot of iteration.
The first step in creating video game art is preparation. Concept artists are creative problem solvers, and the role requires them to create characters, environments, vehicles, and props that are cohesive in a fantasy world. Concept artists come in the early phases of game development.
In the preparation stages, concept artists will start with research and exploration and build mood boards to bring their vision together ensuring they are headed in the right direction.
The next step is ideation drawing. Drawing for ideation is the process of creating many different ideas. Rapid sketching is a simple exercise that requires you to draw fast and generate a lot of different ideas at once. This provides concept artists with the opportunity to get feedback very early on in the creation process and omit things that are not working. According to Noel Keshwar, Video Game Art instructor at triOS College, “Sketch often, use your passion for drawing to explore the intriguing world around us! Utilize your digital canvas, brushes and layers to achieve truly engaging designs and wonderful concepts. Capitalizing on random brush patterns can help you to see into another realm — and bring that amazing world here.”
Concept artists create blueprints and work closely with the design and development team. This is why during the creation process, it is important that your ideas are well-represented and can be visualized. Know the fundamentals such as anatomy, lighting, perspective, and shapes, so you can create good concept art. Get feedback often and ask specific questions.
How to Become a Video Game Artist
If you are creative, artistic, and have a passion for the video game industry, then a career in video game art may be perfect for you. One of the best ways to get started and increase your chances of getting a job is to acquire a video game art qualification.
Visit our Video Game Development program page to learn about our other Gaming program to start a new career in this exciting field!