Concept Artist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotBehind your favorite video game and animated film lies at least one concept artist. Think of Monsters VS Aliens, Shrek, Halo or Prince of Persia. Concept artists decided what the characters, scenery and props would look like in each of these movies and games.

"Concept artists create designs for fleshing out worlds. They are given a spec about a creature, or area, and then draw different versions of what it could potentially be," explains concept artist Katy Hargrove.

They can design anything from characters to backgrounds to props. So being a good concept artist means knowing how to draw well and having an active imagination.

"The other main thing is to get the pieces in by the deadline if not sooner," adds Hargrove.

dotConcept artists often use plain old pencil and paper to capture their ideas and present them to film and game producers. But the boom in technology is changing that. Some companies want to see digital paintings of designs.

dotBig and small entertainment companies hire concept artists. Pixar and EA Games are examples of some of the entertainment powerhouses. A concept artist in these big studios will have very specific duties and responsibilities. They will be assigned only one aspect of the game or movie to develop.

"If you work for a smaller studio, you'll end up probably wearing more than one hat," says Pierre Fortin. Fortin has worked as a concept artist for video games. "You might end up being the guy doing the weaponry, doing the character design and doing the environments in 2D drawings."

Budgets in smaller companies are so tight that concept artists might also have to animate their designs in 3D, something an animator is usually responsible for.

dotWell-known artists can freelance. That means they can work from home and make their own schedule. Freelancers may work on several projects from different companies at the same time.

Many concept artists are contract employees, especially those working in film. They will be hired for a certain number of months until the movie is complete. Video game companies are more likely to hire permanent concept artists to work on different games they are developing.

"Others fly all over the world, working a few months in one location and then moving on to the next job," says Hargrove.

The conventional 9-to-5 workday doesn't apply to concept artists. Shifts can last 15 hours or more. Some concept artists have spent all night getting their work finished.

At a Glance

Decide on the look of animated characters, scenery and props

  • You must be able to draw well
  • An active imagination is important
  • Consider a bachelor's degree related to digital art