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How Many Artists Does It Take to Make Video Games? More Than You Might Expect

If you like playing video games, you’ve probably felt that some of them were works of art, but you might be surprised just how much art goes into making one. These days, video games are pushing graphics to new levels of immersive realism, and the careers for artists that make that possible are growing as fast as the technology. Teams of artists work around the clock to make games, each one doing a specialized job, and using art in a different way.

So if you are a gamer and an artist, this is an exciting time, and there are a lot of interesting opportunities. But the key to finding a job as a game artist is understanding the specialized skills that go into making a game, and figuring out what you do best.

It All Starts With Concept Art

Video games start as concepts, and concepts live through concept art. Concept artists create static paintings and sketches that bring the ideas of the game to life and are critical in pitching a game to a game studio. Concept art also makes for great promotional materials and can be released in books after the game comes out.

For 2D games, which are making a comeback, the concept art is often translated directly into background and character illustrations. However, even 3D games use 2D art for things like maps, menus, and in-game materials. Everything from the cover of the box to the font in the menu system is carefully designed in a game by a team of artists. Even as 3D graphics are pushing into the realm of virtual reality, there is still an important place for traditional two dimensional art in the computer game industry.

From 2D to 3D

The development of 3D computer graphics revolutionized not only the game industry, but also the animation industry, and special effects. It also created many new opportunities for artists to work in the game industry.

Creating 3D graphics is a process with two essential steps: creating a 3D model, and adding a texture skin to that model. If you’ve always liked sculpting, 3D modeling can be a lot of fun, and creating a high quality model is key when creating lifelike 3D graphics. You can even start with traditional materials like clay, and then digitize it. Check out this cool video where one of our BEAU professors sculpts a model to use as a guide for game art.

The “skin” is the image you use to wrap the 3D model, and it presents its own challenges. Painting a good skin requires you to seamlessly combine two dimensional art with three dimensional presentation, and this means you need a deep understanding of the way shape effects texture.


Bringing A World To Life

Even the most subtle aspects of a video game’s world are brought to life with artistry. Animators design the fluid movements of the characters and creatures, but those aren’t the only things that move in a video game. These days, the landscape, the weather, light and shadows are all rendered in 3D graphics, through a painstaking process that can only be accomplished with an artist’s trained eye.

Looking to the future, immersive technology like VR mean that players will be looking for ever deeper interactions with the visual environment of the games they play. And that means that there will be a lot more work for artists interested in pushing the boundary between fantasy and reality.

If you’re interested in seeing your art come to life, you can learn more about the unique artistic skills you need at BEAU’s BFA program for Game Art. And don’t forget to follow the BEAU blog and check out our YouTube channel.