We all want to have a lucrative, powerful and meaningful career. Some people like sciences, others public relations, or marketing, business, etc… But there is also another kind of people, which are more about creativity and artistic development. If you are one of these people, becoming a concept artist can be a very good idea. It will enable you to harness your creativity, all while having a lucrative career that also pays well. But the main challenge for a lot of people is figuring out how they can become a concept artist in the first place. There are quite a lot of challenges you will deal with in such a situation, so here are some of the best ideas to focus on.
Focus on following your dreams
Just because you feel that it’s too late, that doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, you can become a concept artist at any given time during your life. Even adults can become a concept artist, there’s always the option to do that. As long as you are a creative person, with a passion, for drawing and painting, and you always push the boundaries in what you do, results can be more than impressive. Sure, it’s hard to find the best solutions and to pursue your dreams no matter what happens. Even if it may end up feeling late at one point, that doesn’t mean it’s true. If you follow your heart and focus on your dreams, nothing can stand in your way.
A lot of people want to become very proficient in the design industry before they choose to become a concept artist. But the reality is that it can take a lot of time to master this job, just like any other one out there. You can try to become a concept artist even if you have limited design experience. However, the lack of any design experience is the dealbreaker here, so you want to improve your design skills before you pursue this path.
Why is that? For starters, you need to be very good at creating concepts, and that means no one will wait for you to spend days on a single concept art. Your employers will want you to deliver the final product as quickly as possible. And let’s face it, you can’t do that as a newcomer. You do need to test and improve your design skills as quickly as you can if you want to pursue this job.
What will you do as a concept artist?
The concept artist job is quite refreshing and full of creativity. You will most likely have to work in the entertainment industry. But you may have to wonder who really needs concepts. Well, it depends on a variety of factors. Video game companies, movie creators and digital entertainment companies, in general, need a concept artist. It’s the type of job that will always require some new and fresh ideas from you.
Concepts are used by these companies in order to create game worlds, movie sets and so on. While they don’t need to be entirely accurate, you are expected to create concepts that can be used as the primary inspiration for video game creators and movie directors. And while you will have some indication as to what your clients expect, you have to realize that it will take quite some time until you reach the results that you expect. It’s well worth the effort, especially if you’re the type of person that’s creative and which never goes down from a challenge.
Practice makes perfect
So how do you become a concept artist? It all comes down to having some basic design training. You have to learn fundamental stuff like form, lighting, and value. You also have to know how to create designs from certain ideas. That’s why you may want to ask people for various design ideas. Then you will have to transpose them into your own design and see if they like it. This way you will see if you’re fit to work as a concept artist or not.
It’s also a really good idea to draw from life. The focus here has to be on making your own artistic vision and then you have to bring that to reality. While it does seem a bit challenging and sometimes even boring, it’s also the type of approach that can do wonders for you most of the time.
Learn how to measure objects, how to transpose those measurements into your designs and so on. Creating your own vision based on what you see is a priority. But as we mentioned above, learning from what other people say and how they describe things can also be handy. Life drawing is, however, one of the best ways to practice as you prepare for the concept artist jobs.
Make sure that you follow realism and vary your designs. You can try to draw characters, vehicles, environments and so on. Also, you won’t be restricted to a certain item. The only thing is you just have to make sure that you always try something different. As long as you practice often, you will be able to master the fundamentals in no time. Yes, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but with enough focus and commitment, you will be able to improve your skills. From here to becoming a good concept artist, it will be one simple step.
Finding your strengths and style
With time you will discover in which areas you feel more comfortable and which are less interesting or at least not as easy to grasp. Some concept artist focus on character design, others in environments or even vehicles are weapons. You will need to be knowledgeable and proficient in both 3, but most probably you will excel in one or two, and who knows maybe in all 3. Employers will hire you based on their needs, if their projects need tons of environment design they will look for somebody who excels in this area. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you will not have to do some character or vehicle design if necessary. This is why I’m telling you to become a versatile artist.
Regarding the style, I always encourage the new artist to learn and practice realism. Not because I want everybody to pursue this style. To be able to draw a realistic figure gives you the basic understanding of the rules of nature and proportion. With this knowledge is way more easy to develop and pursue other styles, like semi-realism, manga or all the different types of cartoon. I’ve been always a big fan of this quote “ For breaking the rules before you need to know them”. Picture the realistic style as the rule or standard and the other styles as ways of bending this rule.
If you like cartoon or manga from the get-go, you can pursue this style from the beginning, but leave some room for practice using real models and real-life scenarios and assets.
Learn where and how to study
If you go online, you will see a lot of concept artist guidelines and beginner books or art lessons. Not only does that seem daunting at first, but it can also be overwhelming especially for a person that doesn’t have a lot of experience in this field.
Ideally, you want to go through a multitude of potential options and see what works for you. The focus here has to be on figuring out which resources are better than others. In the end, you will just stick to the best resources that you can use and which offer a good value.
My main goal with this blog is to provide you with some valuable knowledge that will help you on your journey. If you are starting you can check my article on “ How to draw the human body”. This tutorial will guide you on the basics on how to draw a human body from the 3/4 view, which is the most common view for creating character concept art.
If you are more advanced I have other tutorials like “ How to draw a Space Marine” where you will learn not only how to draw a heroic figure, you will also learn on how to dress a character in an armor.
If you are interested in characters in dynamic posses my tutorial on “How to draw Batman” will help you in that matter.
In case you want to read about being a concept artist and how to get started, Scott Robertson wrote a series of books named “How To Draw” which are very good for you. I will recommend you the book called “How to Render” (here you can find it on Amazon), where he explains you in detail how light and reflectivity works over different surfaces. This is a key factor when trying to paint all sorts of materials( skin, leather, metal, etc…)
“ Color and Light” is another great book from James Gurney. The book has awesome tips and tricks on how to make your paintings more appealing to the viewer. How to place the light sources better in order to accent the drama of the scene, how to structure your compositions to create a clear focus of attention and how to manipulate your values to achieve more depth and balance in your paintings. All this artistic observation is done from a rational and sometimes almost scientific approach.
But you need to realize that these are just things for beginning your journey. You can use those ideas, but in the end, your focus still needs to be on delivering value as much as you can.
Online art schools
When it comes to art schools, you have several options out there. I wrote an in-depth article about The Best online Art Schools, feel free to check it.
The thing to note in this situation is that not all of these schools are accredited, so you may get good results from some of them, bad results from others. You have to figure out which one works for you, so try to keep that in mind if possible.
Ideally, you want to take your time and see what works for you from a design standpoint. Of course, you can still go to online schools for designers. You will notice that these online schools are actually more affordable than other options out there. Sure, it all comes down to personal preference, but most of the time these will end up being the better way to acquire design skills. It’s certainly not the ideal thing to do, but it can do wonders, and that’s exactly what you want.
CG Spectrum or CGMA are good examples of online schools with great instructors that even use live chat. But if you are looking for affordable alternatives Udemy and Skillshare can be good alternatives, especially if you are a beginner on a budget. If you are interested in learning which courses from this platforms are the best, in my opinion, you can check my article about The most affordable online art courses.
You can also go to free sources like ConceptArt.org and also visit Subreddits on Reddit that pertain to art.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to learn; the idea is to focus on doing it the right way. It’s certainly not going to be a walk in the park. But while it does have its challenges, being a concept artist can indeed pay off a lot. It’s a wonderful opportunity and one that you will end up enjoying a lot in the long run.
Purchase the right equipment
Becoming a designer is not that hard as long as you have the best equipment pieces. What you have to notice about this is you do need a good starting point and a proper budget. Even if you are a beginner, you still need to purchase some high-quality products. After all, they will last for a lot more time, and in the end, that’s the thing you need to consider.
Nowadays Concept art is all done in digital. You will need a program like Photoshop( which is the industry standard every studio has it) or one of its many alternatives, but remember if your goal is to work on a studio you will need to know Photoshop for sure.
Drawing tablets like the ones from Wacom are great too because they are specifically created for drawing, and thus they can deliver much better results when compared to other products. Nowadays we have a wide range of options depending on your budget and your needs. Here I’m leaving you a list of tablets that I recommend or use it myself:
- For Beginners: Wacom Intuos Bluetooth, Small Black wireless graphics tablet, with 2 free creative software downloads, Corel Painter Essentials, Clip Studio Paint Pro or Corel Aftershot. Is an affordable tablet for beginners who want to test the waters. Here is the link to the tablet: Link Wacom Intuos
- Following this Wacom tablet, we can enter in the realm of the display tablets. The first option will be the Huion KAMVAS GT-191 Drawing Tablet with HD Screen. Is a 19.5 Inch screen tablet. More than enough if it’s your first display tablet. Is not a perfect device but the price is quite good and you are paying for what you are getting. Here you have the link to Amazon where you can find the tablet: Huion Kamvas GT-191
- If you want a higher quality display tablet on a budget you have the Huion KAMVAS GT-221 Pro 21.5 inch HD Pen Display Tablet Monitor Graphics Drawing Monitor. The Screen has 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity and 10 Shortcut Keys. Here is the link to the tablet: Link Huion Kamvas GT-221
- Wacom Cintiq 22HD. This is the tablet I use at work. It has his pros and his cons. On the good side, I like the quality of materials and how solid it is compared to other similar devices like the Yiyinova’s or Ugees, which are built weaker, especially the stand and the screen. On the bad side, the parallax on this device is quite evident but is not a deal breaker in my opinion. Here is the link to the tablet: Link Wacom Cintiq
If you are interested in a display tablet but you are on a budget, you should read my review of the XP-Pen Artist tablet. There you will be able to read my personal experience and a couple of my student’s opinions too, regarding the tablet.
Also, you may want to get some accessories such as extra styluses. But if you go with a tablet, you receive most of the stuff you need in its package.
Create a portfolio
The life of a concept artist starts with the stuff that he or she creates. If you want to get hired as a concept artist, then you need to show off samples of your work everywhere you can. Ideally, you want to make sure that you create a great portfolio with all the information you need. It’s very important to create various types of concepts, so people can see that you have no problem with any topic.
If you just focus on concept cars, for example, those that see these concepts will believe that you are focused solely on cars. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to show that you can handle some other stuff too.
Aside from having a blog or website where you can add these things, also try to join a variety of art communities online. From DeviantArt to WetCanvas, Pinterest, CGSociety, Pixiv, and ArtStation. These are places where you can showcase your art. Plus, Reddit will also be a good place where you can get unbiased opinions from other artists. The best way to improve is to practice as much as you can. Even if it feels hard to do at first, you always have to try and push your boundaries to reach the next level. Of course, it can feel challenging and cumbersome at times. But being a good concept artist does require a lot of work and commitment. Yet it’s something that you can do if you have the right focus and you know exactly what you want from your career.
Tips to improve your concept artist skills:
- Try to sketch thumbnails. These won’t eat up a ton of time, but they are perfect when it comes to testing your skills. Plus, you will be able to put your ideas into practice as you try to figure out what you like to design the most. Make sure that you avoid being too critical of your design. As we said earlier, practice makes perfect, and that’s the thing that you want to focus on here.
- Pick a large canvas to work on. This will be great especially if you use a digital program or a tablet.
- Keep a sketch blog. Is a good idea to use some traditional mediums for practice too. Ideally, you want to use pencils to define shapes. You can start with a shape and then go from there. It’s a good idea to try and vary designs as much as you can. This will make the design process a lot more intuitive and interesting. Plus, you can use multiple pencils until you get the right stuff.
- Add some more details to your concept art. Don’t leave it barebones. Even if it’s a concept, it can be detailed. If anything, it will showcase your artistic prowess, and you want to build off that as much as you can. And even if it seems hard to do that, don’t rush. Taking your time to create the perfect concept art is a lot better than just churning through multiple designs and not having one that you enjoy.
- With this being said, also remember to not overkill your paintings with unnecessary details everywhere. Try to keep a balance. Add the details to the interesting parts and focus areas.
- Start using value ( greyscale) to define the lights and shadows properly. When your values are correct you can add the color on top. You can use different layer modes like ”Color Mode”, ”Multiply”, ”Overlay”, etc…
- Don’t forget to adjust colors. You can always try to experiment with new types of colors in your concept art. The idea is to try and see what works for you and what you like to work with the most. Some people will like that a lot, others not so much. But you should always experiment in order to pick the right set of options.
There are no written rules in regards to what you should do as a concept artist. Some people will get to make it a lot faster than others. But there will be cases when some persons will have a very hard time completing tasks and challenges that come with this specific line of work. Basically, you need to be ready to put a lot of work into something like this. It’s a very demanding field, and it can definitely come with its fair share of challenges. But while it’s tricky, it can also be quite rewarding.
In conclusion, there are lots of steps that you need to go through to become a concept artist. The idea here is that you need to be committed, you have to try and break the boundaries and also improve your style all the time. Sure, this is a high-paying job, but it also comes with a lot of stress too. That’s why you need to make sure that you actively enjoy what you are doing. Otherwise, the return on investment will not be as good as you imagine it!