In this article, I will try to explain what is Concept art and who are “we”, the Concept artists who work in the entertainment industry. Also, I will go in depth about our creation process, or “pipeline” and the different types of Concept art you can find on any game or film production.
So, What is Concept art? Concept art is the type of art used in the visual development process of entertainment projects. This projects could be video games, films, animation movies or series, board games, etc… Concept art focuses on the design of characters, environments, props, weapons, and many more aspects and elements of a project.
The designs created by concept artist are not meant to be the final product. Instead, they are the visual reference other artists ( like the 3d artist for example) use to create the final assets that will be used on a game, a film etc… The entertainment industry is a well-oiled machine that works following define pipelines. Concept artist work, focus on the early stages of this pipeline.
Who are the Concept artists?
The Concept artist is a creative individual with a good eye for visual composition and design. Some of them will be very skillful in creating amazing environments and scenarios, others will be an astonishing character and creature designers. Only a very talented few will be equally skillful in creating scenarios, creatures, and props.
Studios and companies are always searching for skillful concept artist in order of fulfilling the respective needs of their projects. As an example, a gaming company developing a game which principal revenue will come from selling character’s skins, like League of Legends, for example, will be constantly searching for talented character concept artists.
We can state a concept artist work is basically product designing. The so-called artistic freedom, gallery artist enjoy in the creation of their artwork, is more limited when speaking of concept art. Remember we said concept artist are in reality product designers. This statement can sound to you like if the work of a concept artist had very limited artistic input, but this is not true. In reality is more structured rather than limited. Follows a more rigid process maybe, but creativity still has a lot of room to play.
For understanding which are the boundaries of a concept artist’s work, we need to understand the creative process and the steps concepts artist follow when working.
The Concept Art Pipeline:
Step 1: The Briefing
The work of a Concept artist starts when a briefing, with the details and information of the asset, is sent to him. Like we said before, this “asset” can be anything. From a vehicle to a character or an environment prop, anything that needs to be used as a final asset will be designed by a concept artist. Unless the asset is something that already exists in real life and the 3d artist have plenty of visual information from photographies they can use as for working, the concept artist will be the one in charge of not only define the visual aspect of the asset. In animation or cartoon type projects everything needs to be designed by concept artist because all the project is based on a particular visual style and not real life references.
Step 2: The Thumbnails
Once the Concept artist knows the characteristics of the asset, thanks to the briefing, he will start thumbnailing. Thumbnails are small simple shape drawings the concept artist uses to define general shapes of the asset. Each thumbnail will take him very little time to create so he can have lots of this small designs he can pass to the Art Director. Is very common to see 50 or more of those small thumbnails during this stage of the process.
Step 3: Sketching
Once the Art Director and the Concept artist find the design they like will be time to define more clearly which is the aspect of the asset. If we were creating a character for example, in this stage we would be drawing and defining the details on the character’s face, clothing, etc… Even if we have a general idea of what we want from the briefing and the thumbnails, is very common for a concept artist to develop several sketches or quick paintings with different options for clothing, posses and other elements of the character.
Step 4: Color Test
All the previous design options will be reviewed and validated by the Art Director and the Concept artist. Adjustments will be applied if needed. Once the final design will be established, the Concept artist will develop several color options based on the combination of several color schemes.
Again, Art Director and Concept artist will review this options and choose which one fist better the asset based on the briefing guidelines.
Step 5: Final Design
At this stage, the work of a Concept artist is to push the rendering and the define clearly the main characteristics of the asset. Is necessary to create a clean and understandable rendition of the asset, so the artist in charge of creating the final asset that will go into the game or the film, will have a clear vision of the asset.
In this stage is very common for the Concept artist to create several views and close-ups of the asset. This is to help, for example, a 3D artist, to understand the asset he will have to model. Sometimes turnarounds of the asset, with front, side and back view will be produced to help in the modeling of the asset.
We already spoke about the pipeline or process a concept artist follows usually follows when working. This pipeline can vary from one studio or company to another, or to one industry to another ( like video games to films for example), but in general terms, it will be in a way or another very similar to the one I presented you above.
This pipeline is used in any type of concept art the project needs. But which are the types of concept art we can find in the entertainment industry?
Types of Concept Art
So now that we know a little bit more about Concept art and the “pipeline” in the entertainment industry, let’s talk about the types of concept art. Let’s check them one by one:
Environment Concept Art
This type of concept art focuses on creating landscapes and scenarios in which the action will happen. An artist skilled in is this type of artwork will have a good eye for composition, perspective, and architectural design. The use of 3D software to create these scenarios is a common practice.
The artist will be in charge of translating and reflecting in the final designs the mood and atmosphere the project requires.
Character Concept Art
Character concept art focuses on the creation of compelling characters and creatures for a project. A Concept artist skilled in this type of concept art will be used to create cool costumes and complements. This artist knows well human and animal anatomy and perspective. This knowledge can be used to create not only realistic body types, also fantastic creatures or terrifying monsters and beasts. The deep knowledge in human and animal anatomy allows the artist to create convincing creatures that don’t exist in real life, basing the creature design in nature’s rules of proportions, so the final design will be believable.
Weapon and asset design
This concept art focuses on the creation of objects, tools, and weapons used by the character’s and beings that will populate the world of the project we will be working on. Like in the creation of environments, concept artist will sometimes use 3D software to create this type of assets.
A Concept artist skilled in this type of art is somebody familiar with the processes of creation used in industrial design. This is the type of art closer to what we understand as product designing.
Very close to weapon and asset design, the designing of vehicles requires somebody familiar to the tools and processes used in what we traditionally we know as a car or aircraft design. In the entertainment industry, however, we go far away from the conventional design we can find in the automobile or aeronautical industries. Often, a concept artist working in video games or films will find himself designing spacecraft, flying cars or fantastical vehicles never seen before in real life.
Imagination and creativity are a must have for a concept artist working in the entertainment industry. Day after day, concept artist worldwide, come out with cooler and innovating designs. So in order to keep up with the level of quality and creativity the industry imposes to all artists involved in it, concept artist need to push the boundaries of their creativity constantly in order to make their work stand out as innovative and unique.
Interested in becoming a concept artist?
If you are a creative person, with artistic inclination and talents, maybe you will be contemplating the idea of starting a career as a Concept artist in the entertainment industry. If this is true, I think you will find interesting my article on “ How to become a Concept Artist “ .
If you want to learn Concept art and the artistic skills needed to become a professional concept artist you have several options in terms of schools and courses. I have a couple of interesting articles you can find useful on that regard. If you are on a budget and you want to pursue the self-taught path you can find several affordable online courses that will help you with your endeavor. My article on “The most Affordable online Art Courses “ can be a useful starting point.
If you want to pursue a more school or mentorship type of learning, you can check my article on “The Best online Art Schools”. In this article, you will find an exhaustive list of the more renown online art schools with lots of lectures and courses in Concept Art.
As my last recommendation, if you want to know which is the best drawing tablet for concept artists in all budget and levels of expertise, you can check my latest article on “The Best Drawing Tablets for Artists 2018-19”.
Hope this article was useful and informative. If you have any comment or question regarding this topic, please leave it on the comment section below.
See you in the next article.