Intro to Concept Art

My Conceptual Art Pinterest boards

Character Art:

Landscape Art:


If you go into the industry doing concept art, there is usually a general area of work you will be doing, whatever the type of media. Your part to play in the team will be early on, and will be to generate ideas for the environment/model creators to form in digital software such as Autodesk 3DS Max or Maya, it could even be to provide ideas for the investors providing funds for the production. It is important for the concept artist to be at a high level, this is because they are the people who plant the seed with their imagination, if the quality of their work isn’t up to scratch, then the whole production of the media will be compromised. When doing concept art you will be put in a team with equally-skilled professionals, then after brainstorming ideas for a short while, you will usually be split-off into smaller teams or individually. In the brainstorming section of production, all of the concept artists will be given specific tasks to work on; this will greatly increase workflow and maximize productivity.

After the process of being given tasks/areas to work on, you will then research or maybe begin some very light sketch work to help any ideas you had/have start to have form. This way you can judge whether you (or your team) like the idea or not fairly quickly, a lot quicker and easier than fully sketching an idea and then realizing it’s not what you or your team were looking for.

The process of producing ideas to paper is quite straightforward in many cases; first you will do a few quick sketches of a few concepts. After you get very basic ideas using line art, you can then either strike some ideas out then, or continue to work on them (Shading, refining, etc.) to get a better understanding. Once you have a good enough idea of what the ideas are becoming, it is best to choose maybe one or two of them, and show them to the model creation team for them to make a basic 3d model using computer software.­

Concept art is also used to create storyboards for the type of media you are working on, for example, in the games industry a storyboard will be created to get a grasp of the scenarios that the characters will be in, this is crucial to help the game have a much stronger storyline.

Specialized Roles in the Industry

I will round up what different types of concept artists do what. There are Story board, Environment, Character and Prop concept artists. Story board art is usually very simple, giving position of a character/prop in a basic environment. This is to reduce production time as much as possible, but they also have to quite precise (even if they have to use line men) when providing the limb position, this is to make sure the visualization of the image is clear to the animation team. Character artists develop their work in stages, like a pyramid, to be certain that the piece of work they provide to the modelling team is very easily interpreted. First they would start in very light sketches to get an idea of what type of shapes you are using withing the character. Then, they would select a few of those pieces and either develop them further on paper by shading and blocking out sections of the character, or they would delve straight into digital art and transfer the sketch to a computer using a scanner, then use a tool such as a graphics tablet to progress the sketches they are doing.

At each stage of the development they will be singling out some of their work to finalize and present to a variety of different teams. The environmental design artists have a similar start point of the character artists with the light sketches, then developing ideas towards completion. They have to contain a lot of detail in the finished pieces, but another factor they have to convey is the emotion and feel of the scenario to show the 3D modellers and maybe producers as much information as possible. Prop artists have almost exactly the same development stages as character concept artists, by starting with light sketches and gradually moving towards more finalized products with a lot more detail.

Concept art is prominently pre-production. The team has to convince your directors to invest money onto developing your ideas to the next stage (3D Modelling). You need to pitch your ideas to the investors, project managers, animators, programmers, developers, marketing and other concept artists. Marketing are the people who give your idea to the public so it is very important to provide them with the best ideas you can convey. There are a few specialized sectors to the concept art team while developing a game, pre-production conceptual art, Promotional art, Production convey art, ‘The making of’ game concept art and last but certainly not least- Merchandise concept art.

Pre-production conceptual art and production convey art were explained earlier. Promotional art is purely there to advertise still images of glimpses into the game you are developing, this will, like a lot of concept art areas, be make or break for the game. This is because if the promotional art isn’t very good and doesn’t grab the public’s attention, then your game will not be very popular by release and therefor will not be very successful. It will usually include vague areas of environment form the game, without much link to the story line whatsoever. What I mean by ‘the making of’ game concept art is when some of the concept art used to develop the game, is included in the actual end-product of the title, this could be in the form of in-game unlockables, extra content (extra disc) or maybe interviews with the developers and their work. This can also be used pre-release of the game itself to grab the last bit of attention the game needs to succeed in the industry. The last is merchandise concept art, this can be clothing, posters, collectables, models, or basically anything that isn’t the game itself, but uses a significant design from it to use on the products listed and more.

Comparing Examples of Conceptual Art

Not everyone succeeds in the games industry, this is sometimes due to funding, other times it can be because of the work standard just not being good enough. The concept artists have quite a large role in making sure the game makes it through to the release. Here is an example of a good piece of work from a storyboard concept artist. This would be completed by either a pre-production, or a Production convey concept artist.


It follows the needs of which a storyboard artist has to abide by. As you can see, overall, it has very basic detailing, this means that the artist who worked on this thought about their time management and how much time they had on this piece, it probably didn’t take them very long amount of time to complete due to this. Although simple, the sketching shows enough detailing to establish an idea of what is happening in each scene, you can see that there is a lot of focus on specific movements such as hand gestures, posture, or the actions of the character (bending over to pick something up). For an animation team, this would be very easily understood to a relatively good amount of detail. Another point that makes this a good piece of conceptual storyboard art, is that you can clearly see that the character has the same features throughout the scenes they are in, this relates to the headgear he is wearing. Now lets take a look at storyboard artwork that may not be very suitable for the gaming industry.


This storyboard is very nice to look at and might seem like a great example of a conceptual design for the industry. The problem is that there is too much detail in each scene and although it is very clear what is involved in each scenario, doing something like this for a game that may have hundreds of different sketched scenes, would be very unpractical. In the industry, you usually have a specific deadline for your work to be done and this is crucial for the game to succeed, so it it very important that you understand your time management skills and apply the right amount of detail for the job. Another problem with this storyboard is that you cant very clearly gather what is going on throughout, because of this it would be almost impossible for the animators to establish a storyline.

Now I’ll take a look at another specialized role in the concept  art industry for games- Promotional conceptual art, in the form of a poster. This sort of concept art may have a compilation of a few different teams from the concept artists, environmental, character and prop design. Promotional art will get the game noticed, give it a reputation, whether that is a good or a bad one is up to the concept artists. Here is an example of promotional art which was not very successful in the industry.


This is a great example of a promotional poster, it has finalized character designs with a lot of detail, this is very appealing to the consumer as it gives them a very clear idea of what the game will look like. It also has information in the form of text on the poster, this gives some basic inside knowledge on what the game involves. This made a very successful piece of art which is widely recognized and all was due to the way it was put together. In a promotional poster it is crucial you don’t put any of the story into it, this will make sure that when the player experiences the game for themselves, it is not predictable or it hasn’t been seen before. The background colour is also quite important, it is the general colour which is incorporated into the game itself. Now let us take a look at a poster art which would not be a very good example for promotion.


There are several problems to this piece (if it were to be used as a promotional poster), there is not much detail at all and it seems like it has just been taken from the first stage of the production, a light sketch. It does not contain any of the environment or theme so it doesn’t give a very good idea of what the game may feel like. There is no information on here at all, so there isn’t any ‘sneak peek’ to make the consumer think about what it could entail. It does not have much detail overall and therefore the viewer will not even look, and if they do, it would not grab their attention very much at all.

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