Game art design

Game art design is a subset of game development. It is the process of creating the artistic aspects for video games. Video game art design begins in the pre-production phase of creating a video game. The video game artists are visual artists involved from the conception of the game and they make rough sketches of the characters, setting, objects, etc.[1][2][3][4] These starting concept designs can also be created by the game designers before the game is moved into actualization. Sometimes these are concept designs are called “programmer art”.[5] After the rough sketches are completed and the game is ready to be moved forward those artists or more artists are brought in to bring these sketches to life through graphic design.

The art design of a game can involve anywhere from two people and up. The larger the gaming company is the more people there are likely designing a game. Small gaming companies tend not to have as many artists meaning that their artist must be skilled in several types of art development, whereas the larger the company, although an artist can be skilled in several types of development, the roles each artist plays becomes more specialized.[6]


A game's artwork included in media, such as demos and screenshots, has a significant impact on customers, because artwork can be judged from previews, while gameplay cannot.[1]

Artists work closely with designers on what is needed for the game.[7]

Tools used for art design and production are art tools. These can range from pen and paper to full software packages for both 2D and 3D art.[8] A developer may employ a tools team responsible for art production applications. This includes using existing software packages and creating custom exporters and plug-ins for them.[9]


Video game art development began when video games started to be created. When game development started the game artists were also the programmers, which is often why very old games like Pong lack any sort of creativity and were very minimalistic. It was not until the early 1980s that art began to become more developmentally intricate.[10] One of the first video game artists who contributed more shape and two dimensional characters was Shigeru Miyamoto, who created Mario and Donkey Kong.[11]

Starting in the early 1990s art requirements in video games were allowed to increase greatly because there was more room in the budget for art. Video game art began to be in 3D around 1994, before which it had mainly been 2D art design. This required the artist and programmer to work in congruence very carefully, in the beginning, due to the foreign nature of 3D in video games.[3]

As the hardware of video games and technology on a whole advances the ability to develop art for video games increases exponentially.[5][12] In more recent years many games have developed a much more realistic art design where some artists choose to have a more stylistic approach to the game. There are some games that aim for realism, modelling characters after real actors and using real film to create the back up the artistry to make it as real as possible like in Until Dawn.[13]


There are several roles under the art development umbrella. Each role plays an important part in creating the art for the video game. Depending on the size of the game production company there may be anywhere from two people and up working on the game. The fewer the people working on the art design the more jobs the people will have to create the different facets of the game. The number of artists working on a game can also be dependent on the type of game being created. For most games there are many roles that must be filled to create characters, objects, setting, animation, and texturizing the game.[11]

The video game artists must use the same design principles that any other kind of artists use. This adds to the aesthetic value of the art created for video games. The greater understanding of these techniques adds to games to make them have a unique experience.[14]

  • Lead Artist/Art Director

The art director/lead artist are people who monitor the progression of the other artists to make sure that the art for the game is staying on track. The art director is there to ensure that all the art created works cohesively. They manage their team of artists and distribute projects. The art director often works with other departments in the game and are involved from the conception of the game until the game is finished.[5][15][16]

2D artists

  • Concept artist

A concept artist works with the game designers, producing character and environment sketches and story-board and influencing the "look of the game".[15][17][18][19] A concept artist's job is to follow the art director's vision.[20] The produced art may be in traditional media, such as drawings or clay molds, or 2D software, such as Adobe Photoshop. Concept art produced in the beginning of the production serves as a guide for the rest of development. Concept art is used for demonstration to the art director, producers and stakeholders.[15] A storyboarder is a concept artist who designs and articulates scene sequences for review before main art production.[21]

  • Storyboard Artists

Storyboard Artists often work with the concept artists and designers of the game from conception. They develop the cinematics of the game. The storyboard artist creates an outline for the rest of the artists to follow. Sometimes this is passed on to other departments, like game writers and programmers, for a base of their work. The storyboards that are created breakdown scenes and how the camera will move.[11][16][21]

  • Texture/2D artist

A texture/2D artist adds texture to the work that has been created by the 3D modellers. Often the 2D/texture artists are the same people as the 3D modellers. The texture artist gives depth to the art in a video game. The artists apply shading, gradients, and other classic art techniques through art development software.[11][16][22]

    • A sprite artist creates non-static characters and objects or sprites for 2D games.[22][23] Each sprite may consist of several frames used for animation.[23]
    • A texture artist creates textures or skins and applies them to 3D model meshes.[24][25][26][27][28]
    • A map artist or background modeller creates static art assets for game levels and maps, such as environmental backdrops or terrain images for 2D games.[17][25]
    • An interface artist works with the interface programmer and designer to produce game interface, such as game menus, HUDs, etc.[22][23]

3D artists

  • 3D modeller

The 3D modellers use digital software (Maya, Max, Blender)[26] to create characters and environments. They create objects such as buildings, weapons, vehicles and characters. Any 3D component of a game is done by a 3D modeller.[11][16][22]

  • Environmental Artists

Environmental artists are 3D modellers who work specifically with the environment of a game. They also work with texturing and colours. They create the land that is featured in a video game. Environmental artists build the world, the layout, and the landscapes of the video game.[11][16][29]

  • Lighting artist

A lighting artist work on the light dynamics of a video game. Lighting artists adjust colours and brightness to add mood to the game. The lighting changes made in a video game depends on the type of game being created. The goal of the lighting artist is to create a mood that suits the scene and the game.[16][30]

  • The animator

The animator is responsible for bringing life to the characters, the environment, and anything that moves in a game. They use 3D programs to animate these components to make the game as real as possible. The animators often work with technical artists who aid in making the characters able to move in a realistic way.[11][16][26][27]


In 2010 an artist or animator with less than three years of experience on average earned US$45k a year. Artists with three to six years of experience earned US$61k. An artist with more than six years of experience earned $90k.[31]

A lead artist or technical artist earned $66k with three to six years of experience; and $97k with more than six years of experience[31] and an art director with six and more years of experience earned on average, $105k a year.[31]

See also


  1. ^ a b Bates 2004, p. 171
  2. ^ Moore, Novak 2010, p. 85
  3. ^ a b Bethke 2003, p. 45-49
  4. ^ Chandler 2009, pp. 23-26
  5. ^ a b c Rogers, Scott (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-470-68867-0.
  6. ^ "Getting a Job as a Games Artist". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  7. ^ Chandler 2009, p. 23
  8. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, pp. 116-118
  9. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 281
  10. ^ Bethke 2003, p. 45
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Rogers, Scott (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-470-68867-0.
  12. ^ "The Art of Video Games". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  13. ^ "Creating the atmosphere of Until Dawn". Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  14. ^ "Gamasutra - The Aesthetics of Game Art and Game Design". Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  15. ^ a b c Bethke 2003, p. 46
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Getting a Job as a Games Artist". Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  17. ^ a b Moore, Novak 2010, p. 86
  18. ^ Bates 2004, p. 173
  19. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 280
  20. ^ Chandler 2009, p. 24
  21. ^ a b Bethke 2003, p. 49
  22. ^ a b c d Bethke 2003, p. 47
  23. ^ a b c Moore, Novak 2010, p. 87
  24. ^ Moore, Novak 2010, p. 88
  25. ^ a b Bates 2004, p. 176
  26. ^ a b c Bates 2004, p. 175
  27. ^ a b Bethke 2003, p. 48
  28. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 283
  29. ^ Moore, Novak 2010, p. 90
  30. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 286
  31. ^ a b c Fleming, Jeffrey (April 2010). "9th Annual Salary Survey". Game Developer. United Business Media. 17 (4): 8.


  • Bates, Bob (2004). Game Design (2nd ed.). Thomson Course Technology. ISBN 1-59200-493-8.
  • Bethke, Erik (2003). Game development and production. Texas: Wordware Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-55622-951-8.
  • Chandler, Heather Maxwell (2009). The Game Production Handbook (2nd ed.). Hingham, Massachusetts: Infinity Science Press. ISBN 978-1-934015-40-7.
  • McGuire, Morgan; Jenkins, Odest Chadwicke (2009). Creating Games: Mechanics, Content, and Technology. Wellesley, Massachusetts: A K Peters. ISBN 978-1-56881-305-9.
  • Moore, Michael E.; Novak, Jeannie (2010). Game Industry Career Guide. Delmar: Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-4283-7647-2.
Activity-centered design

Activity-centered design (ACD) is an extension of the Human-centered design paradigm in interaction design. ACD features heavier emphasis on the activities that a user would perform with a given piece of technology. ACD has its theoretical underpinnings in activity theory, from which activities can be defined as actions taken by a user to achieve a goal.When working with activity-centered design, the designers use research to get insights of the users. Observations and interviews are typical approaches to learn more about the users' behavior. By mapping users' activities and tasks, the designer may notice missing tasks for the activity to become more easy to perform, and thus design solutions to accomplish those tasks.

Applied arts

The applied arts are all the arts that apply design and decoration to everyday objects in order to make them aesthetically pleasing. The term is used in distinction to the fine arts that produce objects solely to be beautiful or stimulate the intellect. In practice, the two often overlap.

Example of applied arts are:

Automotive design

The fashion industry

Furniture design

Paper marbling applied to books

Pottery decoration

Computer-aided garden design

Computer-aided garden design describes the use of CAD packages to ease and improve the process of garden design.

Professional garden designers tend to use CAD packages designed for other professions. This includes architectural design software for the drafting of garden plans, 3-D software and image-editing software for visual representation. But tailor-made computer-aided design software is made for the amateur garden design market. It contains some of the functionality of the more advanced programs, packaged in an easy-to-use format.

Conceptual design

Conceptual Design is an early phase of the design process, in which the broad outlines of function and form of something are articulated. It includes the design of interactions, experiences, processes and strategies. It involves an understanding of people's needs - and how to meet them with products, services, & processes. Common artifacts of conceptual design are concept sketches and models.

Design classic

A design classic is an industrially manufactured object with timeless aesthetic value. It serves as a standard of its kind and remains up to date regardless of the year of its design.

Whether a particular object is a design classic might often be debatable and the term is sometimes abused

but there exists a body of acknowledged classics of product designs from the 19th and 20th century.

For an object to become a design classic requires time, and whatever lasting impact the design has had on society, together with its influence on later designs, play large roles in determining whether something becomes a design classic. Thus, design classics are often strikingly simple, going to the essence, and are described with words like iconic, neat, valuable or having meaning. for example a vacuum cleaner is often known as a hoover, which was not the vacuum cleaner's name but instead was the surname of its inventor, William Henry Hoover.

Design controls

Design controls designates the application of a formal methodology to the conduct of product development activities.

It is often mandatory (by regulation) to implement such practice when designing and developing products within regulated industries (e.g. medical devices).

Durham School of the Arts

Durham School of the Arts (DSA) is a secondary magnet school located in downtown Durham, North Carolina, United States, housing 1,890 students. Its focus is on the visual and performing arts.

Arts offerings include 3D and 2D art, chorus, dance, guitar, strings, band, piano, acting, technical theatre, writing, digital media, game art design, and photography. Teachers of all subjects are encouraged to incorporate the arts into their teaching to maximize student engagement. Composite test scores from 2009 are in the top 25% in the district among high schools, and exceed the state average. Approximately 200 students are enrolled in each grade.

Students enroll through a lottery system and can be entered into this lottery as early as the sixth grade. The only way to get into DSA is through the school lottery. Students living near the school do not automatically gain enrollment, although many have made it into the school through the official lottery. Most students are admitted in 6th grade, though there are no rules prohibiting entrance after that age, as there is some turnover in higher grades. The primary year for turnover is 9th grade, when many students transfer to other area high schools.

Energy neutral design

An Energy Neutral Design is a Design of any type (Website, Multi-media, Architecture, Art, Music, Entertainment, etc.) that has the environment and low energy consumption practices in mind during all stages of planning and production.

Energy neutral design can also refer to environmentally powered electronics, where devices absorb or harvest energy from the immediate surroundings and transform it to the electricity they require for their operation. One example of this is the Batteryless_radio. More recently wireless sensor networks and internet of things devices have featured energy neutral designs where light, heat, motion or other forms of energy are converted to electricity.


Non-games are a class of software on the border between video games and toys. The original term "non-game game" was coined by late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who describes it as "a form of entertainment that really doesn't have a winner, or even a real conclusion". Will Wright had previously used the term "software toy" for the same purpose. The main difference between non-games and traditional video games is the lack of structured goals, objectives, and challenges. This allows the player a greater degree of self-expression through freeform play, since they can set up their own goals to achieve.

Process-centered design

Process-centered design (PCD) is a design methodology, which proposes a business centric approach for designing user interfaces. Because of the multi-stage business analysis steps involved right from the beginning of the PCD life cycle, it is believed to achieve the highest levels of business-IT alignment that is possible through UI.

Property designer

A property designer or prop designer is a person who designs props for use in theatre, film, television, etc. Prop designers work in liaison with the costume designers, set designers and sound designers, under the direction of the art director or technical director.

However, the public seems to associate the term with home designer, or an interior designer, a person who is considered a professional in the field of interior design or one who designs interiors as part of their job.

Rational design

In chemical biology and biomolecular engineering, rational design is the strategy of creating new molecules with a certain functionality, based upon the ability to predict how the molecule's structure will affect its behavior through physical models. This can be done either from scratch or by making calculated variations on a known structure, and is usually contrasted with directed evolution.

SAE Expression College

SAE Expression College is a for-profit college located in Emeryville, California, geared toward the entertainment industry and known for its around-the-clock schedule and eight week terms. It offers five Bachelor of Applied Science degrees: 1) Animation & Visual Effects, 2) Digital Filmmaking, 3) Game Art & Design, 4) Interactive Audio, and 5) Sound Arts. SAE Expression College awards Bachelor's degrees after 36 months (two and a half years) of accelerated education.

The Art Institute of California – San Diego

The Art Institute of California – San Diego is a nonprofit institution owned and operated by Dream Center Education Holdings (DCEH), LLC, a Pentecostal non-profit organization facing financial difficulties. The school offers programs in Advertising, Culinary Arts, Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing & Management, Interior Design, Media Arts & Animation and Web Design & Interactive Media. The campus is located in the middle of San Diego's Mission Valley.

The school, located at 7650 Mission Valley Road in San Diego, California, houses many PC and Mac labs to facilitate industry style art creation. Professional skills kitchens are also available for culinary students. The school also includes a library resource center, student gallery, student lounge, an art supply store, staff and faculty offices and other amenities.

The Art Institute of California – San Francisco

The Art Institute of California - San Francisco, a nonprofit institution owned and operated by Dream Center Education Holdings, LLC, is not currently enrolling students. The San Francisco campus offers degree programs in the following subjects: Advertising, Audio Production, Baking & Pastry, Computer Animation, Culinary Arts, Culinary Management, Digital Film & Video Production, Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Marketing & Management, Game Art & Design, Graphic Design & Web Design, Interior Design, Media Arts & Animation, and Visual & Game Programming.

The Art Institute of Vancouver

The Art Institute of Vancouver is providing education in design, media arts, event management, fashion and culinary arts. In 2017, this institution has been acquired by LaSalle College (LCI EDUCATION) and has been rebranded to reflect its new association to LaSalle College Vancouver.

The original main location of The Art Institute of Vancouver used to be in Burnaby, which was founded in 1979 and originally called the Center for Digital Imaging and Sound. The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Vancouver was founded in 1982 and originally called Dubrulle International Culinary & Hotel Institute of Canada. Since 2010 all the programs have now moved to its present location at the new Renfrew Campus.

The Art Institute of Vancouver is registered with and accredited by the Private Training Institutions Branch

The Art Institute of Vancouver is part of the LCI Education Network since February 1, 2017, who acquired it from Education Management Corporation.The Art Institute offers courses in Visual Effects, Recording Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts, Electronic Music, Event Management, Digital Film & Video, Graphic Design, Animation, Fashion Design, Game Art & Design and other art disciplines. Since 2009 The Art Institute of Vancouver offers a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design.


Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts) is a private post-secondary school in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada founded in 1995. VanArts offers one-year diploma programs for the visual, media and performing arts plus degree pathways with university partners.

VanArts is designated through the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB).

Video game artist

A game artist is an artist who creates art for one or more types of games. In video games, game artists are responsible for all of the aspects of game development that call for visual art. Game artists play a vital role and are often credited in role-playing games, collectible card games and video games.

Video game graphics

A variety of computer graphic techniques have been used to display video game content throughout the history of video games. The predominance of individual techniques have evolved over time, primarily due to hardware advances and restrictions such as the processing power of central or graphics processing units.

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