Game art design

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Game art design, a subset of game development, is a process of creating 2D and 3D game art for a video game. A game artist is a visual artist who creates video game art, such as concept art, item sprites, character models, etc.[1][2][3][4]


In early days of game development, a single artist could produce all backdrops and sprites for a game. In mid-1980s a team of at most three people would work on game art.[5] Starting early 1990s art requirements increased substantially.[6]

3D artist role became prominent around 1994–1997; before which industry was prominently 2D art design.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]


The art production is overseen by an art director or art lead, making sure their vision is followed.[1][6][11] The art director manages the art team, scheduling and coordination within the development team.[1] The art director must also make sure art produced by different team members is consistent within the game.[6][11] A team may also have a lead artist fulfilling day-to-day management of the team.[11]

An artist may be responsible for more than one role.[10]

The artist's job may be 2D oriented or 3D oriented and there are several disciplines involved.

2D artists

  • A concept artist works with the game designers, producing character and environment sketches and story-board and influencing the "look of the game".[6][11][12][13][14] A concept artist's job is to follow the art director's vision.[11] The produced art may be in traditional media, such as drawings or clay molds, or 2D software, such as Adobe Photoshop.[14] Concept art produced in the beginning of the production serves as a guide for the rest of development.[13] Concept art is used for demonstration to the art director, producers and stakeholders.[6] A storyboarder is a concept artist who designs and articulates scene sequences for review before main art production.[15]
  • A sprite artist creates non-static characters and objects or sprites for 2D games.[7][16] Each sprite may consist of several frames used for animation.[16]
  • 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.[12][18]
  • An interface artist works with the interface programmer and designer to produce game interface, such as game menus, HUDs, etc.[7][16]

3D artists

  • An environmental artist or level artist creates 3D assets for game environment, such as terrain shape, landscape features, objects, etc.[24][27][28] While an environmental artist's job is similar to a level designer's work, the artist is only responsible for visual appearance and not gameplay.[27]
  • A cinematic artist or cut-scene animator produces cinematics and cutscenes for the game.[24][27] Companies may also hire outside studios to produce cinematics.[27] Larger companies have their own dedicated 3D artist teams.[27]
  • A lighting director, often the art director or level artist, is responsible for illuminating the game world.[29]


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. Artist with more than six years of experience earned $90k.[30]

A lead artist or technical artist earned $66k with three to six years of experience; and $97k with more than six years of experience[30] and an art director with six and more years of experience earned on average, $105k a year.[30]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Bates 2004, p. 171
  2. Moore, Novak 2010, p. 85
  3. Bethke 2003, p. 45-49
  4. Chandler 2009, pp. 23-26
  5. Bethke 2003, p. 45
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Bethke 2003, p. 46
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Bethke 2003, p. 47
  8. Chandler 2009, p. 23
  9. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, pp. 116-118
  10. 10.0 10.1 McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 281
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Chandler 2009, p. 24
  12. 12.0 12.1 Moore, Novak 2010, p. 86
  13. 13.0 13.1 Bates 2004, p. 173
  14. 14.0 14.1 McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 280
  15. Bethke 2003, p. 49
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Moore, Novak 2010, p. 87
  17. Moore, Novak 2010, p. 88
  18. 18.0 18.1 Bates 2004, p. 176
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Bates 2004, p. 175
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Bethke 2003, p. 48
  21. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 283
  22. 22.0 22.1 Moore, Novak 2010, p. 89
  23. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 282
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Chandler 2009, p. 25
  25. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 284
  26. Moore, Novak 2010, pp. 89, 91
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Moore, Novak 2010, p. 90
  28. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, pp. 284-285
  29. McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 286
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Fleming, Jeffrey (April 2010). "9th Annual Salary Survey". Game Developer. United Business Media. 17 (4): 8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Bates, Bob (2004). Game Design (2nd ed.). Thomson Course Technology. ISBN 1-59200-493-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bethke, Erik (2003). Game development and production. Texas: Wordware Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-55622-951-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Chandler, Heather Maxwell (2009). The Game Production Handbook (2nd ed.). Hingham, Massachusetts: Infinity Science Press. ISBN 978-1-934015-40-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McGuire, Morgan; Jenkins, Odest Chadwicke (2009). Creating Games: Mechanics, Content, and Technology. Wellesley, Massachusetts: A K Peters. ISBN 978-1-56881-305-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moore, Michael E.; Novak, Jeannie (2010). Game Industry Career Guide. Delmar: Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-4283-7647-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>