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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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. ^ a b c d e Bethke 2003, p. 46
  7. ^ a b c d e Bethke 2003, p. 47
  8. ^ Chandler 2009, p. 23
  9. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, pp. 116-118
  10. ^ a b McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 281
  11. ^ a b c d e Chandler 2009, p. 24
  12. ^ a b Moore, Novak 2010, p. 86
  13. ^ a b Bates 2004, p. 173
  14. ^ a b McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 280
  15. ^ Bethke 2003, p. 49
  16. ^ a b c Moore, Novak 2010, p. 87
  17. ^ Moore, Novak 2010, p. 88
  18. ^ a b Bates 2004, p. 176
  19. ^ a b c Bates 2004, p. 175
  20. ^ a b c Bethke 2003, p. 48
  21. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 283
  22. ^ a b Moore, Novak 2010, p. 89
  23. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 282
  24. ^ a b c Chandler 2009, p. 25
  25. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 284
  26. ^ Moore, Novak 2010, pp. 89, 91
  27. ^ a b c d e Moore, Novak 2010, p. 90
  28. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, pp. 284-285
  29. ^ McGuire, Jenkins 2009, p. 286
  30. ^ 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.