What does a Game Artist do?

G. Wiesen

The duties of a game artist will vary depending on what part of game production an artist works on and the particular medium or aspect of game art he or she specializes in creating. Someone who works on pre-production for a game, for example, will typically create concept art for various locations, characters, and items found in the game world. A production artist, on the other hand, usually creates art assets for use within the game itself, which are directly seen by players of the game. The assets that are made, however, are often made by many different artists and any one game artist will usually only create a certain aspect of such work.

Some video games feature popular characters, and are designed to be appropriate for the whole family.
Some video games feature popular characters, and are designed to be appropriate for the whole family.

A game artist is typically someone who works in the video game industry and creates various pieces of artwork while working on games. The actual work done by such an artist can vary quite widely, depending on the nature of the work he or she does. A game artist usually works on pre-production or production of a game, though he or she could also create marketing artwork that is not used within the game itself.

Game artists try to create an immersive experience for gamers.
Game artists try to create an immersive experience for gamers.

Pre-production artwork for a game is typically created by a game artist who specializes in creating concept art. The artist will usually work with a number of different mediums to create images that represent locations, characters, props, and anything else that will be seen visually within the game. Writers and lead designers may come up with basic ideas for how a character or location might look, but a concept artist will create visual depictions of such things. This can often involve a fair amount of revision as ideas are rejected or refined toward a final product.

Production artwork is then usually created by a number of different artists who each specialize in different aspects of game art. One game artist might focus on modeling, for example, and use three-dimensional computer graphics software to build characters, environments, props, weapons, creatures, and everything else in the game using polygons and various shapes. These models will then have textures created for them, usually by another game artist who focuses on creating surfaces that match the aesthetic of the game or are as realistic as possible.

Another game artist might then work on animating the various models that have been created, such as making characters walk and developing an animation sequence for how a gun looks as it fires a bullet and dispels a spent cartridge. Other artists will then add lighting and create special effects like glowing lights, sparks, and large explosions; each visual aspect of a game is often created by a team of artists. The music and sound effects featured in a game are created by artists and sound engineers, as well. Finally, an artist will usually create the packaging or merchandising images for a game, though this can feature concept art or graphics from the game instead.

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Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - I've got some friends who have worked for free on certain projects, but usually they only do it as a favor to a friend or because they are really enthusiastic about the game.

A real game artist's salary is usually pretty good, so I don't think the average independent game maker could afford a good one unless they have some kind of arrangement like this.


@pastanaga - Honestly, I think that there tends to be a lot more exploitation of the artists than anyone else. There are so many young, talented artists who want to be able to put "video game artist" on their resume in order to get into the business that they will work for very little money, or even for free and under a lot of pressure.

I've read many stories about artists who have been completely ripped off by producers and few stories about producers being ripped off by artists.

If you are looking for someone to do the art for your application, please treat them well. In the long run you are only doing yourself harm if you don't because artists talk and they will spread the word about employers who are worth working for.


If you are looking to hire a game artist for an independent project, just remember that you get what you pay for. The art is one of the most important elements of the game and it is probably the most important element when it comes to marketing. You might have a game that is a complete rip off of another game but if the art is good people won't care.

Not to mention that professionalism is very important when it comes to making new games. You want someone who understands the process and understands about deadlines.

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