Career spotlight: Game Artist

Working alongside designers and programmers, Game Artists craft every aspect of a video game’s visual aesthetic; developing the core style and look of a game from characters and environments, to UI and menus.
icon contents
icon chevron

What does a game artist do?

The term ‘game artist’ covers a myriad of roles, so we’ll be highlighting some of the key people that bring a game to life, from the initial inception of the idea, all the way to the finished product.

Below are some of the more common roles listed under ‘game artist’. We’ve separated a couple based on the experience needed to fulfil them:

Entry level roles

3D modelling artist - This role can encompass all aspects of a game’s visual identity, from characters, environments, weapons, vehicles, etc. Depending on the size of a project, they may create all of these assets themselves, or specialise in character art, environment art, vehicle art, etc.

UI artist - The UI (user interface) artist specialises in creating intuitive and stylised interfaces for things such as menus and gameplay overlays, that enhance the experience for players.

Texturing artist - Artists specialising in textures will provide the ‘finishing touches’ to ensure all art elements look the part and add to the immersion of a game, e.g. fabric for clothing,  environment textures such as trees, rocks, etc.

It’s common for artists working in any of these roles to progress into senior positions after several years, e.g. senior environment artist, where they will still create original art for projects but also manage a team of junior artists.

Roles requiring more experience

Concept artist - Working closely to the visual brief set out by the game’s director/creative lead, the concept artist will create the overall style and design that informs the other artists’ work.

Technical artist - Acting as a bridge between artists and programmers, technical artists ensure that every piece of game art works both seamlessly and efficiently within the game engine being used for any given project.

Game artists’ skills need not be localised to traditional digital game experiences for consoles, PC or mobile platforms. These can easily be translated into the creation of board games, interactive experiences or animation.

The day-to-day

It’s common for game artists to work an 8-hour day, typically 9am - 5pm. In the wake of the pandemic, the move to hybrid or fully remote positions has become even more commonplace and many studios offer flexi-time options so that employees can work around their other commitments.

Most game artists will start their day by meeting with the entire development team. This will be a chance for each department to report on where they’re at with their respective tasks, where their priorities are for the day, if any additional support is required from other members of the team, etc.


Beyond this, the day-to-day for a game artist is very flexible and will be directly tied to the development stage of the project(s) they’re working on. The typical development cycle for a video game will consist of planning, pre-production, production, testing, pre-launch, launch and post-launch. Each of these phases will see the art department performing a variety of tasks too long to list, but as an overview this is what you can expect:

Planning - This is where the team decides on the core details of the game. The art department will then start to ideate based on these details, e.g. if it’s 2D or 3D and how that will be reflected in the art style, what audience is it being aimed at, what kind of characters and world are they trying to create, etc.

Pre-production - Equipped with a clearer vision, the art department will begin to discuss early designs such as visual style and colour palettes, so that all creations match.

Production - At this stage, the art department will begin creating assets for the game, from the environments, character models, clothing, weapons, vehicles and objects.

Testing - This is where the current game build will be playtested to identify the overall experience as well as bugs, glitches and exploits. From an art perspective, some assets may be too memory intensive and need optimising, or certain assets may not work in the greater context of the game and require refining.

Pre-launch - In this final stage of the cycle, all departments will continue to improve the game through the release of ongoing patches for further optimisation. Depending on the type of game and popularity, seasonal content or DLC (downloadable content) may be developed for future release, which will require new assets from the art teams.

Launch - The lead up to launch will see the art department making as many refinements as possible. This could be extra detail to environments or characters, the technical artist(s) squashing bugs alongside the programming team caused by certain visual assets, etc.

Post-launch - In this final stage of the cycle, the art department will continue to optimise through the release of ongoing patches for further optimisation. Depending on the type of game and popularity, seasonal content or DLC (downloadable content) may be developed for future release.

Why become a game artist?

What game artists love about their work

There's so much to it and that makes it really exciting for me because my days are so different, especially as the project progresses. No day is ever really the same.”

Liliana Pita, UI Artist at King

Profile image of Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t
“I genuinely enjoy it. The amount of stuff I've been able to work on over the last six years at d3t has been so varied, there's always something new. I’ve been able to do a deep dive into the stuff that I love and dip my toe in and get more familiar with the stuff that I’m not as experienced with.”

Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t

“I like to be very involved and a ‘roll your sleeves up and get stuck in’ kind of guy. If you really want to get into the meat of what a game is then I think technical artists definitely get to see a lot of how the sausage is made.”

Adam Knight, Technical Artist at d3t

Where a career as a game artist can take you

The skills you build and the software you master as a games artist can translate to a variety of visual mediums not limited to the games industry.

That being said, if you’re reading this then it’s likely the place you want to find yourself is in a game studio. While freelance is certainly an option, it’s more common to see game artists find permanent positions within a game studio. This can range from being part of a small indie team, a co-development studio such as d3t or a larger studio creating AAA titles.

Outside of video games, a skilled game artist can use their knowledge to diversify into interior design, app development, board games, graphic novels and animation.

Other considerations

While the range of roles that sit under the game artist umbrella is vast, it’s important that you specialise within the medium. Having the skills and techniques to create different types of art can be useful, but studios will be looking for artists who are good at a specific thing when hiring, not someone who wants to be good at everything.

The culture within video games is by and large very inclusive and supportive. Larger studios may engage in things like crunch, which can put huge amounts of pressure on your mental health and general wellbeing, but most studios place great importance on their staff’s work life balance.

As we already mentioned, remote working is typically the norm for game artists, especially for smaller studios. This can be very advantageous, particularly with avoiding moving to a more expensive area. Having the option to work in the office is possible, but this is dependent on the size of the studio. Regular socials and in-person development meetings are scheduled so that different departments can come together and interact more naturally.

Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t

“I have great productivity at home, so I know when I do go into the office it’s going to be focussed on catching up with people, having in-person reviews and discussing things with the wider team.”

Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t

Who is this role suited to?

Game artists tend to have distinct personalities, interests and skill sets. You may be cut out for this role if…

You are:

Detail-Oriented– Regardless of the specific role you adopt, game artists need to possess a keen eye for detail, be that adhering to the visual style of a project or ensuring that individual assets

Personable - You’ll likely be working with other artists, as well as level designers and programmers, so being approachable and fun to work with will make you invaluable to your team.

Reliable – The development cycle has multiple deadlines, and your team needs to be confident in your ability to produce work on time so that delays can be avoided.

You like:

Problem-solving – Sometimes your art won’t work within the game, this could be down to your design, memory issues or bugs within the engine. You’ll need to approach these problems calmly and logically and find solutions.

Working independently or as part of a team – Game artists frequently switch between working by themselves and with others in their team, so it’s important that you are proactive and can self-manage while also being able to collaborate with others.

Art - We do this every time, but being passionate about art is so crucial to being successful in this role. If you live and breathe art then you’ll always be hungry to expand your skill set and innovate within your field.

You're good at:

Working under pressure - You’re responsible for delivering a variety of assets, sometimes to a tight deadline, so being able to stay calm and produce high-quality work under those circumstances is really important.  

Working to a brief To be successful as a game artist you have to be able to demonstrate that you can not only understand the creative vision, but can produce work that edifies that vision.

Exercising restraint Sometimes the art you're creating doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be efficient and functional. Having the ability to step back and know where to sink the time in will make you much more effective in how you work.  

Learning new skills - You’ll be surrounded by artists, designers, writers and programmers, all with their own suite of skills and techniques. Absorbing that knowledge and implementing it into your work will do wonders for the overall development cycle.

How do you become a game artist?

The culture surrounding video games is very social, and so one of the best ways to start your journey towards becoming a games artist is meeting up with like minded people. This could be through local games hubs and meetups, national and international game conferences, or online through Discord and Twitch.

Internships are a great way to get professional experience within the games industry, but they are competitive. Unlike other creative industries, it’s rare for internships to be unpaid and these commonly lead to full-time roles.

Education is also an excellent way to progress into the video game industry. Previously a subject area missed at college and university level, there are now diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes available in game art, that teach you using industry-standard softwares in environments modelled on a game development studio.


Your next steps

Tips from the top

Louise Andrew, head if Art at d3t
“You need to have certainly learned all the software. You need to know the game engines, and you need to know about how to make game efficient artwork. You can’t just make anything with as many polygons as you want. It has to be efficient and it has to work in-game.”

Louise Andrew, Head of Art at d3t

“I spoke to people who hire new staff, and while an employer needs to know that you can do that specific job, it's not necessarily about the skills, it's about the mindset. You can teach someone art skills or how to code, but you can't teach them that hungry mindset. They have to want it.”

Adam Knight, Technical Artist at d3t

“If you're applying to work for a company that makes Call of Duty style games, create war-like, realistic projects. If you want to work for a company that creates games like Candy Crush, create something bubbly, colourful and simple… The more you can show that you can be a part of the team right now, and if we were to hire you right now that you could do the job - that's what we want to see.”

Liliana Pita, UI Artist at King
Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t
“The number one thing that I say to any students is that the portfolio is ridiculously important. You can prove you have everything that's going to be required of you for a job with that portfolio. You can prove that you have an eye for what makes a good looking asset; that you can texture and model it appropriately and be considerate about the visual style. That's the number one thing that’s going to make you shine through.”

Dan Hutchinson, Senior Environment Artist at d3t

Building your skills & portfolio

Practising your art is by far the most effective way to build your portfolio. You’ll soon identify and refine your personal style, which is what employers will want to see, but it’s important to also demonstrate your ability to emulate other styles. ArtStation is the industry-standard hub for digital artists to share their portfolios, so if you haven’t already, create an account and start adding your work. It’s important to keep this updated and to showcase only your best work that you are most proud of.

Discord is an invaluable tool in developing your skills and network, and is a great way of meeting new people without needing to do it in person. We would always recommend face-to-face over online, but for a lot of people that is incredibly daunting. There’s just about a server for every topic on Discord, so you can easily link up with like minded people who are enthusiastic about sharing ideas and supporting one another.

“Don't be afraid to talk to people. Message people on LinkedIn and if you're able to maybe ask them for feedback. The worst that can happen is they ignore you or they say no. But then you can just move on and ask someone else. There will be people out there that will be happy to help you and you will improve a lot.”

Liliana Pita, UI Artist at King

Once you’re feeling confident in your skills, the next step is to try to work on some games. This will be dependent on where you live, but do some research into any local games hubs in your area - we recommend using Meetup and Fatsoma as a starting point. In the UK, most major cities will have a games hub, which hosts regular meetups and games jams, where you spend a couple of days with programmers, music composers and animators to create a full game. These are fantastic places to grow your network and get real-world experience in game development. Be sure to include any game jams that you’re particularly proud of when applying for a professional role, as this will give you an opportunity to give real examples of your work.

The people that make up the video game industry are very welcoming and supportive of new talent, so the best thing you can do outside of building your skills is getting out there and meeting new people.

How dBs can help?

At undergraduate level, our BA (Hons) Game Art degree will equip you with everything you need to progress into the games industry. You’ll develop a strong understanding of the fundamentals of digital art, through practice-based study using key softwares such as AutoDesk Maya, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Unreal Engine and Unity, as well as life drawing to hone your skills in human form for character design.

Through collaboration with students on the BA (Hons) Game Development: Programming degree, you’ll create a large-scale project and build a game world from scratch, working to the same development pipelines you would expect in the industry.


At Level 3, there are two options for study through our educational partner Access Creative College; a two-year Games Art diploma for 16-18 year olds or the one-year Access to HE: Games Development diploma. Both courses will equip you with a fundamental understanding of creating art and developing games, allowing you to then progress to undergraduate level.

Useful Resources


‘Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting-Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design’ by Chris Solarski

Fundamentals of Character Design: How to Create Engaging Characters for Illustration, Animation & Visual Development by Randy Bishop, Sweeney Boo, Meybis Ruis Cruz and Luis Gadea

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler

The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker

The Big Bad World of Concept Art for Video Games: How to Start Your Career as a Concept Artist by Eliot Lilly

Do Fly: Find Your Way. Make a Living. be Your Best Self. by Gavin Strange

Game Art: Creation, Direction, and Careers (Game Development) by Riccard Linde

Sketching from the Imagination: Characters by multiple authors (3D Total Publishing)

The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects by Isaac V. Kerlow



The dBs Masterclass Series – Learn from a range of industry professionals

NoClip - Video game documentaries

BlenderGuru - Tutorials on using Blender

Thomas Brush - Indie Game Developer

Riot Games - Introduction to all facets of game art

“As a technical artist, it can be very haphazard. One day or even one hour you might be programming and the next hour you have to open up the engine and deal with that or you're inspecting models inside Maya or textures in like Photoshop or Substance. It's very much here, there and everywhere, which is what I like about it.”
- Adam Knight, Technical Artist at d3t
“Working in games just felt like it wasn't even a thing… that was too much of a pipe dream, like becoming an astronaut or something… impossible. Through the Game Art course in university, I really got to know people within the industry, I got to know what they did. I got to improve my skills and actually work on different types of art that you can put into video games. It was a really good stepping stone for me.”
- Liliana Pita, UI Artist at King