What is Game Art?

The word game art is synonymous to video game art since majority of the gamers in the world are adopted to the video game medium unless explicitly stated otherwise (i.e tabletop game art)

In the video game industry, game art is standard umbrella term used to categorize the disciplines that are responsible for creating visual elements that make up video games including all of the characters, objects, menus, user interfaces, environments, animations, effects, lighting, and so on.

The skills and disciplines of the game artist profession in the industry are constantly evolving with technological advancements in

  • Software
  • Tools
  • Techniques

These two complimentary professions work side-by-side to produce a game.

Game design disciplines focus on the content and mechanics of a game.

Game art disciplines focus on the models and textures that bring it to life.

Art is absolutely vital to communicating the game’s design and the game’s design is vital to inspiring its art.

However, each is distinctive and unique in its tools and skillset.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the different roles that exist in game art.

Game art is the aspect of game development process that blends creativity and technical expertise to create the visual design and aesthetics in a game.


In order to create a contextual in-sync, visually stunning and immersive experiences for the players, game artists work inter-dependently with other game development disciplines such as

  • Game writing
  • Narrative design
  • Level designs
  • Mechanics design
  • etc.

To be more specific, game artists are responsible for various function such as

  • Visualizing characters, worlds, and fantasies through concept art.
    • Digital creation
    • Hand drawn or paint
  • Creating realistic and interactive environments that players can explore through
    • 3D modeling
    • Texturing
    • VFX
    • Lighting.
  • Helping players navigate the game such as HUDs and icons
    • UI design
    • Iconography

Next is a further breakdown of all the different types of game artists. 👇

Certainly! A video game artist is responsible for creating the visual elements of a video game, including characters, environments, objects, and effects.

The primary role of a video game artist is to use their artistic skills and technical knowledge to bring the game world to life and create an immersive and engaging experience for players.

In addition to these technical tasks, here are the soft skills competent video game artists should also have:

  • Collaborate effectively with other team members in the development process
  • Stay up-to-date with and adapts to industry trends and emerging technologies

To ensure that the game’s visual elements are cohesive and aligned with the overall vision for the game collaborates closely with:

  • Game designers
  • Programmers
  • Other artists

The specific tasks of a video game artist may vary depending on their area of specialization, but generally, they are responsible for the following:

  • Concept Art
  • 3D Modeling
  • Texturing
  • Rigging and Animation
  • Visual Effects
  • User Interface Design
  • Etc.

Below is a full break down on all the different types of video game artists:

When people imagine the game art role, they might picture someone working on a single object in-game, developing it from a concept into a final asset for the game.

However, the reality is that game artists usually work in a specific role, like creating concept character designs. And within these roles, artists might only work on a specific set of things.

For example: You might be an environment artist (who produces artwork for the surrounding game world) or a character artist (who designs the people that inhabit the game world).

Game art used to be required to take on a more generalized position, contributing to several of these roles. But, nowadays the field is becoming more specialized, with artists focusing on more specific parts of a game’s artwork.

With that out of the way, here are the main art roles you could expect at a game studio:

Concept Art:

This discipline is responsible for creating preliminary sketches for all the assets that make up a game.

(Credit: Bryan Sola)

Concept art acts as a guide for the rest of the game development. 

The goal of concept art is to enable 3D artists to convert a concept into the final in-game form. 

Main skills needed:

  • Highly experienced  traditional fine art techniques
  • Prowess with digital art software.

Concept artists interact with designers in the best studios I’ve worked at, iterating quickly on shape silhouettes and exploring different ideas for key character traits to inspire or inform the design mechanics.

3D Modeling:

This discipline constructs computer-generated 3D visual game assets based on the concept art.

(Credit: Rafał Urbański)

This includes creating the characters and animals, buildings and locations, and the polished 3D art for the game. 

3D Modeling responsibilities:

  • The location of important aspects of the game.
  • Collision boundaries.
  • Line of sight.
  • Reinforcement of the game’s fantasy.
  • The needs of level and game designers.

Main skills needed:

  • Must be able to use 3D graphic content generation software.
  • May be required to texture their models as well.

2D and 3D Animation:

This discipline brings life to the moving creatures and objects in the game. 

They use techniques like keyframe animation or motion capture to make things move. 

Main skills needed:

  • Experience with keyframe animation or motion capture.
  • Ability to develop cinematics and rigging  (creating the digital “bone structure” that defines a model’s movement in game).

2D and 3D Animators work with game designers to ensure the timing of animations, attacks and the position of weapons for the placement of offensive damage zones, known as hurt-boxes or attack boxes, are placed. 

In addition, animators help convey when an animation is complete and where players can resume movement, so the game looks and feels natural and intuitive.

Texture Art:

These game discipline create or manipulate images to give textures to objects in game.

(Credit: Greg Zdunek)

Textures are images that define color information, surface detail, and light information within a computer-generated world.

Think about the textural difference between silk and leather – texture artists work to create this visual effect in-game.

Main skills needed:

  • Familiarity with Substance Painter
  • High-level experience in digitally modeling software.

Texturing often involves taking the model into a 3d painting program, and painting additional details and depth into the texturing. Working with Substance Painter, or node-based procedural tools like Substance Designer, Texture artists now must work in PBR, so they have to author metallic, roughness, AO, masks, and glow maps. 

Technical Art:

Using both artistic and coding skills, the discipline of technical art integrates the visual content into the game by connecting the assets to the game engine or rigging them to bones for use in animation.

They do this by designing and importing graphic elements and developing systems for other artists to use.

If you’re interested in what a technical artist does, check out our podcast with my colleague Paul Forest above (a technical artist who worked on World of Warcraft).

Visual Effects (VFX) Art:

This discipline creates animations for things that aren’t characters or objects.

VFX Art responsibilities:

  • Explosions
  • Powers 
  • Water dynamics
  • Weather dynamics and changes
  • And everything in between

Main skills needed:

  • A high-level understanding of how elements like water and dust behave in different conditions. 
  • Expertise with key software.

Visual effects artists and game designers work together to clearly communicate WHEN and WHERE attacks land, in addition to communicating consistent visual styles for different types of damage.


Using light, color, and shadow, lighting is the game art discipline of creating dynamic experiences for players.

(Credit: Jen Delle Monache)

For example, responsibilities might include create the glow and lens flare associated with a man-made light in the game. Also work with game designers to optimize the lighting pipeline so that the game can run smoothly.

Main skill(s) needed: Trained and experienced in visual lighting softwares

Lighting artists support the efforts of level designers to help draw players into the right locations and ensure they notice the most important landmarks.

If you’ve ever entered a cave because there was a torch next to the entrance, you’ve seen the impact of a lighting artist at work.

User interface (UI) & user experience (UX) art:

These disciplines are responsible for determining the layout, content, navigation, and usability features in the game’s interface.

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Their job is to produce a UI that is visually pleasing and intuitive so that players can navigate the interfaces with ease.

Main skills needed:

  • An experienced understand of a user’s needs and general reflexes
  • An overall knowledge of animation and motion software.

UI/UX work is so close to game design many people often confuse the two. At the heart though, UI focused on presentation, while UX thinks about how the user gets the job done.

Game Designers work carefully with both to ensure the game and its controls are well taught and the most essential features the most accessible and useful.

Art Direction (leadership):

Game art directors communicate and oversee the artistic vision of the game.

They are responsible for managing the team of artists and animators, ensuring that all assets work as a cohesive whole.

Main skills needed:

  • A firm understanding of all the art fields they oversee.
  • Experience organizing, managing and leading a large team of different types of artists.

Art directors work with the game director to ensure the art is reinforcing the core pillars, themes and identity of the gameplay through its style and assets.

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Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. A role’s description can differ drastically depending on the size and type of game studio you work for.

Learning game art is a the quest to acquire a combination set of artistic and technical skills to create visually stunning visuals that can bring the game world to life.

Artistic skills: Learning the fundamentals of art, such as

  • drawing
  • color theory
  • composition
  • perspective

Technical skills: Game art requires knowledge of 2D and 3D software, such as

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Maya
  • Blender

Game art styles: Study the game art styles of your favorite games and analyze how they use colors, shapes, and lighting to create a cohesive look and feel.

Game art learning tips:

  • Treat it like learning a skill. Set aside time each day to work on your art skills, experiment with different techniques, and create your own style.
  • Start with the basics, and gradually work your way up to more advanced techniques.
  • Create a portfolio that demonstrates your artistic abilities and includes examples of your game art work including potential employers or clients.
  • Create fan art, especially for the games from the studio you want to work for. They’re looking to hire people who can execute in their context and fan art perfectly showcases that.
  • Joining game art communities (I.e forums, Discord) to connect with other game artists and get feedback on your work.
  • Learn through online courses, tutorials, or by experimenting on your own.