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Concept art: Transform the ordinary into the extraordinary

What is concept art?

Concept art is an artistic discipline dedicated to the representation of ideas, objects, subjects and designs for use in visual and audiovisual media before the final product is realized.


Concept art is the visualization of ideas that previously only existed as words or thoughts.

Currently, concept artist work is in demand by animation, video game, television and film studios. Do not miss this post to learn more about this interesting occupation.

Do you want to know more about concept art? In this post we will correctly tell you its applications, what can be created and how to create it.

Uses of concept art

The job of the concept artist, the person who is in charge of making the concept art, is to carry out the initial design of a project. To do this, aspects of different subjects such as design, illustration and drawing are used.

Concept art is distinguished from illustration in its aim or purpose. While the illustration wants to create the best possible result, the concept artist must be able to explore ideas in a feasible way.

As in many creative vocations, concept artists can work in a studio or be freelance - or sometimes a mix of the two. In general, starting your career in a studio is a good way to gain experience and contacts.

The concept artist career can take many paths: many will acquire the positions of lead concept artist or art director. In this last position, the mission will be that the vision of the concept is coherent and consistent.


Beginnings of concept art

The Walt Disney studios, perhaps the most important in animation, have already begun to apply the term concept art since the 1930s. Concept art helped them create the world of animated movies.


Current days

Nowadays, the use of concept art is more relevant than ever. Ideas can be explored through new materials and software that will allow the creativity of the concept artist to be developed to the fullest.



The industries of concept art


There are 4 industries that dominate the world of concept art: video games, film, animation and television.


Video Games

The video game industry has surpassed the movie industry as the largest area of ​​entertainment. Therefore, it is the industry with the most opportunities and work for concept artists today.


Also, the incredible and diverse range of this world makes it one with creative freedom. When creating video game concepts, you're usually not limited by the real world, so you can explore creative ideas that will help create an interesting game.


With new hardware offering higher quality, it's important to keep in mind the importance of improving visual fidelity and making the art as sophisticated as possible. That is why it is important that concept artists who want to dedicate themselves to this area control 3D, especially in modeling and materials.


The production cycles are increasingly longer, reaching more than five years, so the concept artist's work may not be shown to the public for all that time.


Cinema industry


The film industry has been employing concept artists for decades and is considered by many to be the greatest achievement that can be reached as an artist in this field. This is not only because the need to have a high quality, but also there are fewer positions than in other industries because the best conceptual artists are sought.


There are certain peculiarities about the film industry such as the need to adapt a real set or space. The concepts that are drawn will have to be created with real materials. 

Consequently, knowing how textile materials work, for example, when designing clothing, is something that will give quality to the concept artist's work.

Those who specialize in the environment must also take into account the lighting of the scene and the size of those spaces.



The television industry offers a variety of opportunities for concept artists. They can work in the pre- or post-production of fantasy or science fiction series, which can also be found in the film industry. Also concept art work is necessary for TV commercials and in the production of music videos.


The rise of digital platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Prime Video has made the television industry increasingly important. The production time of television series is usually less than in cinematographic projects, but above all the time limitations are noticeable in advertising projects. As a positive point to the latter is the possibility of carrying out more projects in less time.



The animation industry is similar to some of those already mentioned since animation is found in projects for television and cinema. The field of animation allows stylistic freedom to explain many visual possibilities, but it is an area known to be difficult to enter. Getting a job at Disney and Pixar is something dreamed of by many concept artists that few can reach.

The animation industry requires concept artists to have excellent skills. The variety of styles used during development. Artists must be able to express emotions, feelings, and moods through different styles, characterization, and colors.


Necessary materials

Before technological means were introduced, concept art was made using traditional methods: pencils, oil paints, acrylic paints and markers.

Now the vast majority of concept art is done digitally. Those artists who make sketches on paper, later transfer it to the digital medium. The digital drawing method is done through graphic tablets. Tablets provide an intuitive method for drawing and painting.

Until recently, Wacom was the strongest brand in the graphics tablet market. However, in recent years, the iPad has been gaining popularity. The biggest difference you can find in tablets are those that do not display the image on it (only on a monitor screen) or those that do.


Various applications or software such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Procreate, Manga Studio and ArtRage are used.


Currently, Adobe Photoshop is one of the most used software in the four concept art industries. Allows you to install plugins and download brushes. Although it is more used for 2D works, it can also create 3D objects and textures for 3D models, thus making it one of the most versatile programs for concept art. Photoshop was created to be used as a photo editor, so the useful tools for concept artists are less intuitive compared to other programs, but the versatility offered by its brushes means that it remains one of the most used software.


Another widely used alternative is Procreate, a software that can only be used on Apple devices and downloaded from the App Store. It is an easy program to learn, with many tools to make sketches. Files can be saved in PSD format so you can continue working in Photoshop if desired.


For 3D designs, there are software such as Maya, 3DS Max Design, ZBrush, Blender, and Modo. Today, Maya is for many studios the software used to create their projects. This is because it can handle tasks like animation, modeling, rigging, lighting, and rendering optimally. The biggest 'drawback' of Maya is its high price, which makes it inaccessible for those who are new to the world of 3D concept art.


An alternative is Blender, a free software. It has the necessary tools to create 3D models and it is open source, which means that its code can be modified and distributed. This Python-based software allows people to contribute new plugins. The biggest problem with Blender is that it is unintuitive software and more difficult to understand than other 3D software.


But in addition to the software, it is necessary for a concept artist to always have a sketchbook at hand. Inspiration can strike at any time, so it's important for any artist to always have a place nearby to capture their ideas and sketches.


Styles and themes


The styles of concept art are very varied due to the creative nature of this work. Normally, it will depend on the work commissioned. A concept artist who can create different styles will become an important value for any team.

However, having an individual style can be beneficial for a concept artist, especially when you are trying to establish your career.


An artist's style is the group of elements, techniques, and visual aspects that define their work. All these aspects are influenced by the culture and era to which the artist belongs, how they have learned and where they did it. In addition, technological advances in software can also have an impact on an artist's style.


Depending on the style of an artist, different elements such as lighting, the strength of the brushstroke or the feeling will be appreciated. Style is something that belongs to the artist and will develop naturally.


Style is important because it defines the look and feel of whatever an artist is working on. A unique style will make it easier for an artist to attract attention. Knowing your own style will allow you to maximize your own potential in the path you want to take your career. Defining your style can help you know if you prefer to dedicate yourself to creating environments, for example, or if your forte is creating characters. All the preferences will define your personal style and help you understand where you would fit best within the concept art.


To create your personal style, you will need to study art and know the fundamentals of design. In addition, you must practice day by day until you find your own style. The experience will make your skills develop and thus be able to identify what your strengths are.


Skills studios look for in a concept artist 


You can display artistic ability in your portfolio by demonstrating that you understand the fundamentals of art such as perspective, composition, value, color, and lighting. 


In addition, you must show that your works have undergone previous work to demonstrate that they have been thought of from the beginning and that they have undergone an investigation process. Process images will tell the art director how fast and flexible you are. 


Explanatory drawings can help 3D artists interpret your design, so directions will be essential depending on the project. A good way to develop key elements of art is to draw what you see. In the day to day you can find the necessary inspiration to help you with projects. 

For example, looking at architecture will help you improve environments. 


Getting feedback on an application or interview is something that usually won't happen unless you ask for it yourself. If you are starting out in the world of concept art, you could ask the art director in the interview for their direct opinion on your work. Not only will this help you improve, but it will also show you as a person who knows how to take criticism and use it to improve. 


In addition to asking for feedback on your portfolio from the art director who interviews you, you can also ask other artists with more experience for their opinion to know what you can improve before showing it in a job interview. We must not forget either the importance of having good communication skills and the ability to know how to work as a team. Once your concept is approved, the art director. Other skills needed are organization, time management, and the ability to research references.


Adapt your style


Depending on the project, the style of the concept artist should be adapted. If you can create realistic works and cartoons, the end result will be different.


If you work as a freelancer, you will probably have to constantly adapt your style. Every time a studio hires you, it will be a new challenge that can stimulate your work.


Learning to adapt your style is similar to learning yours. Analyzing images and trying to adapt to that style are ways to successfully adapt.


If you work in a studio, you'll need to work with other artists to achieve the style the art director is looking for. Typically the director will pass an image to an artist to continue processing and then the image will return to the director to be completed. This is usually the case because delivery dates in this industry are quite tight.


At the beginning of a collaboration between artists, it can be difficult to manage the clash of styles of different people. The art direction will help to follow a common path. The most important thing is to maintain good communication between everyone and maintain good teamwork. It is not necessary to compete or give destructive criticism, but to know how to analyze what the art director wants and mark the tasks to create the best result as a team.


How to promote your work as a concept artist 

To showcase your work, you can opt for a website. It is important that this website meets some minimum requirements: 


  1. Keep it simple 
  2. Make it accessible 
  3. Be easy to contact 
  4. Create categories 
  5. Include the companies and logos of your clients 
  6. Introduce yourself as a person 
  7. Put a striking main image 


In addition to a website, you should use social networks and networking websites such as LinkdeIn. These days, there are artists who promote their work on Instagram, which is perhaps the most prominent social network for artists right now. Being visible on these networks will introduce you to new people, although it is not necessary to be famous on the Internet to be successful professionally, it is interesting to take care of your online presence.



Ethics and copyright


When you produce work for yourself or a company, there are a number of legal and ethical considerations to take into account. Laws change from country to country, so you should research the laws of the country in which you reside.


Copyright is the legal recognition of the creator of a work, who will be the one who controls how the work of it is used. If you work for a company that gives you their guidelines to create the work, they will usually own the rights to the work, so you will need their permission to share the work. It will be in the contracts where they specify who owns the copyright.


If you create fan art, that is, works based on third-party universes, it is essential that you never use it for professional or commercial use.


Art theft is when a work is copied or replicated much like the original work. Currently, the use of images on social networks without mentioning the author or uploading the images as if they belonged to them is usually common in artists with a certain number of followers. The artist has the right to ask for those images to be removed, as it infringes on copyright.


Concept artists you should know


Kim Jung Gi

Karl Kopinski

Chris Voy

Syd Mead


Colie Wertz

Jenn Ravenna Tran

Karla Ortiz