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What Does a Concept Artist Do?

July 10, 2019 By: in Concept Art

Want to learn what an concept artist does? keep reading

Remember when you were a kid and someone asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Two things are likely true about the answer you gave. First, you probably weren’t thinking along the lines of a job that’s in high demand. Instead, you might have said something you were more familiar with, like video game developer, teacher or musician.

The second truth about the answer of what you wanted to be when you grow up? It is highly unlikely that you said “concept artist”.


Even people who work in traditional and digital arts can have a difficult time in saying just what is a concept artist and strictly define what a concept artist does.

This is What a Concept Artist Does

To start getting a better understanding of the role, it can help to expand the name to “conceptual artist”. From there, it’s not such a large leap to understand that concept artists design and illustrate the look and feel, or concept, of a film or game.

But, right away, that definition doesn’t fully explain everything that might be part of a concept artist’s work, which can include the following, among other roles.

  • Design & Illustrate Environments – The setting of a game or film is crucial to the story. Can you imagine “Avatar” in a desert? As an integral part of concept design, concept art is often the first visual representation of the specifics of that environment, and how characters fit within it.
  • Design & Illustrate Characters – From Halo’s Master Chief, to Hiccup in “How to Train Your Dragon”, the visual development, design and rendering of a character can not only convey the character’s personality, but help tell the story.
  • Design & Illustrate Props – The scene isn’t fully set until the props are designed and created.

Concept artists may also be called upon for cover design, poster design, colour keys and storyboards. In developing a mobile game, they may need to 3D-model an environment to be game-ready.

How to Become a Concept Artist 

Of course, computer animation for films and games continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Every year, new technology and techniques open up new horizons of what’s possible. And the demand for concept artists grows at least as quickly. After all, not a single frame is created until the design and look of it is confirmed. 

To compound the problem, there’s a shortage of people with the rare combination of creativity, education, traditional art skills and computer skills that a successful concept artist needs.

Even if you’re an artist and you feel you have the right combination of skills for the job, you face yet another hurdle. How do you learn to be a concept artist?

Learning Concept Art 

Concept art is an element of some art and animation courses and programs. But, to our knowledge, Max the Mutt’s Concept Art Diploma Program is the only program in Canada that teaches you concept art in depth and gets you ready for a career in concept art.

As we mentioned above, concept artists need a rare and varied skill set and our concept art program is designed to train you in all of them.

  • Illustration
  • Traditional, representational drawing and painting
  • Animation-related skills such as storyboarding, film language, location design and layout for animation
  • Concept specific courses including research and idea development, character design, environment design, prop design, creature design,
  • Photoshop
  • 3D computer software
  • Employment-level 3D modelling for game artists
  • Matte Painting

Additional skills that you’ll learn include background painting for animation; layout for animation & video games; and storyboarding for animation, games and live action.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our recent article: “2018 Concept Art Grads, Dhenzel Obeng and Zabi Hassan Talk About Being An Effective Concept Artist!