In the vast, vibrant universe of art, there’s a special realm that often goes unnoticed by the casual observer. It’s called concept art, and it’s more than just pretty pictures on a canvas. It’s the backbone of some of your favorite movies, video games, and even theme parks. Concept art is the creative force that shapes these worlds long before they reach your screen or doorstep.

What is Concept Art Defined By?

First, let’s define concept art

Diving into the heart of the matter, let's unravel the true definition and purpose of Concept Art in the field of creative industry.


What is concept art?

Concept Art is essentially the visual representation of an idea before it is developed into a final product. It is used in various industries to define the look and feel of a product, movie, video game, or animation before it is produced. 

Concept Art provides a tangible, visual blueprint, allowing teams to unify their vision and move forward in the creation process with a clear direction. It is the intersection of imagination and reality, the first step in bringing fantastical worlds and compelling characters to life. 

What is Concept Art Used For?

  • Vision Realization
  • Team Alignment
  • Project Direction

Who Creates Concept Art for Films?

The Role of Concept Artists

As the architects of imagination, concept artists play a crucial role in the creative industry. These artists are the pioneers, entrusted with the task of translating abstract ideas into concrete visuals. 

Their canvases are blank slates, ready to be adorned with the blueprints of uncharted worlds, enigmatic characters, and unique aesthetics.


What Concept Artists Do

Concept artists begin with a brief, a kernel of an idea, or a narrative. They then utilize their artistic skills and creative vision to develop a series of images or designs that align with this initial concept. This process often involves sketching, digital painting, or creating 3D models. These visuals are then presented to directors, producers, or developers, serving as a guide for the final product.

Different Industries Where Concept Artists Are Needed

The need for concept artists spans a multitude of industries, each demanding its unique aesthetic and conceptual focus. 

Video Games: In the gaming industry, concept artists design everything from characters, and environments, to the objects players interact with. Their work sets the visual tone of the game and influences the player's in-game experiences.

So You Wanna Make Games?  •  Episode 2: Concept Art

Film: Concept artists in film work closely with directors and production designers to bring their vision to life. Concept art in film is used to create visuals for settings, props, and sometimes even characters, contributing significantly to the movie's overall look and feel.

Animation: In animation, concept artists lay the groundwork for the entire animated piece. They dream up characters, storyboard scenes, and establish the animation's overall visual style, playing an integral role in shaping the animated universe.

Having explored what Concept Art is and the pivotal role concept artists play across various industries, let's now delve into the creative process behind Concept Art, detailing the journey from initial idea to final visual masterpiece.

How is Film Concept Art Created?

The Creative Process of Concept Art

Concept Art is more than just a visual masterpiece; it's a creative journey. This process transforms a mere idea into a tangible piece of art. Here's a closer look at the stages involved.

Initial Ideas and Brainstorming

The seed of the creative process lies in the initial ideas and brainstorming. At this stage, concept artists often participate in collaborative sessions with directors, producers, or game designers to understand the vision of the project. Artists may discuss themes, styles, and overall aesthetics, taking inspiration from various sources. These sessions are about exploring possibilities, pushing boundaries, and discovering the potential of the initial concept.

Sketching and Creating Drafts

Once the initial ideas have been laid out, concept artists proceed to the sketching and drafting stage. This is where ideas begin to take a tangible form. Artists might start with rough sketches, experimenting with various designs, color schemes, and compositions. 

Concept Art Process  •  Part 1: Sketching

Whether it's a character, a piece of environment, or a prop, each element undergoes several iterations. Digital tools like Photoshop or 3D modeling software may be used to refine these drafts.

Finalizing Designs and Presenting to Clients or Teams

The final stage involves refining and finalizing designs. At this point, the artist incorporates the feedback received during the drafting stage, fine-tuning the design to its minutest details. The final concept art is a polished, comprehensive visual representation of the idea, ready to guide the production team.

Once finalized, the concept artist presents their designs to the clients or teams. This presentation is crucial for aligning everyone with the project's visual direction. The finalized concept art now stands as a visual guidepost, directing every decision made in the project's subsequent production stages.

Styles of Concept Art

Tools of the Trade

Concept Art creation is a complex process that requires a precise set of tools. From traditional materials to modern digital software, the choices can be overwhelming, but each contributes to the unique look and feel of the final design.

Here is a great video on tips to using these tools combined with consistency and curiosity to become a better concept artist.

How to Get Better at Concept Art. Really.

Traditional Tools Used in Concept Art

Traditional tools have been the bedrock of the arts for centuries and continue to play a vital role in Concept Art today.

Sketchbooks: Sketchbooks are the starting point for most artists. They allow for spontaneous creativity, enabling artists to jot down ideas, sketch characters, or map out environments at any time.

Pencils and Pens: Pencils and pens offer versatility. From broad strokes to fine details, they provide a variety of line weights and styles.

Markers and Paints: Markers, watercolors, and acrylic paints add color to concept drawings. They help convey mood, atmosphere, and lighting within a design.

Digital Tools and Software Commonly Used by Modern Concept Artists

In the modern era, digital tools have become just as crucial as traditional ones. They provide a new level of flexibility, precision, and efficiency in Concept Art creation.

Graphics Tablets: A graphics tablet provides a natural, intuitive way for artists to draw digitally. It offers pressure sensitivity and precision, which can be essential for creating detailed work.

Photoshop: Adobe Photoshop is a staple in digital art. Its myriad of features like layers, brushes, and filters make it ideal for creating and modifying Concept Art.

3D Modeling Software: Software like Blender or Maya enables artists to create 3D models of characters or environments. This can be particularly helpful in presenting a more realistic view of a design.

Digital Painting Software: Platforms like Procreate or Corel Painter are designed specifically for digital painting, offering a range of brushes and effects that mimic traditional painting techniques.

Concept art is at the heart of visual storytelling, transforming ideas into captivating experiences. Whether it's video games, films, or animation, concept artists shape aesthetics and emotions, pushing creative boundaries. Let's appreciate the significant role of concept art in crafting immersive universes.

Up Next

The Art Department in Film

Now that we have a firm understanding of concept art and its role in visual storytelling, let's delve deeper into the film industry's art department, the creative powerhouse that brings these concepts to life on the big screen.

Up Next: The Art Department in Film →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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