How to Make Concept Art for Games

Concept art is used to visualize and define the look and feel of the game world, its characters, and its props. Engaging and original concept art can play a major role in attracting players and predicting the success of a game. If you want to make concept art, it’s better to learn first what it is and the different ways to make it. And we are going to clarify some things for you. 

Game Character Design: From Sketches to Final Models, array of game character concept art from a video game concept artist

The Basics of Concept Art

Concept art is used to share ideas before they become a final product in movies, video games, animations, comics, TV shows, and more. Its main purpose is to give inspiration for creating media and is different from visual development art, even though they’re often mixed up. It’s used to show how a creative project should look and feel. This includes characters, settings, objects, and other project elements. Good concept art is clear and concise. It shows the creative project’s vision and is easy for others to get. It’s also fresh and imaginative, pushing the limits to make something new and exciting.

For example, the concept art for Cyberpunk 2077 creates a visually stunning universe, adding details to the game’s lore. Dead Space’s concept art can build a believable monstrous alien world. Scorn’s concept art is creating a new genre, inspired by the same artist who designed the Alien movie. This is how the art can push boundaries and create something that can be distinguished from the others. The power of concert art is underrated.

It is an important part of making various media. It helps us see and understand how a project should look, communicates its vision to the team, and motivates us to create something special and unforgettable.

To learn more about the differences between a concept artist vs character designer, you can read this article. It has more information about the distinctions between the two roles in depth.

Game concept art showcasing an airplane and terminal, basics of video concept art

Different Styles of Concept Art

Concept art is a visual representation of ideas for use in films, video games, animations, and comics. It is used to communicate the look and feel of the project to the team and to inspire the development of the final product. There are many different styles of concept art, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Realistic concept art is often used for projects that require a high degree of realism, such as science fiction and fantasy films. 

Sketchy concept art is often used in the early stages of development when the artist is still exploring different ideas. 

Cartoonish concept art styles are often used for projects with a childish tone. Manga/anime concept art is often used for projects with anime aesthetics. 

 

How to create game concept art? The best style of concept art for particular game styles will depend on what you need and what your target audience is. For example, if you are developing a realistic first-person shooter game, you would probably want to use realistic concept art. On the other hand, if you are developing a children’s cartoon, you would probably want to use cartoonish concept art. But it doesn’t hurt to experiment and mix those styles. It is also important to consider the budget and timeline of your project when choosing a style of concept art. Realistic concept art, for example, can be very time-consuming and expensive to create. Sketchy concept art is much faster and cheaper to produce. 

The choice of gaming concept art style is a creative decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis. There is no right or wrong answer.

Evolution of game environment concept art from sketch to final render

Concept Art Process in Game Art Studio

The creation of concept art for games begins with a briefing from the game designer. The game designer will tell the concept artist about the overall vision for the game, as well as the elements that need to be designed, such as characters, environments, props, and weapons.

Once the concept artist has a good understanding of the project, they will begin to do some research. This may involve looking at other games, films, and other media for inspiration. They may also do some research on the specific subject of the game, such as historical research or research on different cultures.

Then, they will start to create thumbnails. Thumbnails are small, rough sketches that are used to explore different ideas and compositions. The concept artist will create a number of thumbnails for each element that they need to create. After that, they will start to refine them into more detailed sketches. These sketches will be more polished and will start to show more of the details of the design.

If the concept artist is happy with the refined sketches, they will start to create the final artwork. This may be done using a variety of different tools and techniques, such as digital painting, traditional painting, or 3D modeling. Throughout the concept art process, the concept artist will be working closely with the game designer and other members of the team to ensure that their designs are consistent with the overall vision for the game. They will also be getting feedback from the team on their work.

 

We are proud of our concept art team, and we believe that their work is essential to the success of our games. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to create concept art, and we are always looking for talented concept artists to join our team.

NFT Game concept design detailing character features and annotations

Reference Collection

Start by defining your project goals, such as the theme, setting, and style. This will help you choose the right references. Look for inspiration from different sources, such as books, movies, photos, artwork, nature, architecture, and even other concept art. You can create a digital collection using tools like Pinterest, or a physical one with printed images, magazine clippings, and sketches.

Organize your collection by relevant categories, such as characters, environments, props, lighting, and mood. When gathering character references, pay attention to anatomy, poses, clothing, and expressions. For environment references, gather images of landscapes, architecture, and settings that match your project’s world. Include images of objects, tools, and items that will be present in your concept art for prop references. Consider their design, functionality, and how they fit into the scene.

Maintain a sketchbook and create your own sketches and studies based on the references you’ve gathered. This helps internalize the elements and aids in the creative process. Constantly review and add to your reference collection as your project progresses. This ensures that your concepts stay fresh and relevant. If you’re using images from external sources, be sure to attribute and document them. Proper credit is important for respecting copyright and for future reference. By organizing and diversifying your references, you’ll have a strong foundation for creating captivating and authentic concept art.

Collage of game concept design elements including furniture, room interiors, and accessories

AI Generations Using Midjourney

Midjourney is a tool that can help you create concept art by generating images from text descriptions.  Midjourney will then generate a number of images based on your prompt. You can choose the image that you like best and download it to your computer.

At RetroStyleGames, we are excited to use Midjourney, an AI-powered text-to-image diffusion model, to generate concept art for our games. Midjourney can help us to create more quickly and easily, explore new ideas, and create more complex and detailed images.

Midjourney has been a great tool for us at RetroStyleGames. It has helped us to generate new and innovative ideas for our games, and it has helped us to create more complex and detailed concept art for video games. We are excited to see what the future holds for Midjourney and for RetroStyleGames.

Game character concept art showcasing four variations of female armor designs

AI Generations Using Stable Diffusion

Stable Diffusion is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that can be used to generate images from text descriptions. It is still under development, but it has already been used to create some amazing pictures.

We use Stable Diffusion to generate concept art for games. Stable Diffusion can help us to create more quickly and easily, explore new ideas, and create more complex and detailed images. Our team uses Stable Diffusion to generate concept art for all aspects of our games, including characters, environments, props, and weapons. We start by brainstorming a list of text prompts that describe the type of concept art we need.

Then, we submit the prompts to Stable Diffusion and generate a number of images. We review the images and choose the ones that we like best. Finally, we use the images as inspiration to create our final concept art.

Game concept art of a female warrior in different artistic styles

Collage or Sketching

Concept art can be made in two main ways: collage and sketching. Each has its own good and bad points. The best way to choose between them depends on what the project is and what the artist likes to do. A collage is when you put together different types of materials like paper, fabric, photos, and found objects to make a new image. It is a very creative and expressive way to make art, and it can be used to create a wide range of effects.

 

Sketching is when you use drawing tools like pencils, charcoal, or pens to quickly draw a rough draft. It is a great way to explore ideas and experiment with different compositions. Sketches can also be used to create more finished drawings, but they usually don’t have as much detail as collages.


So, how do you choose between collage and sketching for concept art? It depends on what the project needs and what the artist likes to do. For example, if you need to come up with a lot of ideas quickly, sketching may be the better option. But if you need to create a very detailed and polished piece, collage may be the better option.

RetroStyleGames uses both AI tools and human artists to make concept art. This means that we can use the strengths of both AI and humans to make sketches and collages. AI tools are good at coming up with new ideas and creating different effects. And artists are good at adding details and making sure that the art looks good. By using both AI and humans, RetroStyleGames can make concept art that is both creative and polished.

Detailed game environment concept art of a medieval village scene

Final Concept Art

Final concept art is the result that you get after the long process of making concept art. It is the most polished and refined version of the art, and it is used to show the final vision for the project. To create final concept art in game design, artists can use digital tools like Photoshop or Procreate, or traditional tools like pencils, charcoal, or markers.

They often use a combination of both digital and traditional tools. Once the final concept art is complete, it is used to guide the development of the project. For example, in video game development, final concept art is used to create 3D models, textures, and animations. Final concept art is important because it helps to communicate the vision for the project and to ensure that everyone involved is working towards the same goal.

Tips for Effective Game Concept Art Creation

 

Poses, facial expressions, and environments are all important parts of game concept art. They help to bring characters and worlds to life and make the game more immersive for the player. 

Poses can show what the character is doing and how they are feeling. For example, a character standing tall with their sword raised may be brave and ready to fight. A character crouching in the shadows with a bow may be stealthy and ready to shoot an arrow. Facial expressions can show what the character is thinking and feeling. For example, a character with a big smile may be happy, while a character with tears in their eyes may be sad.

Environments can help to tell the story of the game and set the mood. For example, a bright and colorful environment may suggest that the game is fun and lighthearted, while a dark and gloomy environment may suggest that the game is more serious and suspenseful.

 

It is important to use poses, facial expressions, and environments together to create a cohesive and believable world. The three elements should all work together to tell the same story.

Game character concept art of a spellcaster with a mystical book

What are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid in Concept Art?

Concept art is an important part of creating visual projects like video games and movies. Here are some common mistakes to avoid in concept art for game design.

Lack of Research

Concept artists need to have a deep understanding of the project they are working on, and what kind of art styles they’re using. This includes the setting, characters, story, and overall vision. Without proper research, concept art can be inaccurate, inconsistent, and unrealistic.

If you are creating concept art for a video game set in a medieval fantasy world, you need to do your research on medieval armor, weapons, and architecture. You also need to understand the different fantasy races and cultures. This will help you create gaming concept art that is both visually appealing and believable.

Inconsistent Style

It is important to develop a consistent concept art style. This means using the same color palette, brushstrokes, and overall composition in all of your work. Having a consistent style will help create a cohesive look and feel for your project.

When you are working on a concept art project for a children’s animated film, you would want to use a bright and colorful style. If you are working on a concept art project for a horror film, you would want to use a dark and atmospheric style.

Ignoring Feedback

It is important to share your concept art with others and get their feedback. This can help you identify areas where you can improve your work. Feedback from peers, clients, and other concept artists can be invaluable.

Imagine that you show your concept art to a peer, and they tell you that the composition is too cluttered. What do you do? You can go back and revise it. If you show your concept art to a client, and they tell you that the character design is not what they had in mind, you can make the necessary changes.

Inadequate Lighting

Lighting can have a major impact on the mood and atmosphere of your concept art. It can also be used to highlight important elements in your composition.

If you are creating concept art for a video game dungeon scene, you might use dim lighting to create a sense of mystery and suspense. If you are creating concept art for a sci-fi film space scene, you might use bright lighting to create a sense of awe and wonder.

Over-Rendering

It is important to strike a balance between detail and readability in your concept art. Too much detail can make your concept art look cluttered and confusing.

When you are creating concept art for a character design, you don’t need to render every individual hair on their head. You can focus on the most important details, such as the character’s facial features and clothing.

Neglecting Thumbnails

Thumbnails are quick sketches that can help you plan out the composition and layout of your concept art. They are a great way to experiment with different ideas without having to invest a lot of time and effort.

Before you start creating a detailed concept art painting, you can do a few thumbnails to test out different compositions. This will help you choose the best composition for your painting.

Underestimating Backgrounds

The background can play an important role in your concept art. It can add context, depth, and atmosphere to your scene.

For example, if you are creating concept art for a character design, you can use the background to show the character’s environment. For example, if the character is a knight, you could place them in a medieval castle. If the character is a space explorer, you could place them in a spaceship. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can create concept art that is both visually appealing and effective.

If you want to create the best background concept art, you may want to use a helping hand, so check out what can we do for you.