What is Concept Art? The Ultimate Guide

What is Concept Art? The Ultimate Guide

Concept Art is a form of digital art that is used to convey an idea for films, video games, animation, comic books. Concept artists are responsible for bringing ideas to life, visualizing characters, creatures, environments, and just about any creative assets that will be used for any detailed project. Concept artists are the drivers for any VFX or animation production teams because their ideas are used as guides to visualize and try out concepts and ideas.

Shofela Coker, Nigerian Concept Designer

Skills Required

In order to be a skilled concept art you need two specific skills; you need a strong imagination and strong attention to detail. Developing entire worlds and characters from scratch is not an easy skill. Not everyone can visualize these ideas. Concept artists are tasked to not only make something cool but they also need to specialize in the fundamentals;

  •  Drawing and Painting
  • Anatomy
  •  Perspective
  •  Composition
  •  Light and Color
  •  Storytelling
  •  Character Design
  • * Environmental Design

What makes the best concept artist stand out from the rest is their ability for rapid iteration. You can not be committed to your artwork you rather have to develop many iterations that you can convey your ideas to producers, directors and clients. Concept art is an ongoing process.

Conceptverse: Creating a Mythical African Universe


The world of concept art is vast and consists of various specializations;

  • Character Design
  • Environmental Design
  •  Industrial Design
  •  Prop Design
  • Lighting Design
  •  Matte Painting
  • Storyboarding
  • Architectural Rendering
  • 3D modelling
Creating Kampala 100 yrs in the Future

Typical Workflow

  1.  Review the Brief – You work closely with an art or creative director understanding the scope of the project. Here you will understand basic elements of the story or project.
  2. Thumbnailing – Thumbnailing is a vital step into this entire process. The process involves rapid prototyping where you are creating 10s or 100s of rough sketches that help you nail down your concepts.
  3. Digital Painting – Once you are satisfied with your overall ideas you begin to add details to your work, digitally painting your concepts that will inevitably lead to the final render.
  4. Details, Details, Details, – As you develop your ideas you will be adding details of the world, characters or world you are creating. Most concept artists include multiple perspectives; offering a front view, back view, profile view of characters, or various angles of a design.
  5. Review and Critique – Once completed you will be submitting your work to the art director or over all team who will critique your designs and ensure that it fits into the overall scope of the project.
  6.  Project Reference – The overall team will finalize and agree on your design and your hard work will be used as a reference for everyone else on the team. Over the coming weeks, months, years you will slowly see your work come to life.
The Big Five: African Mechs and Bots

Interested? How do you get started?

Concept art is an ever expanding art form one that is particularly needed when it comes to Africa. We need more representation of our collective imagination. With that said artists like you are needed. The field is highly competitive and it is important that you develop the fundamentals. These are three things to do to kick off;

  1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE – We cannot stress this enough. Challenge yourself to be in the habit of creating as much work as possible. In the beginning it is important not to be too precious about your ideas once you have a great understanding of the fundamentals under your belt your work will transform and style will develop.
  2. SHARE, SHARE, SHARE. – It is important to join communities of artists like yourself, create an instagram page where you share some of your work with other artists. Send us your best work and just get as much feedback as possible.
  3. Pick a speciality – Finally as you start developing your craft you might find it more beneficial to pick a concept art speciality. Whether it be character design, environment design or just creating magnificent creatures you will find plenty of opportunities and work.

Go forth and prosper!


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