Introductory Guide to Concept Art - CLIP STUDIO PAINT
This describes how concept art is produced to share the worldview of film, video game, and animation media works, as well as skills needed to become a concept artist or concept designer.
concept art, films, video games, animation, media productions, concept artist, concept designer

Introductory Guide to Concept Art

What is concept art?

Concept art is the illustration of atmosphere and design direction for media works such as films, video games, and animation. Sharing ideas visually beforehand helps create a sense of unity in the production of the end product.
An illustrator who produces concept art is called a concept artist or concept designer. This job plays an important part in the design process of the work and influences the final product.

Example of concept art

What types of concept art are there?

Concept art is essential for many types of works, including video games, films, and animation. And to give reality to the worldview, works need to be created that make the most of expertise in individual genres.

    Concept art includes the following types:
  • Building concept art: Designing structures such as buildings, ruins, archaeological sites, and fantastical castles that fit the style of the work.
  • Character concept art: Character design for video games and films.
  • Environment concept art: Designing realistic landscapes and fictional worlds in which characters traverse through based on the work.
  • Weapon and prop design: The visualization of weapons, bombs, and tool props.
  • Mech/vehicle concept design: The visualization of ideas for cars, airplanes, ships, etc.
  • Animation concept art: Giving life through design to the cast of characters that will be the main drivers in the work.

How is concept art drawn?

Concept art is not the finished product, but rather the base upon which the design and worldview is created. The following introduces how it is produced and the process.

1. Decide on a clear concept

For films or video games, the art director or creative director will brief the concept artist about the requirements and commission concept art. Information will be shared about the character’s personality, the setting of the work’s world, and other elements the director would like to see incorporated into the concept art, as well as information such as the target audience for the film or video game being produced.

2. Gather reference materials

Reference materials are gathered in order to produce the work as requested. Gathering reference materials is important for defining the final product. The images gathered will be used as reference for the atmosphere of buildings, props, surrounding scenery, and hues. The key is to keep it to a maximum of 10 to 15 sheets without spending too much time on it.

3. Create thumbnails

Finally once your reference materials are gathered, thumbnails are drawn once a rough idea is established. Thumbnails are drawn starting from small monochromatic sketches. By using small monochromatic drawings, many ideas can quickly be given shape.
Thumbnails do not start as a line drawings. Silhouettes are created using simple black shapes. The silhouettes of buildings and characters will be useful later as place holders. Once the shape is determined, details and objects are added.
Silhouettes can be easily duplicated or modified using a digital art app such as Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint.
Then once the thumbnail is complete, only good ideas are continued to be drawn. In some cases, thumbnails are shown to the art director or team members producing together with the concept artist and they are asked to choose the ones they like.


4. High resolution drawing

Using the top picks selected from the thumbnails, more detailed pictures are created. A new file is created with a high-resolution and larger size. The thumbnail is processed and enlarged. The larger size image allows for more detail to be added. The thumbnail is used as a draft and overlaid in black or gray. Details such as perspective and contrast between light and dark are adjusted. For characters, details such as clothing and adornments are added.

Overlay in gray and draw details

5. Finishing touches

The light source for the entire work is determined and it is colorized. In order to propose various colors to the art director or creative director, data that allows for the ability of multiple color possibilities is presented. With characters, the color can be changed for each part by separating it into layers. This is useful in situations like when you want to change only the hair color. With landscapes, the overall color tone can be changed by utilizing tonal correction and layer blending modes in your digital art app of choice.
The completed concept art is shared with the art director and the team members. Revisions are made if needed; or if complete, the concept art is used as the basis for the next process.

Determine the light source and overlay with colors

However, the process of producing concept art is not always as described here. The method will vary depending on the work to be made and the subject matter to be designed.
Concept art begins with proposing an idea. During the process of drawing concept art, it is important to check with the art director and the team members to ensure that everyone is on the same track. Therefore, the concept artist must have good drawing and communication skills. Nowadays, digital art app skills are also needed.

How does one become a concept artist?

The skills needed to become a concept artist or concept designer can be learned by attending a concept art school or the like to learn illustration techniques. Nowadays, skills can also be learned through online schools. At concept art school, one can also learn how to use many different software and apps.
It is also a good idea to create a portfolio as soon as you can. Naturally the best way to showcase one’s work is by publishing it on the Internet. If you want to become a concept artist, in addition to illustration skills, one also needs to be able to explain their concepts behind their illustrations.

Portfolio examples