High Priority – Game Art

The four major skills of a good 3D artist

Embarking on the path of a 3D artist is no easy feat, and achieving mastery is an even greater challenge. Nevertheless, by dissecting the craft into its four main pillars, you can gain a better understanding of what defines a proficient 3D artist and focus your efforts accordingly.

1) The art fundamentals

The first and possibly the most crucial pillar of becoming a skilled 3D artist is to master the fundamentals of art. Countless art masters throughout history have provided us with a wealth of knowledge on how to create aesthetically pleasing and efficient art, covering topics such as color theory, composition, line work, value, anatomy, spacing, etc.

Despite the misconception among starting 3D artists that these principles are obsolete, they still remain highly relevant to this day. For instance, consider the line work in your 3D character, the shape composition of your spacecraft, or the value balance of your scene.

By practicing these fundamentals, you can develop various methods and techniques for approaching your art, and build a robust foundation for your work. Furthermore, they help train your eyes and intuition, allowing you to better evaluate your artwork and progress towards creating exceptional pieces.

2) Design capabilities & creativity

An art director may pose a challenge like: “We require a small scene depicting a charming French cafe with stylized colors and interesting shapes, while maintaining a realistic appearance. The scene should exude a fresh, friendly, and joyful mood, with sharp-edge design. We need a professional quality product, ready to present to the client in one week.”

Can you confidently undertake such a task and deliver a professional-grade outcome? The ability to do so, and create something that is fitting, fresh, and unique, is one of the most valuable skills a 3D artist can possess.

By mastering this ability, you can become an invaluable artist, one who can contribute to the art team without requiring extensive supervision. You will be able to tackle more significant assignments requiring design work, and potentially even take on an art direction role.

To develop your inner creativity and hone your skills, explore and experiment with new art styles, engage in daily creativity practice, and create finished and presentable projects. Challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and learning new techniques and methods. Consider developing the visuals of an entire game, including characters, the world, UI, VFX, logos, banners, and print materials.

By continuously working to improve your craft and pushing your boundaries, you can develop into a skilled 3D artist who can confidently undertake any challenge thrown your way.

3) Technical know-how of tools and engines

There is a lot to learn before you can effectively create a good model, including poly modeling, sculpting, topology, textures, UVs, rigging, and more. However, are you also able to implement your model into a game engine, create shaders, or understand what edge decals are?

Having a broad technical skill-set allows you to approach assets with efficiency, and enabling you to complete your work in-engine instead of sending your files to others that have to QA check and implement them.

To name just a few skills:

  • Trim sheets, edge decals, and similar techniques
  • How 3D data works in game engines
  • Different asset approaches, such as guns, large spaceships, and foliage
  • Building and getting rigs to work in game engines
  • Blend shapes, animation tracks, locomotion
  • Light baking and scene optimization
  • Shaders
  • Vertex colors and their uses
  • Tri-planar and other shader effects, such as automatic snow on top of objects
  • Using and implementing your work into game engines
  • Game engine terrains and terrain blending

You don’t have to master all of these skills, but understanding them will make you a valuable member of a team. There is plenty of information available on the internet, so pick a subject and start learning.

4) Professional work ethic & attitude

When working in teams and on larger projects, organized work and communication become of utmost importance for a smooth experience that results in something to be proud of. To ensure smoother project management and the ability to work in larger teams, you should start practicing the following points. Some may come with experience, while others can already be applied to personal projects:

  1. Use naming conventions and folder structures to keep your files organized.
  2. Understand what the people after you in the production pipeline are trying to do.
  3. Understand what a team lead or project manager is trying to achieve.
  4. Learn and practice delivering checked, working, and clean files.
  5. Learn major versioning tools like SVN, GIT, Perforce, etc.
  6. Learn how to correctly deliver things, to whom, where, how, and when.
  7. Deliver early before deadlines to catch problems while having time left to solve them.
  8. Structure your work so that someone else can easily find and understand it when you are away.
  9. Learn to work fast and efficiently. Prioritizing the tasks that have dependencies for others.
  10. Respect other people’s time by being punctual. Communicate professionally and swiftly.
  11. Take notes in meetings and commitments to avoid forgetting things.
  12. Creating accurate estimations
  13. Be available on the studio’s chosen communication tool to avoid creating delays and uncertainty.
  14. Take ownership of your given task. Problem solve issues yourself. Don’t constantly be dependent on others.

To add, don’t underestimate how much extra time is needed to bring things to a good finished state. A common rule is to double your estimated hours so you have enough time for feedback and polish.


Being a well-rounded artist that studios and teams seek requires mastery in all four pillars: technical ability, creativity, communication, and professionalism. However, it’s essential to recognize that the journey towards mastery is a gradual process that involves consistent improvement in each area. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, focus on developing your skills in all four pillars and enjoy the learning journey.

See you next time!

The High Priority Team