High Priority – Game Art

The four pillars of a good 3D artist

Beginning on your 3D artist journey is hard. Learning to become a master is even harder. Breaking it down into the main four pillars will help you understand what makes a good 3D artist. And will allow you to focus your practice.

1. The art fundamentals

There have been many art masters before our time. Through their findings, we know how to make art look good and how to be efficient at it. Color theory, composition, line work, value, anatomy, spacing. Just to name a few.

It might seem that some of these theories don’t apply to our modern 3D industry. But nothing could be further from the truth. Just think about the line work in your 3D character. Or the shape composition of your spaceship? Or the value balance of your scene?

By practicing these fundamentals, you gain methods and techniques on how to approach your art. You can build stronger foundations within your art. And they train your eyes and intuition so you can better judge your work. Overall making you more confident in the journey towards the finished piece.

Why not start improving on this essential skill?

2. Design capabilities & creativity

An art director might ask you: “We need a small scene of a cute french cafe. Stylized colors & interesting shapes while keeping it real. Fresh, friendly, and joyful mood. Sharp edge design. Pro quality and ready to go for the client meeting in a week”.

Are you able to handle such a task and bring it to a professional state? The ability to do so with confidence, and create something fitting, fresh and unique might just be one of the most important skills a 3D artist can have.

Being able to do so will make you a very valuable artist. One that doesn’t need hand holding, and can contribute to the art team. One that can take on larger tasks that need designing. Perhaps even take the art direction role.

Learn to develop your inner creativity by exploring and making new art styles. Do a daily creativity practice. Create finished well presentable projects. Step out of your comfort zone to learn new techniques and methods. Build the visuals of an entire game, which includes the characters, world, UI, VFX, Logo, banners, and print material.

3. Technical know-how of tools and engines

There is a lot to learn before you can effectively make a good model. Poly modeling, sculpting, topology, textures, UV’s, rigging, etc. Though are you able to implement it yourself into a game engine, create shaders or know what edge decals are?

Having a broad technical skill-set allows you to approach assets with efficiency. It allows you to fully finish your work in-engine instead of sending a bunch of files, to debug your own work, and optimize it.

Just to name a few:

  • Trim sheets, Edge Decals, and similar techniques
  • How 3D data works in engines
  • The different approaches to assets. Eg, a gun VS a very large spaceship VS foliage
  • How to build and get a rig working in game engines
  • Blend shapes, Animation tracks, locomotion, etc
  • Light baking and scene optimization
  • Shaders
  • Vertex colors and their uses
  • Tri-planar and other shaders effects. Like 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 become a master at them all. But it goes a long way to understand them, so you can become a valuable member of a game studio. Perhaps jump into shaders to see what they are and how they work, or maybe look into light baking.

There is enough information out there on the internet. So pick a subject and start learning.

4. Professional work methods & attitude

Once you start working in teams and on larger projects. Unorganized work and communication noise can really slow down progress. Teams and companies must guard themselves against such situations.

You don’t want to be in a situation where files are missing, or important information gets lost. Perhaps there is miscommunication and someone works on a task for a week to later find out it wasn’t needed. Or maybe the files you are delivering are in a completely wrong state and don’t work.

Your projects will run more smoothly and you will be able to work in larger teams if you start practicing the points below. Some come with experience, while you can already apply others in your personal projects.

  • Naming conventions & folder structures.
  • Learn and hold yourself to the work agreements of the team and studio.
  • Understanding what the people after you in the production pipeline are trying to do.
  • Understand what a team lead or project manager is trying to achieve.
  • Learn and practice delivering checked, working, and clean files. Nothing is more annoying than an “it’s finished” delivery, but it doesn’t even work on opening the files.
  • Learn the major versioning tools like SVN, GIT, Perforce, etc.
  • Learn how things should be delivered. To who, to where, how, and when.
  • Deliver before the deadline so you can catch problems earlier.
  • Learn how to structure your work so that when you are away, someone else can easily find it and understand it.
  • Learn how to communicate professionally and swiftly. Especially when things are going bad, communication is key to resolving it.
  • Be on time and have respect for other people’s time.
  • Take notes in meetings and in commitments. People who forget things are a liability.
  • Be available on the studio’s chosen communication tool. By not paying attention to incoming messages, you are creating delays and uncertainty.

Conclusion

Improve yourself in all four pillars, and you will become a well-rounded artist that teams and studios want to have. Don’t worry too much if you’re just beginning or lacking in one. Simply realize that you have more areas you can improve in and have fun on the journey to mastery.

See you next time!

The High Priority Team