Game Dev Art



From early concept art to marketing illustrations to final in-game assets, art takes an important role in game design. It can be a daunting task figuring out what kind of art your game needs, how to hire and direct artists, and finally implementing all of that in a way that works.

Depending on what stage your game’s development is currently at, some sections of this article may or may not be applicable to you, however it covers a cursory look at the process for sourcing and implementing art for games.

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As this is a cursory guide to the subject, you should already have an understanding of, or are about to learn, the engine or language your game will be developed in. Some preexisting knowledge in editing programs, game art, and art pipelines are also helpful to have.

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What kind of art does your game need? A pipeline describes the creation and implementation of art for a video game, and while there are many styles of art, very broadly speaking, game art falls into two main pipelines: 2D and 3D.

  • A 2D pipeline generally covers concept art, 2D animation, and finished 2D assets for use in game.
  • A 3D pipeline generally covers concept art, 3D modeling, texturing, and 3D animation/rigging.

An artist can have multiple roles or be highly specialized in just one. While established companies may hire people strictly specialized in their field, such as a 3D artist who only creates 3D models, an indie studio may prefer one or two broadly skilled artists to cover multiple roles.

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Sourcing Art

4Sourcing Art

You can obtain art for your game one of three ways: make it yourself, hire an artist, or find premade art assets on the web.

Pre-made assets are abundantly available on most current game engine marketplaces, individual artist stores, and places like Gumroad, Behance, Dribbble, and more. Many asset packages sit comfortably within indie budgets (some are even free!) and are also used in AAA development to allow artists to focus on more important objects instead of fleeting background items.

Hiring Artists

6Hiring Artists

You’ve decided to hire an artist, but how do you know which ones are professional, can commit to your vision, and create what your game needs?

Whether they’re a seasoned game designer or a student, most, if not all, game artists have an online presence in the form of a portfolio site and social media. Websites like Artstation, Behance, Gamasutra, CGSociety, and publications like ImagineFX are built to showcase new game artists. Additionally, artists widely use social media like Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for showing off professional and development work.

Directing Artists

7Directing Artists

If you haven’t already, you should first form a Game Design Document (GDD), or alternatively, a collection of reference images. An artist has no idea what a client means by a “cool warrior character”, however they can concretely understand a moodboard showing the specific type of armor the character wears, likenesses their appearance is based on, and paintings matching the desired art style. Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Google Drive are widely used tools for compiling and sharing reference material. A good game artist can nail a design in very few iterations, but regardless expect some back-and-forth between you and your artist until you’re satisfied with their work.

If you’re leading a game’s development, it’s up to you to also send any relevant technical information to your artist. Technical information commonly includes things like file formats, image sizes, and engine limitations. If you’re unsure what kinds of technical specs your artist needs… ask!

Implementing Art

4Implementing Art

How your art is to be implemented into your game engine should be on your mind from the start. Study the ins and outs of the engine you’re using, if any, and connect with others more experienced than you. Ask, ask, ask, and don’t be afraid to contact other game developers to see how they’re accomplishing their project.

You may run into roadblocks in the form of assets not working in the way you expected them to, or garbled communication between team members. Don’t give up and persevere- bugs and unexpected issues are a natural part of game development whether you’re a one-man team or a part of a huge company. Never forget that you’re solving dozens if not hundreds or thousands of problems when developing a game!

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