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Art Tips

Concept Art - Everything You Need to Know

Emma Tibbey
Apr 25, 2023
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Concept art may be a foreign term to you… or maybe you’ve heard it a million times before but haven’t had the chance to learn more about it.

If you have ever interacted with a film, video game, comic, TV show, or manga, you have seen concept art at work.

Your favorite characters, the cool settings, and the interesting gadgets all have to originate from somewhere, right?

These designs are conjured up in the minds of concept artists, who help visualize concepts so that new and interesting ideas can be brought to life.

To see concept art in development, you can check out our courses ‘Fundamentals of Character Design’, or ‘Environment Design.’

If you are new to this field, we have the best online courses to get you going. Check out our procreate courses and digital illustration courses.

What is Concept Art?

Concept art is the process of visualizing a concept, idea, character, or environmental design to use in film, comic books, animation, video games, advertising, or other forms of media.

It is part of the pre-production process used to develop a strong visual direction for its respective media project.

Concept art typically involves a group of concept artists designing several different iterations of a concept and refining these ideas until a final design is decided upon and the visual form of this new concept is born.

Art directors weigh in on this decision, finalizing the choice and ensuring that everyone is on the same page with the direction of the concept.

This sometimes even involves combining several different elements of a concept artist’s work to establish a final product

Concept art is often confused with visual development art. However, they do have their differences with concept art, majorly focusing on creating world-building artworks to develop media products further.

Concept Art Digital Drawing
@charactercube

What Does a Concept Artist Do?

Now that you know what concept art IS, maybe you want to know what a concept artist DOES.

The main priority for a concept artist is to use visual storytelling to uniquely characterize an environment, prop, vehicle, or character to communicate an idea through visual design.

A concept artist takes the “show, don’t tell” principle to a whole new level, using art to visually emphasize the essence of a design concept and bring these ideas to life.

A concept artist will often create several designs for one concept, and for bigger projects, such as Disney Films, multiple concept artists will work as a team to draft ideas for one design.

Using more efficient working methods like this means that the design for an idea can be represented in many different ways, ensuring that every component has been considered when deciding on a final product!

Concept Art - An Underwater Scene with Bugs
Kenneth Anderson – Character Cube 

Types of Concept Art

Concept art is used for many different purposes and comes in various forms.

Conceptual artists work on various projects ranging from film, TV, animation, comic books, and games to architecture and product design!

In the art realm, concept art is a significant step in the creation and manifestation of any single idea and design.

This necessary pre-production process has some main categories under which concept artists work.

These include

  • Environment concept art
  • Character concept art
  • Vehicle concept art
  • Prop concept art

All of these elements of concept art are important when it comes to building a visual world, and concept artists are the backbone to bringing any of these ideas to life.

Concept artists work towards designing and creating both rough drafts and polished versions of ideas for any of these categories.

Artists strive to create memorable and unique ideas for things like films, video games, animation, or comic books to establish the backbone of an interesting character, environment, prop, or vehicle.

Concept Art - A Girl Warrior with Bow & Arrow
@rheatibbey

A great example of concept art can be found when thinking of your favorite animation, such as the new Spiderman movie, “Into the Spider-Verse.”

This film required many specialized concept artists to achieve a ground-breaking final design.

Character concept art is seen as the artists working towards creating each character, ensuring they all visually communicated a strong persona; for example, using visual aids such as dark colors, harsh linework, size, and scale to create an ominous villain for the film.

Concept Art - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Concept Art by Patrick O’Keefe, Patrick O’Keefe, Into The Spider-Verse, 2018

The backgrounds and environmental spaces were also designed by concept artists, who drafted entire imaginary worlds to create unique and cool world-building which would capture the essence of the film.

Props and vehicle concept art can also be seen in this film, such as when concept artists had to work towards drafting different ideas for a new Spiderman suit, designing something that would be specifically characterized as Miles Morales but also carry forward imagery associated with the Spiderman brand.

This shows how significant concept art is when it comes to the creation of any form of media. Maybe next time you watch your favorite TV show or read your favorite manga, consider the behind-the-scenes work a concept artist put into designing the unique elements in the work.

Manga Character Concept Art
@rheatibbey

How to Become a Concept Artist

Now you know everything there is to know about concept artists and concept art; you might be interested in becoming one.

If this type of work is calling out your name, these are just a few things you can do to establish a career as a concept artist.

Practice

Being skilled at drawing and creating cool concepts is not something you are just born with, so practicing your sketching is important.

You can start by practicing creating unique creatures, futuristic vehicles, or imaginary worlds, and you will begin to develop a feel for how you can inject personality and storytelling qualities into these ideas.

This can be done at home simply with a pencil and paper, or you could use digital technology and modern paint packages to craft detailed final designs.

Example of Concept Art Practice Sheet
@art_bymemo

Study and Research

It is important to make sure you understand the basics of artmaking before you begin creating concept art. To do so, you can easily study and access many courses and tutorials that will teach you everything you need to know about art.

For example, it is important that you are familiar with the fundamentals of art, ensuring you understand color, value, form, composition, brushwork, perspective, and anatomy.

These concepts are also explored in-depth in our course ‘Fundamentals of Drawing’, which will enhance your abilities as an artist and consequently allow you the creative freedom to express your artistic vision for any concept you are trying to represent.

If you were looking for something specific to character concept design, you could also check out ‘Fundamentals of Character Design’ or something like ‘Environment Design’ if you were more interested in focusing on environments.

Create a Portfolio

Once you have created a catalog of different pieces, you will want to begin to exhibit your work.

Creating a portfolio – most likely in the form of a website – is an important step as it allows you to share your creative vision and hopefully inspire career opportunities for yourself.

Your portfolio should be a unique collection of all your best concept artworks, showing off your skills and the individualistic perspective you can bring to the table when it comes to drafting and inventing new ways to visualize a concept.

At this point, you probably have many different artworks to choose from, so what should you include?

Ensure you show that you are showing off your storytelling abilities – that your art can visualize whole concepts and communicate stories within the lines.

It is also smart to keep your concept art portfolio focused, ensuring it communicates your specific area of expertise.

Maybe you are an expert in creating character designs for a romance movie or props for a horror game.

Either way, choose a niche that you love and show that to the world so that you will attract concept artwork that suits your style.

Try to include several versions of one idea, showing you have the creativity to produce multiple interesting designs.

As well as this, you can show off your process, revealing the steps you take to achieve your finished work and create concept art.

Don’t forget to make sure that your artworks communicate a deep understanding of the fundamentals of art.

To do this, you should include pieces with cool colors and values, experimental perspectives, detailed brushwork, creative compositions and forms, and correct anatomy in your portfolio.

Also, choose pieces that show off your technical abilities as an artist to really confirm your skills.

Example of an Artist's Concept Art Drawing in Color
@aveline_stokart

Conclusion

Concept art is a valuable step in the creation of media.

It is the groundwork of the backgrounds in your favorite video games or the most loveable character in a movie you watch.

Concept art is a creative, important (and competitive) industry that really allows artists to experiment and be passionate about their work.

21 Draw has all the courses you need to jumpstart your art career. Check our online drawing course catalog here. If you have never drawn before, ‘Learn to Draw in 21 Days‘ is your springboard. Check out ‘Telling a Story Through Illustration‘ (by Disney’s Tony Bancroft) for giving wings to your creativity.

Happy digital illustrations.

Emma Tibbey
Emma Tibbey

Emma is an Australian Freelance Writer, eager to create informative and interesting writing which expresses her creative passions. Emma is currently studying Fine Arts at the Queensland University of Technology.

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