Ringtail Studios’ Fundamentals of Concept Art

Ringtail Studios - Fundamentals of Concept Art

As the dedicated art development team in Magic Media, we’ve always emphasised the importance of concept art and a solid starting point for any piece of artwork. Often overlooked by many outside of the industry, concept art is an absolutely integral piece of work for every great character, environment, and asset you’ve enjoyed in gaming.

There is a lot of work behind great concept art and we discussed this with the fantastic artists in the Magic Media team.


Why is Concept Art Important?

If you’re uncertain and looking into the value of concept art as a process, look no further than its purpose. Why does this step exist in art development?

The concept artists on staff described the stage as a translation of ideas. Whether you’re given the brief, reference images, or descriptions of the concept, the artists are tasked with collating it and bringing it to life visually. The key question that our artists impress upon this stage is “what is being conveyed to the player?”. Concept art is the beginning, the first moment that this question is approached. As the first step, the idea is explored and the teams begin to understand an idea of what they’re working with and what is being shown to players.

Concept art isn’t just for this visual delivery, it also helps to keep the workflow balanced. The bulk of adjustments and alterations will happen in this early stage, where things are still fluid and changeable. Once the concept art is in place and it is moved on, changes become more difficult to deliver. Changing a concept is a lot easier than changing a 3D model or a nearly completed model’s animation rig. The more exploration and confirmed decisions that happen during concept art means a smoother pipeline for the rest of the art’s creation. Smoother pipeline means less time and more efficient cost.


The Core Principles of Concept Art

The Magic Media art director and our entire art team often sound like a broken record regarding fundamentals. The basics and core elements of art development help create a great artist. If you’re looking to hire an artist or art team, look at how they utilise their fundamentals.

Things like anatomy, shape, colour, perspective, rhythm, and silhouette. Concept artists are often referred to as “visual knowledge chimeras”, an incredible mixture of talent and skill. All of which is necessary to properly deliver high-quality concept art. The core principles also include things like readability, composition, and use of light. Keep an eye out for these, they will truly make your game’s visual communication standout.


Separating Good from Great Concept Art

The fundamentals are key, as we’ve said, but what about outside of the mechanical ability and experience? One of Magic Media’s lead game concept artists spoke about curiosity. Whether a fascination in history or biology or engineering, they spoke about the necessity of seeing what rules the world has established and how those rules can be changed or broken. This is key in developing new concept art and especially in worlds where our rules aren’t followed.

The question of “what if…?” is huge for exploring new worlds and concepts. Simple alternate history events like, “what if the World Wars ended differently?”. Or geographical questions, “what if the Earth was 80% land instead of water?” or “what if there were black, glass pyramids in the Arctic?”. These questions snowball into more questions and queries. Following these questions, embracing your curiosity, and deciding what the answers might be are integral to great concept art. Working on game concept art like that is a fantastic way to explore new worlds and implement key details that bring these worlds to life.

Another way to elevate game concept art from good to great is to avoid treating them as separate entities. Our artists always work on their concept art as contextual to a wider picture and story. Even though they are created in isolation, every piece of work is part of something bigger. Understanding and implementing this context is a fantastic way to deliver a cohesive visual style that feels real and alive.

If you’re in need of high-quality and consistent 3D art and art production, get in contact today and start benefiting from streamlined, scalable, and reliable outsourcing services. As part of Magic Media we have the combined bandwidth to tackle any project, at any size, in house. Instead of using multiple studios, you can come to your one stop shop, and we can offer a range of services to ensure your project is a success.