Concept Artist

  • Concept Artist Film

Within the art department of a film or television production, a concept artist aids designers in the rendering or drafting necessary to clarify ideas for the construction of props, scenery, costumes, and visual effects elements.


A concept artist, sometimes referred to as an illustrator, can take an abstract idea and turn it into a tangible, visual representation. At the request of any member of the art department or related department (costume, props, visual effects, etc.) or on behalf of the director and producer, the concept artist provides sketches, paintings, or visual depiction in another medium that demonstrate the designer’s vision of a production element. For example, the set designer may need drawings of a building’s façade, or the special effects makeup artist and director may want to see several different renditions while trying to narrow down the look of an alien character. If the director asks for a bridge, the concept artist is expected to deliver every different interpretation of a bridge matching the director’s description.

By participating in brainstorming meetings with the director and designers, the concept artist is able to focus in on the keywords of the idea and then retreat to his or her workspace to produce multiple versions of the necessary drawing. He or she will experiment with different color palettes and styles; the parties involved will choose the iterations they prefer and offer suggestions for revision. The concept artist will repeat this process, paying careful attention to feedback, until a final concept is agreed upon.

Skills & Education

A college degree in studio art is recommended, including coursework in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and art history. Also encouraged is the study of anatomy, in order to accurately replicate human and animal forms, and the study of architecture, to provide a strong foundation for illustrating buildings and other structures. Just as important as artistic talent is the ability to assimilate a few abstract ideas into a clear, expressive drawing. It is the concept artist’s job to help the designer or director to clarify and refine his or her vision to the other members of the team. Quick hands are also a benefit, as the concept artist works under tight deadlines.

What to Expect

By nature of the work, a concept artist is afforded a great deal of creative freedom. However, you should understand that your responsibility is to depict the ideas of others. How much latitude you have to explore each design in the creation of concept art will depend on whom you are working for, thus it is important to quickly adapt to the methods of each designer separately. To pursue a career in this field, take any entry-level position within the art department. Consider looking for roles as an assistant or apprentice; union productions can offer structured internships to those interested in learning the trade of production art design. Roles in the art department are available to freelancers or to permanent employees of a scenic studio, visual effects house, or a similar business. To present yourself to potential employers, you must compile a polished portfolio of your work. The portfolio should demonstrate your command of artistic technique and numerous styles, as well as your own artistic flair.


Related Content

Have some feedback for our editors? Contact Us