What Does an Environment Artist Do?

07 Jul 2020

07 Jul 2020

What Does an Environment Artist Do? 

What is an Environment Artist? 

Have you ever played a computer game and marvelled at your surroundings? 

Perhaps you’ve played Red Dead Redemption and have had to take a second to take in the stunning views of the wild west, or maybe you’ve played one of the Final Fantasy games and been taken back by the level of detail within the fantasy worlds you’re playing in.  

If you have, you have a lot to thank the games’ Environment Artist for. Without them, Mario wouldn’t have his pipes to fall down, his coins to collect or the castles to run around in. 

But what exactly is an Environment artist? 

Well, according to Wikipedia

“An Environment Artist is a professional Artist who works in the video game industry as a 3D modeler, specializing in outdoor & indoor locations for a game's setting.”

They are fundamental to the players' experience of a game and in short, they bring the ideas and concepts of gaming worlds to life. They make the landscapes, backgrounds and scenery that a computer game is played within as well as the props used within the game. 

What does an Environment Artist do? 

So, what does an Environment Artist typically do? 

Well, as we’ve mentioned, the overall role of an Environment Artist is to create the backgrounds, scenery and yes, you guessed it, the environments in which video games are played. 

They are responsible for creating both fantasy-like worlds as well as real life simulations like cities or countryside. They also create the assets that go into the video games, as well as the layout of the levels or worlds that the game is played in. 

Environment Artists tend to work closely with members of the art department including the Art Director as well as the designers and programmers and would need to take into account things like the games engine and resolution quality of anything that they create. 

In the day to day of the role they’d usually undertake the following tasks:  

  • Working closely with the level designers to create 3D game environments 
  • Create the 3D assets for the game with texture, color, and lighting.
  • Improving the visuals of the game 
  • Research for the environments that you’ve been tasked with creating 
  • Turning concept art into gaming environments 
  • Optimise final levels/environments for performance
  • Work with the Art Director to ensure artistic unity across the games
  • Create realistic textures for use within games

Environment Artist Salary

So, you know what the role entails and the tasks you’d be expected to undertake, but what about money? How much can you earn and an Environment Artist and what is the typical salary? 

Well, as with many roles, the salary can change depending on the company, your experience, the location and more. 

The average salary for an Environment Artist is between £25k to £30k per year. 

At the lower end of the scale, and often in Junior Environment Artist roles, you can expect to earn an average of around £20k - £23k per year. At the higher end of the scale, typically for more Senior Environment Artists, the average salary is around £35k - £40k per year. 

What Skills & Experience do you need as an Environment Artist? 

To become or to progress as an Environment Artist, you’d usually need to be someone who is artistic with an understanding or interest in architecture and landscapes and a strong interest or love of computer games. So, if that sounds like you, then it’s definitely a career worth pursuing. 

But what else do you need to be successful in this field? Let’s take a look at some of the other typical skills and experience that you’d need for the role.

Environment Artist Skills:

  • Good at art with drawing or painting skills. Often you’d need to be able to sketch out any ideas you’d have before creating them digitally 
  • An understanding of space, environments and architecture 
  • An understanding of color and light and how they work together.
  • Ability to collaborate and work well as part of a team 
  • Organisation and the ability to meet deadlines 
  • Exceptional attention to detail 
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills
  • Solid knowledge of production techniques including; high-low poly baking, modular asset creation, whiteboxing, physically based rendering and sculpting

Environment Artist Experience: 

Often, for gaming jobs, you’ll be required to have a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps unsurprisingly, creative degrees such as those in art, gaming and graphic design are those that are ideal for pursuing a career as an Environment Artist. 

As you’ll be taking aspects of the real world and using them to create 3D versions in the digital world, learning about fine art, graphic design, architecture and interior design can only help you. 

But what other experience do you need as an Environment Artist? Typically employers would look for candidates that have: 

  • Experience with industry tools and programmes such as ZBrush, 3DS Max, Substance Designer, Photoshop etc. 
  • Experience with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Experience with 3D Modelling

How To Become An Environment Artist

As well as having the necessary skills and experience above, there are a couple of other ways that you can help yourself if you want to become an Environment Artist, so let’s take a look.  

Gain Experience in the Gaming Industry

Experience within the gaming industry is important for many gaming roles and the same applies when it comes to an Environment Artist, but how can you do so? 

You could try and find gaming internships or more junior roles such as a Junior Artist or you could even get a foot in the door by volunteering to test games. Game Pressure is a great site for finding out which companies are currently on the lookout for testers. These are often unpaid, but they will provide you with valuable experience within the game industry. 

Create a Portfolio

As with many creative roles, it can be important for you to be able to showcase your skills. 

By creating a portfolio with game assets that you’ve created, you’ll be able to show potential employers why you’re worthy of the role. 

As David Amor (Director at mobile gaming company, MAG Interactive) mentioned on our blog, when it comes to being an artist within the gaming industry:  

“A portfolio that shows breadth of ability is useful because usually an artist will have to adhere to an existing art style and being adaptable is important. A portfolio that shows GUI or animation work is also useful. You don’t need to be the world’s best artist but you need to understand the industry standard and demonstrate work at that level”.

For any work that you do, however big or small, make sure to include it within your portfolio. 

Environment Artist Career Path

As an Environment Artist, there are opportunities to progress. Many who enjoy the role can progress to Senior Environment Artist and eventually to Environment Lead. 

Depending on the experience and the games that are worked on, the role can also open up opportunities in the TV and Film industry. 

Next Steps...

If you’re an Environment Artist seeking employment, whether you’re an aspiring trainee or experienced professional, why not check out our jobs board. You can find all of our gaming jobs here.  

If you’re keen to learn more about working in the games industry, our recent guest post from David Amor provides some great insights and advice about the gaming industry and how to get your foot in the door or transition your skills into this exciting industry.