Technical artists are essential in the game development process as they bridge the gap between artists and programmers. These professionals ensure a smooth art pipeline for characters and assets while troubleshooting any technical problems that arise between art programs and the game engine.
These experts fall under the category of special effects artists and animators, who are among the fastest-growing professionals in the United States according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about how to become a technical artist.
What Is a Technical Artist?
A technical artist works in the gaming or film industry to create animated graphics, 3D models, and characters as needed in the game development process. Their roles often vary depending on the company, but these professionals work to create the images, backgrounds, and other materials associated with the characters you see in films or games.
These professionals are commonly known for developing characters in animations. They must have a command of the software tools required in art production. They work with art directors and other members of the programming team on game and film projects.
Technical Artist Job Description
One of the responsibilities of tech artists is to communicate with both programming and design teams. They are a bridge between artists, programmers, and other professionals in a video game production unit, so they must possess strong communication skills.
Other important roles of these professionals include assisting in asset performance and validation, troubleshooting complex issues that arise during game development, and recommending technical tools for each project.
Technical Artist Salary and Job Outlook
Technical artists are classified as special effects artists and animators. According to BLS, the job market for these professionals is estimated to grow by four percent over the next decade, which is just as fast as the average occupation in the United States. This means that you’ll have numerous employment opportunities as a technical artist in the future.
In addition, you should expect a higher than average annual wage in this career. BLS reports that these experts earn about $77,700 per year. The national average for all occupations in the United States is $56,310.
Top Reasons to Become a Technical Artist in 2021
There are plenty of reasons why you should become a technical artist. For instance, the demand for these game industry professionals is estimated to grow in the future. In addition, they earn higher than average salaries and find work at top tech companies. Below are more reasons to pursue a career as a technical artist.
- Higher than average salaries. As shown above, you can expect to earn more than the national average if you become a technical artist.
- Work alongside talented professionals at big companies. These professionals often work in big video game companies. This means that you will network with other talented professionals which is important for job satisfaction and productivity.
- High job satisfaction. You get to see the joy and happiness that your work brings to gamers and film lovers.
- Work-life balance. Reviews by professionals on sites such as Glassdoor suggest that life as a technical artist is well-balanced, which means stress is lower and burnout less likely.
Technical Artist Job Requirements
Tech artists have an array of responsibilities and job requirements and they change depending on the company they work for and their position within it. Listed below are the most common entry-level job requirements.
- 2D/3D Animation and Modeling Skills. These skills come in handy when working with other modelers and programmers to create 3D art. You should also have the skills necessary to develop 3D art pipeline tools while solving any technical issues that might arise.
- User Experience Design. Such skills are required in order to make the game as user-friendly as possible. For example, you want the player to interact with objects in the game as seamlessly as possible.
- Surfacing and Texturing. Artists need to create high-resolution textures and shades that add to the cinematic or gaming experience.
- Mastery of Visual Effects. You need to demonstrate an ability to create great visuals and imagery. Experience working as an SFX artist in the game industry is always a plus.
Types of Technical Artist Careers
The multimedia and visual effects industry is broad. There are many types of tech artists, each role better suited to specific personalities and skillsets. Below, we consider some common skills for these professionals.
Special Effects Artists
Special effects artists bring to life objects and surroundings that cannot be captured by a camera during filming. In gaming, they help to enhance visuals to bring about a more realistic and immersive gaming experience.
2D and 3D animators are concerned with the movement of characters and inanimate objects like cars, trees, or rivers. In essence, their job consists of creating individual frames that when put together create the powerful illusion of movement.
A technical director supervises activities of related departments including composing, lighting, and rendering. These professionals need to combine expert-level technical skills with strong interpersonal abilities that allow them to lead.
Technical Artist Meaning: What Does a Technical Artist Do?
Technical artists liaise with animators, artists, and programmers, improving collaboration across these teams. They often work as creative and technical operators who solve problems between the different departments of a video game or film production. Here are more activities associated with tech artists.
Modeling and Shading
These two concepts relate to the development of realistic 3D surfaces to create stunning environments and objects. Modeling involves creating a representation of something while shading is the depiction of depth perception.
After developing 3D models, technical artists apply a technique called rigging or skeletal animation to infuse video game characters with motion. Rigging involves using a series of interconnected “digital bones”.
Develop and Maintain Graphics for Related Proprietary Engines
Tech artists improve and maintain an array of features associated with graphics, including graphics pipelines. These features are used across several departments and projects in a video game production unit.
Essential Technical Artist Skills
Tech artists must possess certain skills to carry out their job. Although the skills they need vary according to their specific role and employer, there are abilities and qualifications that almost all tech artists should have.
Scripting is an important technical skill for these professionals. Scripting consists of a series of commands that can be carried out without compiling to automate processes. Without scripting, the code would have to be executed step-by-step by a developer. To master scripting, you should learn Python, PHP, or Perl.
Rigging, Modeling, and Shading Skills
A technical artist’s mission is to give graphics a more detailed and realistic look, even while in motion. To do this, these experts employ techniques like rigging, modeling, and shading, which we have previously discussed.
Rendering and Post Effects Skills
Tech artists create light and shade effects employing various rendering and post effects techniques. Rendering skills are essential as they help improve the quality of an artist’s drawing to give it a more realistic look.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Technical Artist?
It could take anywhere from one to four years to become a technical artist. How long it takes depends on the education path. If you choose to attend a game development bootcamp, you could become a technical artist in less than a year. On the other hand, it would take you four years to achieve the same goal if you pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Technical Artist?
Yes, a coding bootcamp can help you become a technical artist. Top coding bootcamps offer courses in animation, game development, game design, and 3D modeling. Technical artists need a wide range of technical skills, including scripting and knowledge of programming languages like Python and PHP. A bootcamp can give you the programming background you need.
Can I Become A Technical Artist From Home?
Yes, you can become a technical artist from home. There is a host of programs and courses you can take online to master the skills you need in this profession. As we mentioned earlier, coding bootcamps are a great alternative to get the training you need for a technical artist role. Many bootcamps have online programs that you can take from the comfort of your own home.
How to Become a Technical Artist: A Step-by-Step Guide
The best way to become a technical artist is by enrolling in a school that offers animation and visual arts programs or related courses. Your training should include the software and tools commonly used in the animation industry. In addition, practicing and building your digital portfolio is essential. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a technical artist.
Step 1: Enroll in a School
Your first step should be to join a school that offers programs in animation, visual arts, or technical subjects. This can be a university or a coding bootcamp. At an institution like this, you can take courses in 3D modeling, scripting, game development, computer graphics, or computer science. You will also learn the tools and software you need to succeed.
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Step 2: Practice and Gain Experience
Most hiring managers want candidates with on-the-job experience and a strong portfolio to show for it. You can achieve this by putting your skills to the test practicing during your free time, working on freelance projects, or joining an internship program.
Step 3: Work on Your Resume and Apply for Jobs
Update your resume to highlight your relevant skills and work experience. When applying for technical artist jobs, make sure to attach your digital portfolio of past projects to stand out among the candidates.
Best Schools and Education for a Technical Artist Career
These professionals can attend several types of institutions to acquire the training they need to get started in their careers. Each option has its own advantages and drawbacks, and we take a closer look below.
Technical Artist Bootcamps
Bootcamps are a great alternative to universities and colleges. They are often cheaper and take only a few months to complete. Bootcamp programs are designed to prepare you for a specific career path.
Most bootcamps are programming-oriented, so you can learn coding skills and programming languages such as Python and PHP. Many game development bootcamps offer courses in 3D modeling, Python, and MEL, which can help you become a technical artist.
Vocational schools, also known as trade schools, are institutions that provide practical training to prepare you for a specific profession. These institutions will equip you with the technical abilities you need to start a career in your chosen field.
Community colleges typically offer two-year programs known as associate degrees. An associate degree can suffice to get an entry-level job and get your foot in the door. Aspiring tech artists can consider institutions like Minneapolis Community and Technical College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Technical Artist Degrees
Many universities across the US offer game development, animation, visual arts, or related programs, whether bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Many employers look for candidates with a university degree, although more and more are prioritizing expertise and experience over educational credentials.
If you want to become a technical artist, there are many universities that offer degrees that provide the training you need. Consider a degree from Yale University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Hunter College, or City University of New York.
The Most Important Technical Artist Certificates
Certification is a great way to prove your expertise. Certification sets you apart from the competition in your field of work. This makes it easier to land better jobs with higher salaries. Here are the most important certificate programs and professional certifications that you should consider.
Computer Science for Game Development
Unity Certified Expert: Technical Artist in Rigging and Animation
This certification program is ideal for people with over five years of experience in roles in the gaming industry. It is offered by Unity, a leading game development platform, and will validate your skills in Python, MEL, Adobe Creative Suite, and MAXScript as well as your mastery of advanced Unity concepts.
Certificate in Game Design
This online course, offered by the University of Washington, is designed to help you become a professional game designer. You will learn game mechanics and systems design which will help you solve complex problems as a technical artist.
How to Prepare for Your Technical Artist Job Interview
The best way to get ready for an interview is by practicing common questions. You will have your answers ready beforehand, which will increase your confidence during the actual interview. Here are sample interview questions to help you prepare for a technical artist job interview.
Technical Artist Job Interview Practice Questions
- What is binary tree traversal?
- What are the key features of Python?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank your C++ skills?
- Tell us about a past project. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
- Why do you want to work here? Tell us something about our company that drew you to us.
Should I Become a Technical Artist in 2021?
Yes, you should become a technical artist if you have a knack for scripting, 3D modeling, and overall game development. Demand for these professionals is estimated to grow just as fast as any occupation in the United States. Additionally, most tech artists bring home a handsome salary and enjoy high job satisfaction and work-life balance.
Technical Artist FAQ
Can you become a technical artist without a degree?
Yes, you can become a technical artist without a degree. Not many technical artist roles require a bachelor’s degree. Because of this, coding bootcamps are a great alternative if this is your chosen career path. You will learn the technical skills you need to kickstart your career, including Python, MEL, PHP, and other programming languages.
Is it hard to become a technical artist?
It isn’t hard to become a technical artist as there are fairly low barriers to entry. However, you still need to put in the work. Practice is key to become a successful artist. Working on your own projects adds to your portfolio which puts you at an advantage when applying for jobs.
Is there a high demand for technical artists?
Yes, there is. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job demand for special effects and animators, which includes technical artists, is growing just as fast as the average profession in the United States.
Where do technical artists work?
They typically work for video game production companies and animation studios. Demand for these professionals is increasing as more and more consumers demand high-quality video games and animation.
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