What Does a Technical Artist Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A technical artist works with a game development team to integrate technical specifications and art in a seamless finished product. This career blends an artistic background with a familiarity in game design and the limitations that may be presented by gaming engines, software, and platforms. Some technical artists have degrees in related subjects, while others may acquire experience on the job. Usually three to seven years of experience are required for lead positions on development teams.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

When games enter development, the technical artist can meet with the technical side of the team to discuss the platform and the limitations. There may be concerns about processing power, as the developers do not want the game to overwhelm platforms, resulting in lag, slow rendering, and other problems. On the artistic side, the team discusses how the game should look and feel, and starts to develop mockups. Throughout the development process, the technical artist works to reconcile the needs of both sides.

Scheduling and adhering to a time line may be part of the job. Technical artists can assign tasks and work on streamlining development. For example, they might assign a lead artist to critical tasks, and then distribute work to other members of the team. The lead might create a character, while assistants work on fine details to bring the character to life, allowing the lead to move on to another character. Technical artists also work with the creative team responsible for generating stories and challenges within the game, pulling the needs and concerns of all parts of the team into the development process.

As development progresses, the technical artist can make sure certain specifications are being met. If planned features might overload processors, for example, it may be time to make some adjustments to compensate and address this issue. Conversely, technical specifications might be so limiting that the technical artist may need to meet with the development team to discuss another way to resolve processor limitations. This could include redesigns to the underlying engine to make it more efficient, along with other measures.

Good communication skills can be important for a technical artist, along with an intimate understanding of game development. Making a successful project may require balancing conflicting ideas and priorities, and may be stressful in some situations. The ability to communicate across technical, artistic, and creative divides is critical, as is an understanding of the positions of different people on the team.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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