How Much Does Concept Art Cost?

How Much Does Concept Art Cost?
Feb 11, 2022
8 mins read

The visual part of the game contributes to the final project success as much as gameplay. Thus, it can definitely become your competitive edge on the ever-growing game market. As for now, the animation, VFX, and video game markets have already reached the value of $261 billion.

Concept art is one of the best ways to create graphics that matter. Some companies think that concept does not matter and it is too expensive anyway. Yet, the average salary of a conceptual artist is close to $75,000 while the overall average in the US is around $66,000 so the average is not that much of a difference. 

A concept artist on the team can save a lot in the long run too: you can clearly communicate with the creative teams about the concept, win consumers over with your worldbuilding, and avoid last-minute changes or total disaster of game graphics if it is the worst-case scenario. So it does not seem like concept artists are a waste of time and money. 

In this article, we want to introduce the idea of concept artists in more depth, define what they are paid for in terms of skills and activities, and how you can calculate the concept art price

What is Concept Art?

Concept art defines the style, look, and feel of the game. It is a visual representation of every character, location, weapon, and other in-game items. Basically, it is the main idea behind the game graphics that are later on executed by developers, game designers, and animators. 

However, concept art is not just a stage of game development, it is a whole art movement. It appeared back in the 1960s as a rebellion against the commercialization of art and devaluation of the thought process and value of production. Artists created an idea of the artwork, never releasing the final product. They could write down what they want to create or make a performance but never actually release a painting or a sculpture described. 

Concept art in gaming does have the final product though and that differs it from the art movement. At the same time, a concept artist is not the person realizing the product but other members of the creative team. They just create a concept and a guideline on how everything should look. 

You can find concept art in mobile gaming, video gaming, and 2D/3D. 

Overall, there are 4 main concept art types that you should know about to later discuss with your concept artists:

Environmental

Environmental concept art (sometimes called world design) is the look of landscapes, room designs, city design, etc. Basically, it’s about what happens in the background.

Character Design

Character design means what your characters look like, including outfits, anatomy, color variations, movements, and gestures.

Vehicle and Weapon Design

The creation of vehicles and weapons requires solid attention to details.

Props Design

All the other objects in the game but are not a part of the background and are not actively used.

What Does Concept Artist Do?

A concept artist is a person who creates and visualizes characters, environment, weapons, and props. They make concepts and instructions on what to do, and designers, animators, and developers figure out how to do it later. 

There are several steps in creating concept art for the game:

Brief

Concept artists study the brief provided by the client first. In this document, you can write down all characters, locations, weapons, transports, and props you will need and describe it with the 5Ws: what, who, where, when, and why. You can also add emotion, scale, technical deliverability (deadline, style, etc.). The references are a must. 

A concept artist studies the brief, quickly brainstorms ideas, and searches for more references. 

Sketching

A concept artist draws numerous sketches – they are mostly black-and-white and lack detail. For example, they will draw 5 or more sketches for one character only and you will later decide what works best for you in terms of style and design. 

Choosing the Mood

After you have chosen a couple of sketches, an artist adds different colors and presents different moods and palettes of one sketch. You have to make a choice once again. 

Making a More Detailed Image

At this stage, an artist adds details, creates a full-colored item, and shows how it looks in its environment. They also draw it from different angles. At this point, you can make only the tiniest edits. 

Final Concept

An artist adds texture, lightning, sets the character in motion, draws different expressions, etc. It is also the stage where they 

The stages repeat with every element of the game. After everything is agreed upon, the concept is passed on and the creative team turns into a game element that works with other elements, moves, and exists in two or three dimensions. 

Skills Required For the Concept Artist

Before becoming a concept artist, they have to pick up numerous skills that are quite different from simply knowing how to draw. They have to master both soft and hard skills like: 

  • Photoshop and 3D modeling
  • Understanding of color, light, form, perspective, anatomy, texture, architecture
  • Ability to work in a certain style
  • Awareness of current trends in concept art
  • Communication skills for discussing brief and edits
  • Ability to work on tight deadlines rather than inspiration
  • Research skills
  • Readiness to receive constant feedback 
  • Effective translation of ideas into art

It takes a lot of effort and practice to gain those skills. 

Examples of Concept Art

At Whimsy Games, we offer concept art services and have already completed several projects in this sphere. 

The “Magic Cave” game is a bubble shooter and seems to be quite easy to create. However, it also needs its details. We have created environmental concept art for different moods and levels. 

We also paid attention to different kinds of props like fortune wheels, wagons, treasures, etc. 

We have followed a cartoon style, with warm and light tones at the beginning and darker tones towards the end of the game, when the main antagonist of the game gets closer. 

Sometimes concept art is quite different from the end product, though. Let’s take a look at this example of the Toy Story concept art. It was released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the cartoon. 

You can notice from the first glance that characters look way less complex than they do in the final version. However, there are also slight differences in the details: Buzz’s head was huge in the concept art and the overall image was quite childish, Wood was hatless back then, and Rex the dinosaur was more terrifying, even though his ever-worried expression remained the same. 

Hourly Wage for Concept Artists Across the World

As you may have already noticed, concept artists have numerous responsibilities and need to possess lots of skills. Thus, they deserve a fair salary for their efforts. However, when is the point when fair turns ridiculously high? Let’s take a look at concept art commission prices in different countries to help you understand the concept art pricing:

As you can see, the average concept artist hourly rate varies greatly from country to country. The most expensive regions are the US and Western Europe, and the least expensive are South America, Eastern Europe, and South Asia. 

Components of Concept Art Pricing

However, it is not only the location that defines the prices but other factors as well. So how much does concept art cost? Professionals may change their concept art rates based on:

Time Frame

If you want a concept artist to do an urgent project, you will have to pay for it since they will work extra hours of the day and night sometimes. The time frame can also depend on professionalism: an experienced concept artist will draw faster but their services are more expensive. A beginner would provide cheaper services but take more time to finish the project, especially with all the edits and mistake fixes. 

Project Complexity

Surely, it is in no way easy to be a concept artist because you will have to put in a lot of imagination no matter whether it is a small or a big project. However, if there is a lot of requirements in the brief, too many items in the game, too detailed concepts, 3D rather than 2D game art design, and a lot of skill required, you will have to change the pricing. If the project needs to be created from scratch rather than from references and characters of a similar style, it will also influence the total. 

Skill Level

How much money does a concept artist make? It really depends on their skill level. Professionally concept artists with industry-relevant experience demand higher pay and rightfully so: they deliver projects faster, better understand your initial requirements, can clearly communicate their concept to the other creative team members, and need little supervision. 

How to Calculate the Cost of Concept Art?

The concept art cost would become a significant part of the final budget for game development. Thus, it’s important to know how to calculate it correctly. While defining the costs of the concept art, you have to deal with three main components: hour rate, time it will take to finish, and how many concept artists you need (if the time frame is too small and the amount of work is overwhelming, you will have to hire more than one artist). 

There are also additional factors that may change the budget: complexity, detail level, skill level, 3D vs 2D, the number of edits, etc. Also, make sure that you understand that you understand the difference in pay rates across different countries and freelance concept artist rates

2D vs 3D

You may think that 3D is always more expensive, but it is not like that. Surely, a single frame of a 3D character will cost more than a 2D character. However, if you need a 2D character from different angles, in a lot of motion, and an ability to pick up objects and hold them, a concept artist will have to draw a new sketch with every new frame and, consequently, ask for more money. 3D items, on the contrary, can be set in action automatically and easily acquire new items like weapons. 

Calculation Formula

So the end formula will look something like this:

(Rate x Hours) x Number of specialists + fees for urgency, complexity, detail, etc. 

Is Concept Art Really Expensive?

Concept artists do a lot of work to make a game look and feel good. They put in a lot of imagination, working hours, research, and tech skill learning to deliver the best products. It is not as effortless as it may seem and all things considered, it is not expensive for all that work. 

If you are looking at professional 3d game art studio, 2D artists, or concept artists with fair pay rates, the ability to meet deadlines, and endless imagination and talent, do not hesitate to use the services of Whimsy Games

Let’s create the next popular character together!

FAQ

How Much Time Does Concept Art Take?

It depends on the skill of the artist and the number of details. A simple 2D character may take a day to visualize while a city view may take a couple of weeks. Professional artists also work faster than beginners.

How Much Does a Character Concept Cost?

It depends on numerous factors: whether it is 2D or 3D, how many frames you need for 2D, how detailed you want it to be, whether you have references, etc. How much to charge for concept art? The concept artist rates for 3D photorealistic characters are about $5,000 – 6,000, for a 3D cartoon – $4,000 – 5,000, for a 2D photorealistic character – $1,000 – 1,200 and for a 2D stylized character you will have to pay from $600 to $800.

What’s the Difference Between Concept Art & Illustration?

Concept art is an idea of how the game item should look like and an illustration is an idea already put into the environment. The illustration already tells a story. However, it hardly ever exists without the concept.

What kind of game development services do you offer?

We offer a wide variety of services, including:

Unity game development services,

NFT game development services,

Mobile game development,

Cross platform game development.

Contact us, we are always happy to discuss a new project

Denys Kliuch
CEO

I'm a CEO and a Co-Founder of Whimsy Games. Before that, I advanced my expertise in engineering, management, traffic marketing, and analytics working for large game development studios with a $1M+ monthly income. With a clear vision of how game development should work, I run Whimsy Games, being responsible for the marketing and sales of our products and services.