Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product. Concept art is also referred to as visual development and/or concept design. This term can also be applied to retail, set, fashion, architectural and industrial design.
Concept art is developed in several iterations. Artists try several designs to achieve the desired result for the work, or sometimes searching for an interesting result. Designs are filtered and refined in stages to narrow down the options. Concept art is not only used to develop the work, but also to show the project's progress to directors, clients and investors. Once the development of the work is complete, advertising materials often resemble concept art, although these are typically made specifically for this purpose, based on final work.
Who popularized or even invented the term "concept art" in reference to pre-production design is perhaps ambiguous, although references to the term can be found being used by Disney as early as the 1930s. It may have also come about as part of automotive design for concept cars.
A concept artist is an individual who generates a visual design for an item, character, or area that does not yet exist. This includes, but is not limited to, film, animation, and more recently video game production. A concept artist may be required for nothing more than preliminary artwork, or may be part of a creative team until a project reaches fruition. While it is necessary to have the skills of a fine artist, a concept artist must also be able to work to strict deadlines in the capacity of a graphic designer. Some concept artists may start as fine artists, industrial designers, animators, or even special effects artists. Interpretation of ideas and how they are realized is where the concept artist's individual creativity is most evident, as subject matter is often beyond their control. Many concept artists work in a studio or from home via freelance. A lot more concept artists are switching to freelance because of the job security of having multiple clients. There is an established salary to working for a large studio but it depends on the artists preference. The average salary for a concept artist is 60-$70,000 a year, although many make much less or more than that.
Concept art has embraced the use of digital technology. Raster graphics editors for digital painting have become more easily available, as well as hardware such as graphics tablets, enabling more efficient working methods. Prior to this (and still to this day) any number of traditional mediums such as oil paints, acrylic paints, markers and pencils were used. Owing to this, many modern paint packages are programmed to simulate the blending of color in the same way paint would blend on a canvas; proficiency with traditional media is often paramount to a concept artist's ability to use painting software. Popular programs for concept artists include PhotoShop and Corel Painter. Others include manga studio, Art rage, and other less well known programs. Most concept artists have switched to digital media because of necessity and speed. A lot of concept work has tight deadlines where a high-polished piece is needed in a short amount of time.
Concept art has always had to cover many subjects, being the primary medium in film poster design since the early days of Hollywood, but the two most widely covered themes are science fiction and fantasy.. However, since the recent rise of its use in video game production, concept art has expanded to cover genres from football to the mafia and beyond.
Concept art ranges from the stylized to the photorealistic. This is facilitated by the use of special software by which an artist is able to fill in even small details pixel by pixel, or utilise the natural paint settings to imitate real paint. When commissioning work, a company will often require a large amount of preliminary work to be produced. Artists working on a project often produce a large turnover in the early stages to provide a broad range of interpretations, most of this being in the form of sketches, speed paints, and 3D overpaints. Later pieces of concept art, like matte paintings, are produced as realistically as required. Concept artists will sometimes have to adapt to the style of the studio they are hired for. Most concept artists can do multiple styles.
There are many concept art generalists, but there are also many specialized concept artists. The various specializations are: Character Design, Creature Design, Environment Design, and Industrial Design. Many concept artists have more than one specialization or are specialized in one thing and know the basics of the others. Specialization is regarded as better for freelancers than concept artists who want to work In-House since they are usually required to know how to do everything. For freelance concept artists specialization can lead you to being hired based on your specialization. Knowing the foundations of art such as anatomy, perspective, color theory, design, and lighting should never be disregarded since they are the bread and butter of a concept artist.