Hello! My name is Mykhailo Oleksenko, I am a Technical Artist at the game development company Kevuru Games. If you’re dreaming of a career in digital art, you’ve probably heard the term technical artist. We at the company have made sure that the presence of such specialists in the team helps to bridge the gap between the artistic and engineering components of development and ultimately create games with perfect visual effects.

In my material, I want to tell what technical artists do, what their responsibilities and role are on projects, as well as what skills are necessary for this work.

Who Is a Technical Artist?

A technical artist is a unique combination of creative and technical abilities, because such specialists work in game development at the intersection of art and engineering disciplines. They are responsible for using technology to create visually appealing and high-quality games.

The primary responsibility of a technical artist is to help game developers maximize the potential of their visual assets. For example, this specialist can automate texture baking, optimize the mesh for peak performance, and perform other tasks such as creating shaders, writing scripts, setting up lighting, tweaking particle systems, writing code to implement game mechanics, and more.

To do this, a technical artist must possess a wide range of knowledge, from traditional artistic skills to software engineering concepts. Confident command of 3D art packages (Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, ZBrush, Substance Painter), understanding of shaders and shader languages (HLSL and GLSL), knowledge of programming languages (C#, JavaScript and Python), experience with rendering technologies (DirectX and OpenGL), as well as knowledge of game engines (Unreal and Unity) will be useful.

In the process, the technical artist works closely with both programmers and artists to bring the game concept to life.

What Skills Do You Need to Have?

Technical artists not only create visually perfect images and effects, but also ensure that their work meets technical requirements. Above we have already mentioned what knowledge is needed for this job. Now let’s analyze the necessary qualifications of a technical artist in more detail.

Animation. This is a fundamental skill for any technical artist. Animators are responsible for creating the movements and transitions that bring characters and objects to life. Knowledge of animation software such as Adobe After Effects or Autodesk Maya is a must.

Programming. A technical artist should have at least a basic understanding of programming concepts, such as how algorithms work. Personally, I started my career as a programmer, so it was one of the first skills I learned.

Mostly, programming languages like C++ and Python will come in handy for creating tools to automate development and prototyping. But technical artists often contribute to the implementation of individual features and elements of the final product.

Code that implements a custom UI system/pet project of the author

3D modeling. Working with 3D objects and environments requires an understanding of 3D modeling software such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Blender. Knowledge of texturing and rigging is also important for creating realistic objects and characters.

Usually, the day-to-day work comes down to checking the models received from the 3D artists before integrating them into the game engine. But there are projects where my colleagues and I create full-fledged models that are used in prototypes.

Sword model created for the prototype/pet project of the author

Lighting. Technical artists must understand how to manipulate light to achieve different effects, because lighting plays an important role in bringing an image to life. It is important to have a good command of such tools as global lighting and light baking.

We at the company are faced with various tasks, from simple optimization of lighting to self-adjustment and display of light on stage. But personally, for me, working with light settings is the most enjoyable part of the project. And if the process of baking light is rather monotonous, then setting up the lighting sources to create the right picture and atmosphere for the player is always an interesting challenge for the technical artist.

An example of a light setting.
Biomechanical Mutant and Sci-Fi Construction Kit models

Light allows you to highlight the main object for the player and create the right atmosphere.

Digital compositing. This is the process of combining several visual elements into a single image or scene. A technical artist should be proficient in digital compositing software like Adobe After Effects to create realistic and visually stunning images there.

So, to become a technical artist, you need to master technical fields such as animation, programming, 3D modeling, lighting, and digital compositing.

How to Be Successful as a Technical Artist?

In addition to technical skills, a technical artist must understand the game development process and pay attention to detail to be successful in their role. It is also important to be able to communicate the technical aspects of your work to other team members in an accessible way to ensure the smooth running of the team. Finally, such a specialist must work quickly and efficiently, because his duty is to perform tasks with quality and on time.

In general, a technical artist is an integral part of the game development team. He helps create high-quality visual effects while optimizing game performance. On the example of our numerous projects, it was noticed that the technical artist helps to revive any game and is an important member of the team.

Hence, technical artists play an important role in the media industry, so it is no surprise that they are in high demand in the job market. If you have the skills and passion for game development, a career as a technical artist may be the perfect fit for you. And the ability to work hard and think creatively will be the key to your success.