3D Artist, Concept Artist and CG Studio. Understanding the differences using the example of creating digital characters

3D Artist (3d-artist) – the general name for all professionals working with three-dimensional computer graphics. You may never pick up a brush in your life, but work great with hard-surface models (models built on a special type of polygonal mesh) and be called a 3D artist.

Such specialists are needed in advertising, cinema, computer games, mobile applications, to create metaverses. There are a huge number of areas of 3D graphics, listing them all requires a separate article, so today we will focus on the creation of virtual characters.

Who is a Concept Artist and what does he do?

Any creativity begins with an idea. It is thanks to the concept artist that the project acquires its original visual appearance. It all starts with finding references and creating a mood board. This stage is one of the most important, as it creates an associative array, the basis of a future project, game or specific character.

Jama Jurabaev / ArtStation
Jama Jurabaev / ArtStation

The concept artist creates sketches that define the future style, elements. These are not just illustrations, but working material on the basis of which the project will be built.

A concept is not necessarily a drawing created with brushes, it can be assembled from different elements of 2D and 3D graphics. The process of quickly collecting an image from ready-made parts is called “photobashing”.

Is it possible to do without a concept artist? Yes. You can contact the 3D modeler directly with the idea. But without a conceptual stage, the result of the work will be very unpredictable. And as a result of the work, disagreements will definitely arise.

What does a 3D Artist do?

This profession combines an uncountable list of sub-categories. For example, one specialist creates only anthropomorphic (human-like) characters, another makes animals, and the third one models military equipment in a certain style. Moreover, the more complex the project, the greater will be the separation between the stages of production.

So, to create a realistic person, you need: an anatomy modeling specialist, a groomer, a rigger, a texture specialist and a whole galaxy of artists who will work with the finished model.

Theoretically, all the work can be done by one ace, but such work will take a lot of time and it will be possible to forget about the parallel development of several characters. Generalist 3d artists are often referred to by the term “generalist”.

The knowledge base of a 3D artist is programs: Cinema 4D, Blender, Maya and 3Ds
Max, Houdini. Those who create avatars use DAZ3D, MetaHuman, Character Creator and ZBrush, and for digital clothes Marvelous Designer, Clo3d, Substance Painter.

The process of creating a virtual person in ZBrush

The main stages of visualization and creation of 3D models:

  • Modeling. Initial creation of a 3D object

  • Rigging. Creating a skeleton model, in the film and game industry, such specialists are called setup artists (from the English. Setup artist)

  • Texturing. The imposition of textures and materials is an art. It is necessary to create a lot of textures: color, bumps, relief, glare, transparency

  • Animation. “Revitalization” pictures

  • Rendering. Graphics visualization

Why do you need a CG studio?

The advantage of studios is the synergistic effect of teamwork. The project is created by a team of narrowly focused specialists, where everyone is responsible for something specific. The whole process is supervised by the art director, whose task is to preserve the overall style and follow the original task.

Suppose a company decides to create a virtual ambassador of its brand in order to shoot promotional videos with it, to conduct social networks. The work on the project will be built on the basis of 4 large stages: the creation of an avatar, clothes, environment and its animation.

The largest amount of work is connected with the creation of a virtual personality. Let’s talk about the stages using the example of our studio:

• Creation of concept art and sketches

First step. Composition, forms are created. For example, when creating a digital person, facial features, hairstyle, features like piercings, scars are drawn, clothing style is thought out. The personality of the character, his background is laid.

Concept art / Final 3d avatar
  • Sculpting the face and body

    The face is the most difficult object for visual reproduction by a person. The 3D sculptor creates a high poly model of the head and then retopologizes it. Then the body of the avatar is assembled, every bone, muscle, posture.

head sculpting
  • Rigging

    The skeleton is assembled from many bones that can reflect any movement and emotion. This is how the avatar is prepared for animation.

  • emotional test

    A static model does not convey all the nuances of a person’s appearance. Therefore, animators test different emotions of the character.

  • Texturing

    3D artist creates skin texture, hair, preparing 5-10 hairstyles in advance for different situations. The team of artists works through every detail so that it looks as natural as possible.

Skin texture, detailed work
  • Animation

    Body animation takes place with the help of motion capture suits with optical sensors, here you can not do without the participation of real people.

Animation creation. Dancers with motion capture sensors.

Separately, digital clothing is created. To achieve maximum realism, the artist draws folds and curves by hand. In accordance with the character, the environment is drawn. The 3D studio implements post-production, that is, it introduces three-dimensional characters into virtual reality, creates the final product: video, film, game.

Such a complex, multi-stage work can be done quickly and efficiently only by a 3D developer studio. 2 months of well-coordinated work and you’re done!


The Concept Artist is vital at the initial stage of any creative project. A subspecialty 3d-Artist is great if you have a limited, articulated task. However, in complex projects involving character creation or content production, it makes sense to work with a CG studio that includes all the necessary artists and ensures their well-coordinated work.

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