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Lead Artist (Games)

Personality type:

The lowdown

  • Being responsible for the overall look of a game
  • Devising the game’s visual style and directing the production of all visual material throughout the game’s development
  • Managing the art and animation team

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • be able to inspire and motivate a large team of creative talent
  • have a distinctive and original style
  • understand all the roles within the art department and also of any outsourced contractors
  • be able to build good working relationships with other departments
  • be able to communicate clearly with senior managers, designers, programmers, testers and other personnel in their own language
  • have excellent communication skills, including tact and diplomacy
  • understand of the technology used in game design and development, its capabilities and limitations
  • have traditional and computer art and design skills
  • be able to manage people, time and resources
  • have knowledge of 2D and 3D modelling and animation packages
  • have conflict resolution and problem-solving skills
  • have a passion for games and a good understanding of what makes a game visually appealing and fun to play
  • have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures

What does a Lead Artist do?

The Lead Artist (also known as Art Director or Creative Manager) is responsible for the overall look of the game. Working with the Game Designer and Lead Programmer, the Lead Artist devises the game’s visual style and directs the production of all visual material throughout the game’s development.

They produce much of the initial artwork themselves, setting creative and technical standards and determining the best tools and techniques to use.

In conjunction with the Producer, the Lead Artist puts together and manages the team of Artists and Animators who produce most of the art assets for the game (including environments, characters, objects and effects) under the Lead Artist’s direction.

The Lead Artist must ensure that the art and animation team works to schedule and within budget. They also work closely with the programming team to make sure that all art and animation assets produced can be easily imported into the game engine.

The styling is often communicated through concept art. The Lead Artist will supervise, if not actually undertake, the production of material which illustrates the visual atmosphere and graphical design for the game.

They also research and test out different modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and lighting techniques and tools appropriate to the games technology, with input from the Lead Programmer.

They supervise the team’s output from a creative and technical point of view, and also ensure that the work gets done according to budget and schedule, alongside the game’s producer, anticipating problems and planning for any contingencies. They are also usually responsible for overseeing any outsourced art production.

What might I earn?

This is the highest paid position in the art department, reflecting the skills and experience required.

Will I need a qualification?

You will generally need an art education in the form of a a fine arts, graphics or animation degree to undertake this role. Experience is key; Lead Artists need at least five years’ experience in the games industry. You will also need to have gained experience in a leadership role.

If you are considering taking a games course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the games industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a games career:

Games courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

You will also need a portfolio demonstrating a range of creative styles and your expertise in the relevant tools and technology, including 2D and 3D modelling and animation packages.

Proven skills and experience in planning software applications, such as Microsoft Project, would also help you.

What’s the best route in?

This is not an entry-level role. To become a Lead Artist, you will need considerable games industry experience, usually gained in various roles within the art department, building up to a senior or team leadership role.

You will need to be able to use the various software packages and have a thorough understanding of games technologies, especially with regard to what can and can’t be achieved for any given delivery platform.

You could apply to be a Games Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...


  • 3DWorld - the magazine for SFX, TV production and game development artists 
  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • Develop - the monthly magazine for European developers 
  • e-Skills UK - the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres
  • Edge - the UK's self-styled bible for UK gamers
  • Eurogamer - European-focused consumer website
  • Gamasutra - website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development
  • GameDev.net - online community for game developers of all levels
  • GamesIndustry.biz - covering breaking news from the game's business
  • IGDA - the International Game Developers Association, a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprising individuals from all fields of game development
  • IGN - internet media and services provider focused on the video game, entertainment men’s lifestyle markets
  • MCV - the weekly trade magazine of the UK games industry, 
  • TIGA - the Independent Games Developers Trade Association - non-profit trade association representing the UK's games industry
  • Ukie - the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment - champions the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up its membership


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