Creating Concept Art Images for Entertainment Media 101

Concept Art


…a definition:

This is a form of illustration in which the primary goal is to communicate a visual representation of a idea, a contextualised design and/or mood, for use in films, games, animation, or other entertainment media; usually prior to approval/”Green Light” of the final product.

This is often perceived as happening through the development of a single representative image.


He we have some examples of the work of Craig Mullins (Halo). Each increasing level of complexity in these reflecting the brief given (i.e. “we need some quick sketches of the character in action”) or process, i.e. several quick sketches, one or more realised/more finished sketches, and a final presentation image.

Sketch –

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 08.23.00

Finished Sketch –

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 08.25.17

Presentation Finished Art –

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 08.27.14

Check out the work in Craig Mullins Gallery – to see a wide range of subjects, styles and finishes (as well as personal development work).

However, over the course of a single project art directors will usually ask for many concept art images, and sketches during the pre-production and ongoing process of the entertainment products development.

Winged Bike Concept

See some of Donglu Yu‘s contribution to the concept art for Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (and he was just one of the artists producing work).

A broad definition of Concept Art could encompass the full range of tools we have discussed so far, thumbnails, sketches, character designs and model sheets, environment and prop/object designs, vehicle concepts, storyboards, 3D Maquettes as well as finished visuals of the type shown above.

…see also this longer definition from Skillset.

You can find other examples at:

ConceptArt World

Pre-production Drawings for Disney’s Cinderella


Whether your Concept Art pieces are to stand alone (as we have discussed this would be rare*), or they are to work as part of a larger family of works including those we have covered so far whilst looking at Production Design/Art Direction for Entertainment Media (inc, Environment Design/Art, Prop, Object & Vehicle Design Sheets, Character/Creature Design Sheets, 3D Maquettes & Digital 3D sketch models, Mood Boards, and Storyboards etc), the key to a great piece of Concept Art is “narrative”.

Let the imagery tell a story… ideally that extends beyond the confines of the image borders.

Specific Narrative. “This man has been shot’ or “This man and this creature are fighting”.

Mass Effect 3 Concept – Action Sequence

Implied Narrative. “The shot came from over there” or “The over-arching idea behind this media product’s Concept is about…”

The Last of Us concept – Implied Threat

A Rich Heritage:

Concept Artists have a clear lineage.

We really owe a nod of gratitude to the Narrative Artists throughout history, who have developed the techniques and methods, styles, and even opened up new genres to the visual arts.

Techniques such as Chiaroscuro

Definition of Chiaroscuro – Contemporary artists like Kevin O’Neill discuss the same subject in terms of “Values”.

But we can see the lineage of Concept art in traditional painting just by looking at the work of artists such as…

Craig Mullins, Sparth, Frank Frazetta, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Caravagio, Vermeer, Rembrandt.

It might be worth you taking a long long at the work of others, some great books dealing with this subject area can be found on this list:

Concept Art – Book List.

For those of you still coming to terms with the basics of drawing, or interested in sketchbook/observational work – Try >THIS< list.

Sample Briefs:

An Extended Concept Art Brief HERE:

…and others >HERE<.

Yr 1 (BA Hons) Games & Animation Brief –

Fully integrated narrative Concept Images/Art. begins Following discussion of each of the 3 Subsection Mini-Projects* and Storyboarding discussion.

*1 – Environments; 2 – Props, Objects & Vehicles and 3 – Character/Creatures.

During this project you will create examples taken from all three of these areas, finally bringing them together in a single concept image (or perhaps a storyboard) that illustrates some important or crucial narrative element within your concept.

You may wish to look beyond Concept art at this stage and look at other forms of narrative image making, comics, illustrated books, murals, tapestries, narrative fine art paintings, poster art etc. You should discuss these wider investigations in your sketch notes/annotations and on your creative blog.

Consider the format/ratio of your image/s. Don’t just stick to A-sized images, why not try something in extreme widescreen/letterbox format, or extreme portrait like traditional oriental prints. The nature of your image should dictate the format, not just whatever paper you had to hand.

Your image should be fully rendered, this can be monochrome or colour as appropriate, but half finished pencil sketches will not be acceptable.


Presentation of Concept/s. – Hand-in week.


ALL your final proposals should be presented as professional presentation boards, whether printed or digitally via your creative blog or using an alternative presentation medium such as Prezi or Video (sound should be considered for any video presentation), if presented online the final designs should be presented in a coherent order that explains clearly your concept (you should not need to scroll between blog posts and websites to find your next image).

Thumbnails and early designs may be included in this presentation but should be severely edited, and only used when relevant to discussing key conceptual developments or ideas. Key ideas and images should have been developed fully during the design process.

All presentations should culminate with the final narrative Concept Art image or Storyboard Sequence that sums up your over all concept in one image utilising many of the elemnets explored previously i.e Characters, Objects, and Environment.

~ by hesir on December 10, 2014.

One Response to “Creating Concept Art Images for Entertainment Media 101”

  1. […] or simply as the visual representation of the gameplay of the game for an audience (box cover art).Seminar Notes & Brief – Delivered (Wed am) […]

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