What is a fair price to pay for concept art in today’s high tech world where there are many digital resources available to create it? What influences the cost of concept art and how do you find the offer that works best for your project?

Concept art can be underestimated, and vice versa, overestimated. Some people think that concept creation is not as difficult as artists describe, while others pay higher prices to get concept work done according to proper standards and specific requirements. In fact, prices really differ from company to company, from artist to artist, but there are significant factors affecting the final cost of concept art.

How much does concept art cost in games? What determines the concept art pricing and how to estimate the project budget is described in this article. Keep reading to find answers to all your questions.

What is Concept Art?

Concept art is an illustration designed to form the idea, mood, and atmosphere of a future game.

Concept art is where it all starts. That is why it is so important. It is the first key stage in the visualization of an idea that becomes the starting point for the creation of all game art. Every character, location, and in-game item starts with a concept. The concept stage is necessary everywhere, from creating elementary 2D mobile games to large-scale AAA-level products.

Interesting fact. Joel, one of the main characters in the The Last of Us series by American game company Naughty Dog, gave the art design team and concept artists a good run for their money. They experimented with Joel’s appearance throughout development to determine his age in The Last of Us. The team tried to visualize him as a ruthless man operating in the underground of a quarantined city, but at the same time as Ellie’s caring father. His appearance was meant to be reminiscent of rural America, referring to the values of self-confidence and resourcefulness when faced with hardship.

Speaking of game concept art, there are 3 main types that you need to know about.

Character Concept

The concept of the characters is a representation of their future appearance in the game. It displays their anatomy, clothing, facial expressions, predominant colors, characteristic movements, gestures, etc. By looking at a high-quality concept, you can immediately identify the character’s key personality traits.

Concept art - Master

Environment Concept

The environment concept is the appearance of the game world. This applies to landscapes, interiors, exteriors, and more. Such a concept embodies the setting itself, its atmosphere and mood, the current state of the world and its key features.

Props Concept

The concept of props covers all other game items that the player encounters as they explore the game world. Their design should match the style of the setting and emphasize the game atmosphere without drawing too much attention or distracting the player from the gameplay.

Who is a Concept Artist?

The question is rhetorical, but nevertheless,

A concept artist is a specialist who visualizes game characters, environments, and props based on the existing data about the game world.

Concept artists draw concepts to the smallest detail from all sides, so that in the future artists and animators could depict them as close as possible to the main idea.

Creating a concept consists of several steps:

  • Briefing. The artist studies references, genre, stylistics, style, and any other details about required concepts from the client, based on the 5Ws principle: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
  • Black-and-white sketching. The concept artist creates several low-detailed black and white sketches (for example, 7 character options) so that clients can choose the option that suits them best.
  • Color sketching. Once clients have selected sketches they like, the artist adds colors and offers several palette options. The client chooses one of them, and the sketch moves on to the next stage.
  • Detailing. Once the color palette is chosen, the artist finalizes the concept by adding the necessary details, drawing the concept from different angles, and showing how it looks in the environment.
  • Rendering. At the last stage, the concept artist polishes the image, adds lighting options if necessary, prepares the concept in accordance with the requirements, and submits it with the desired format for the next stages of work.

What’s the Difference Between Concept Art and Illustration?

If you are still worried about not knowing the difference between these two concepts, then pay attention to the next two visuals.

This is concept art.

Concept art - Robot 1

And this is an illustration.

So what do we see?

Concept art is a visual representation of an idea. It is outside the game context and serves as a basic tool for further development of game art. Looking at concept art, we just see visual assets without background.

An illustration, also known as a narrative image, is a picture that captures a certain game moment and tells a story. Looking at illustration, we can guess what exactly is happening.

Components of Concept Art Pricing

Concept art is an important stage – be it in a game, animation, cartoon, or any other video production project. You need concepts, that is, detailed visualizations of ideas for further steps in design. They are used by designers, modelers, animators to get started and make them workable in every single project. Everything you see in video games or cartoons is initially created by a concept artist. These are characters, their weapons and vehicles, clothes they wear, buildings where they run in, and other elements that make up the big picture of the scenery you are looking at. This work concerns the general style, and stylization of all visual elements, materials, and so on.

This is a concept art for the famous Fortnite game from Epic Games. Our team has developed over 120 unique concepts that have been turned into 3D models for the game. You can find more works in our portfolio of concept art.

To find out the average cost for concept art, you need to understand the factors that affect it. There are specific factors that affect concept art prices.

1. Project Complexity

Almost no project in concept art can be considered simple because it is quite difficult to create original ideas for future design. This process takes a lot of effort and creativity to come up with something really valuable before settling on the final design. Some projects come with stringent requirements, specifications, and other demands that may complicate the task of creating concepts. Complex projects take more amount of time, imagination, and skill to complete. For example, creating concepts for 3D models is more difficult than 2D concepts as all of them must be depicted with all elements displayed from all sides. The prices will correspond to each degree of difficulty.

2. Level of Detail

This is a crucial point when it comes to the time to charge the price of a final product. The logical conclusion that suggests itself – the more details are included, the higher the prices will be. It may happen that modelers or designers need a lot of additional details such as clothing, textures, materials, tones, props and other assets. It is better to create them during the concept phase, which can greatly facilitate their work later in production. In addition, poses also refer to additional detail that concept artists can develop for animation. For example, the character must be in a “combat” position using magic or firing a pistol. It will be a detailed concept creation process that will cost you accordingly.

3. Scope of Work

It’s one thing to work on character designs with appropriate references or already created characters in the same style. It’s another matter to develop an entire project with many characters, environments, and other assets from scratch. It is worth noting that concept requirements differ from industry to industry. More work is often done on in-game concepts because the game offers a character, location or weapon view beyond screen time. In films, cartoons or any other animated video, the result of painstaking work by an artist can take no more than a dozen frames.

4. Time Frames

Usually, it takes 50-80 hours to create a detailed concept (but again, depending on many conditions – complexity, level of detail, etc.) In theory, all this can be done by one specialist within a reasonable timeframe. You can expect the final product sooner, but be prepared to pay more for urgency. Time is money. During certain phases of work, concept artists need to be quick without being distracted by detail. They need to effectively communicate ideas and moods in as short a time as possible. Since this requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills, you can hire the most experienced artists at higher prices than those charged by juniors. So we are approaching the team and its composition.

5. Team Skill Level

There is a widespread belief that artists are endowed with almost divine power, they just need to wave a stylus and then magically create valuable concepts out of nothing, but this is deceiving. Of course, artists must be talented, but at the same time experienced. Although there are geniuses in our world, artists have to work hard to get the most out of CAD experience. As with many industries, art and design experts are also keeping up with the tendency to improve their skills. So, your goal is to find a skilled expert who suits your requirements. Senior specialists with their higher rates are not always involved in projects, except for AAA. That’s right, they can perform most tasks without any supervision. But most projects have an art director who still leads the team based on a single artistic vision. Junior and mid-level professionals also handle most tasks with complete dedication and professional experience.

How to Calculate the Cost of Concept Art?

Typically, to calculate the cost of concept art, you need to figure out the concept artist’s hourly rate and multiply it by the hours it takes to complete the job. When you need a wide range of concepts, you hire more specialists. So don’t forget to multiply the amount of money by the number of specialists required for the project. And of course, don’t neglect some additional factors – complexity, level of detail, style, etc. The more requirements for the concept, the more money you will pay for the final illustration.

Cost of 2D Art VS 3D Art

If you want to learn more about the cost of 2D and 3D art and even use the built-in calculator to quickly calculate the approximate cost, head on to our 3D and 2D art cost. And we will continue to understand the components of cost of game concept art.

Calculation Formula

Let’s highlight the specific formulas for the cost of concept digital art.

Rate x Hours = … $

(Rate x Hours) x Number of Specialists = … $

Concept + Details = … $

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When calculating the average cost of concept art, you need to know the rates of specialists. Concept artists’ rates are different. Someone works as a freelance and sets rates they find fair.

Basically, concept artist’s rates like the rates of any other specialists depend on:

  • years of experience;
  • skill level;
  • qualifications;
  • artist’s reputation
  • artist’s location.

Let’s dwell on the main factor of different rates – location.

American or Canadian artists set higher rates than in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe. If you look at the table below, you can see the average hourly rates around the world. And knowing these numbers, you can quickly estimate the cost of a project by multiplying the rate by the number of hours required to implement the concept.

Concept Artists’ Rates Around the World

CountryRate, $/hr
US $41 – $63 / hr
UK $28 – $40 / hr
Germany $28 – $40 / hr
Ukraine $16 – $25 / hr

Hourly rates are calculated based on average hire concept artists salaries per year taken from PayScale and Indeed platforms.

As you can see, the final cost of the concept art will vary significantly from country to country. This is due to many external factors – economic paradigm, living standards, etc. And this does not mean that concept artists in Ukraine are less qualified than in the UK. For example, Epic Games relied on our team of concept artists to work out new engaging players for the world-famous game – Fortnite. Read more information about this case study in our blog – Character Concepts that Rocked Fortnite Players.

Concept art - Fortnite characters

Well, How to Select the Best Concept Artists?

  1. Among all possible selection criteria, pay attention to the reputation of the art studio or artist you are hiring.
  2. Focus on the complexity of the work, the quality, and the time frame you set, and find out if a potential candidate will be able to meet all the requirements.
  3. Study the portfolio in detail – whether the style matches the setting of your game. If you are creating a sci-fi world, and the artist’s portfolio has a noticeable preponderance towards cartoony concepts, it probably does not suit you.

Keep in mind that concept art is a fairly broad branch of CG. The cost to have concept art made will depend on many factors. Within the gaming industry alone, there are many areas where concept artists are needed, from icons in free-to-play games to characters in big-budget third-person action games. Accordingly, the cost of game concept art will depend on the scale. You just need to find a reliable partner in this endeavor. Kevuru Games are at your service to realize projects you plan.

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