Any tips to becaming a technical artist?

Aloha everyone,

I am looking to break into the videogame industry as a technical artist. I know technical artist are the jack-of-all-trades in the industry. I was wondering what career options are available for technical artist and what skills said options require. For example a 3d modeler may not need to be as knowledgeable about C++ programming.

Thanks in advance for any advice,

P.S. sorry if this is in the wrong forum

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Could you be more specific about what you mean by technical artist?

  • learn how to solve problems - line in general how problem solving should be approached (thats hard)
  • learn about rendering pipelines (deferred/forward) and how different techniques work like AntyAliasing, AO, postprocesses, lightmaps, shadow rendering, virtual textures, render targets, etc
  • learn to optimize, learn using profiler (fisrt using tutorial, and then find some unoptimized random or especially made example project and try to fix bottlenecks and improve performance)
  • learn using some frame debugger like RenderDoc
  • Learn creating advanced shaders in Shadergraph/UnrealNodes
  • at least learn basics of glsl/hlsl, and coding in general
  • you might learn houdini (or GN?)
  • learn as much of different workflows (trimmsheet/multiUV/layeredMaterial/vertexPaint/VAT/detailTextures/textureArrays/etc shader voodo) as you can to know which workflow would be best in specific cases

Usefull Links:

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If we are going by that definition, sorry, I was not trying to assume.

Then, it is a job literally years in the making.

As a technical artist you would have the ability to learn one thing at s time and focus on that. Get good at it enough to understand how it should work, but not good enough to be a lead artist.

It would be something for the person who does not have the patience or interest in focusing on getting the art to look the best, but can specialize on how things work.

And all the things listed in the post above just takes time because you have to dedicate yourself to each thing and understand how it works in the pipeline.

This is what I did. I did I not realize I was doing that until I decided to open a studio because I knew it would take a team to get the work I wanted done. Before that, I had spent years learning and working on all aspects of the pipeline, thinking I would do it myself.

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I consider that a technical artist role can only be good as an intermediate link between dedicated roles.

Considering the imporance and expertice needed to make something from scratch, this means essentially you won’t have creative power (to implement from scratch) but indeed you would do great by mixing and combining elements together.

Say you have a dedicated developer who does the strong coding, and a 3D modeler who does the strong asset creation. As a generalist you would have to take the great models of the artist and link them to the prefab objects that the developer uses.

On top of that you would have to do other editing tasks on scenes, as to prepare materials, organize textures, use proper naming conventions. Gradually move towards the center where everything meets rather than going in either direction.

Is not exactly a matter of having great skill at something (because skill comes with years of XP) but more or less to be able to free-up time of other more dedicated roles.

If for example the lead developer spends time adjusting texture settings, or the lead artist spends time planting grass on the world, then things won’t go well for that project. Is a great idea as a generalist to be knowledgeable of various fields (to be able to learn and implement - rather than to perfect) and be of great help to others.

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This particular discussion’s final post I think wraps it up quite nicely:


Probably there’s no point to quote messages from the other forum (polycount), but at least it will make this topic more informative.

technical artists are there to make sure artists can do art without getting confused by programmers

There is a common idea, that the technical artist must do coding alongside with the other tasks, this is true in some way if you think in this way. I consider that there are two types of coding: one is the simple and easy coding and the complex and advanced coding.

  • Easy coding: To add simple logic to stuff, when two objects collide, to play a sound, to move characters around, to play animations at events. This type of coding can be done along side a Youtube tutorial, where you can follow through from start to finish and have a result.
  • Advanced coding: Now this is where things get tricky, because more important things regarding computer programming come into play. To have deep understanding of programming and system engineering. Obviously if a person can do strong coding perhaps could equally work as a full time developer on their own, unless they really like working in game development and such.

So then there is another catch, that if someone is not interested in coding at all, perhaps whould be interested better to think in terms of becoming a 3D Generalist.

Technical Artist is a mid-level position.
You don’t start as a tech artist - you work your way up since you need the knowledge and experience of an generalist.
I would recommend you learn and use Houdini, IMHO this will open up the largest potential for all sorts of careers, not just in the video-game industry.
Good Houdini artists are always highly sought after - once you reach a level of competency that makes you employable, you’ll probably have an surplus of options.


I think at this stage best is to be curious and try to learn as much a possible whatever the task is.
A key point is to have a broad understanding of many aspects of a project.
You can learn to build your own video games to do that. They don’t need to be finished but that will at least teach you each steps.

Having programming skills at least python is mandatory.

You should ask yourself if you prefer to do more programming than anything else, and barely artistic stuff. Or you want to be an artist who can solves the most technical challenges, but still being on the artistic side of things.

I don’t know what TA do in video games, but on my side it’s people that have a lot of knowledge in CG and are basically able to solve any problem you can throw at them. And as it’s been said it might not something you start with, but more what you become with a bit of industry experience.

This is a valid point. Since there are many aspects of the pipeline to be learnt, it means that you spend more time practicing everything, on how you allocate time and what you focus on. The more things you put on the table, the more things you have to look for.

Is inevitable that with 10+ years of experience, more or less you might have done everything regarding the pipeline, but for starters this might not be the case.

For starting out, perhaps is possible to utilize every resource possible (character creators, mixamo, auto rigging, cascadeur) and to bypass the lack-of-skill limitations, thus you end up doing the boring managerial tasks around asset editing, which is 0% artistic. It has potential though, if for example this type of work can free up time from skilled artists in a studio (and can possibly allow you to get hired), it might be better approach than nothing.