Want to be a game artist?

Hi everyone! I’m Kirsty, the designer/producer at FuturLab. As we’re a small team I also deal with all the admin and HR etc.

You may or may not know that we’ve been recruiting recently, culminating in the hire of our two new kick-ass artists Chris and Jack! We were absolutely staggered by the amount of interest in the art roles, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give some pointers on how to get your first role as an artist!


Minimum education qualifications for an artist are generally good GCSE grades in Maths and English (art wouldn’t hurt too 😉 ). Qualifications demonstrate to employers that you can focus and work hard on a specific task, so having a good set of GCSE’s is important. A-levels and further can only help.

If you are looking to go to college or university, try to resist automatically going for a games specific course. Game development courses can sometimes be looked down upon because you are taught a very particular skill set, usually by someone who is no longer in the industry and therefore not necessarily in the loop (things change fast!). You’re best doing a more general course where you’ll gain a wider variety of skills which will make you more versatile and therefore easier to hire.


A strong online portfolio and good work ethic will get you further than any qualifications though. When creating a portfolio it’s better to only have a few really outstanding pieces of work in your portfolio rather than swamping it with everything and anything.

Employers aren’t going to spend ages sifting through lots of artwork, they will make their minds up in the first few pieces that they see – so make them good!

It’s also imperative that your portfolio is easy to use and navigate through. Split your work into a few simple pages, e.g. 2D Work, 3D Work, Animation. Or if you’re more specialised, for example a 3D artist, then Vehicles, Characters, Props etc. Employers will know what they’re looking for and if you can help them find it easily then you win bonus points! It’s also worth creating a blog where you can explain your approach and technique to each piece.

Here’s an example of a great online portfolio (linked with Damian’s permission):

http://www.buzugbe.com/ – look at this image of his:

Eight versions of the same character, all done in a different style – this a fantastic idea as it clearly demonstrates his flexibility, and flexibility is key. Damian has around 20 years of experience, so don’t be deflated – but it is a good example of a strong portfolio.

And remember when applying for an art role, it’s crucial to attach a link to your portfolio! You’d be surprised how many people don’t bother and therefore get automatically rejected.


There are a number of events and projects that will help you gain experience. Anything that you can put on your CV which demonstrates a passion for games will really help. Check out the following:

  • The Bafta website, they often have special events and projects aimed at those still in education who want to work in games.
  • Dare to be Digital run by Abertay University where small groups of students get together to create a game in a few weeks, these groups are mentored by companies in the industry (who usually end up offering the best students jobs). You don’t have to be part of the University to participate in this, they take students from anywhere.


It’s also worth thinking about getting a job in QA (games tester) if you have trouble finding an art role immediately. It’s really the only position in the industry that doesn’t require any previous experience, and a fantastic place to learn about the production of games.

Most people I know (myself included) started in QA, as it is unusual to land your dream job as your first job. QA is a great place to show that you can work hard and are reliable, it also provides you access to experienced artists who can help give you advice on your own artwork. Companies often prefer to promote from within to fill new vacancies, so be proactive, work hard, be nice and it could be you!

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  • David
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm 0Likes

    On the comment about game specific degree’s, I wish I’d known before I went to University and did one… A bit late now! X)

    • Kirsty @ FuturLab
      Posted December 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm 0Likes

      Having a game specific course certainly isn’t going to scupper your chances 🙂 Portfolio is key. I just wanted people to realise that a less specific course can have more advantages.

      • Jazz Moore
        Posted February 25, 2014 at 9:05 am 0Likes

        Hi there, great advice on how to become an artist!

        I notice that you are a designer. I myself have just left University and I am trying to break into the games industry, with aspirations of becoming a designer myself and actually went to Dare to be Digital as you mentioned in your post. Do you have any suggestions on finding work as a game designer? I am currently struggling to locate jobs in the UK to apply for [Cant seem to spot QA positions either at the moment]. Any advice would be appreciated!

        • James @ FuturLab
          Posted February 25, 2014 at 9:24 am 0Likes

          There are two effective options:

          1) Getting your foot in the door with a QA job.

          2) Teaming up with a programmer and making a game together for one of the many digital distribution platforms available.

          Regarding QA roles, we’ve got a QA position available right now, here: https://www.futurlab.co.uk/jobs 😉

        • Kirsty @ FuturLab
          Posted February 25, 2014 at 9:34 am 0Likes

          Hi Jazz! I’ve been meaning to write a blog post on getting into design. I’ll try and do one this weekend so keep your eyes on the blog 🙂

          In the meantime, check out some words I wrote on the matter for Develop – http://www.develop-online.net/news/get-that-job-daily-how-to-be-a-lead-game-designer/0188106

          • Jazz Moore
            Posted March 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm 0Likes

            Though I signed up for notifications of replies [didn’t get any], I did not see these until today! I am terribly gutted that I missed the QA position, which I presume has been filled as it has been taken down now? Thanks for the replies! I am currently making games in my spare time so I don’t get rusty and I will check that out site and keep an eye here for updates too =]

  • colin davis
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm 0Likes

    when i went to university digital was not an option so i did traditional fine art all the way to masters. Now i am doing a game course so I can get those skills in digital sculpting and 3ds max. So ye knowledge and inspiration from everywhere really keeps you going.

  • Robert Hackney
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm 0Likes

    99% of companies will hire someone with previous experience in QA over someone with no experience. I have QA experience working for a game developer and I am still struggling to find a similar role. Not to be negative but its not as easy as it sounds to break into the industry that way. I was just very fortunate to be recommended by a friend who was working for the company where I got my first QA role.

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