Difference Between Character Designer & Concept Artist

Concept artists and character designers both rely on artistic skills to develop projects, but use very different creative processes. This article compares the salaries, degree requirements, job growth, and basic duties of these careers.

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Comparing Concept Artists and Character Designers

Bringing ideas to life is the goal of both concept artists and character designers. While concept artists sketch initial plans for ideas, character designers focus on furthering the development of characters. The information below highlights the similarities and differences between these two highly creative careers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)** Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Concept Artists Bachelor's Degree $55,076 2% (Craft and Fine Artists)
Character Designers Bachelor's Degree $42,574 6% (Multimedia Artists and Animators)

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

Responsibilities of Concept Artists vs. Character Designers

The jobs of both concept artists and character designers allow for creativity when attempting to engage an audience and wow a crowd, but what each job entails is slightly different. The concept artist might make a rough sketch of a character, but the character designer will take that sketch to the next level and make a more complete image. Additionally, concept artists may work on other projects unrelated to characters at all; for example, they might draw a building for an architectural company or the scenery for a scene in a video game. A character designer is solely focused on developing a new image of a character for a film, animation, or video game.

Concept Artist

Concept artists take ideas for characters, settings, and other objects and create a visual representation of them. These professionals live and breathe art, so they utilize various mediums (including pencils and paint) when building the design. Some concepts these artists work with include: the overall look of a character as it might appear in a film or game (age, size, costuming, facial features, etc.), any props the character might have (weapons, staffs, etc.), the shape of a proposed building, and details of the building. Many are self-employed freelance employees who work on a project-to-project basis.

Job responsibilities of a concept artist include:

  • Listening to and interpreting the ideas of the directors, project managers, or architects
  • Analyzing source material for ideas to further build on a character or story
  • Completing a story board with sketches of characters, settings, and props
  • Working with character designers as they build a 3D representation of the sketch

Character Designer

Character designers work on films, games, and comics to develop the eye-popping characters. Working for studios like Pixar and Disney, they are often responsible for taking the concept artist's rough images and breathing life into them by making them more concrete. Along with the art director and concept artists, character designers develop drawings, clay or plaster models, or even 3D representations, allowing audiences to truly connect to the characters. This is why knowledge of Photoshop and other computer programs that allow for 3D imaging and animation is essential for this career.

Job responsibilities of a character designer include:

  • Reading the provided script to build character images that fit the story
  • Gathering inspiration and research when designing a new character to ensure correct anatomy and costuming that fits the setting
  • Creating many possible versions of the same character so the team can choose the most representative features
  • Going to meetings with clients, game designers, and/or directors to further develop and change the character

Related Careers

If a career as a concept artist interests you, a job as an interior designer might also be for you, because both require creatively addressing the vision of a client. As someone looking into a career as a character designer, you might also want to check out jobs as an automotive designer, as this career also requires close attention to detail and bringing something new to life.

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