Considering a career in Digital Art? It can be one of the most rewarding industries on the planet. Why? Because it’s assumed you have a love for the synergy that is art and tech plus creativity.
In this post, we explore the best options today for a career in digital art. Along the way, we’ll debunk a few myths and address some frequent questions. First of all – lets address the elephant in the room and the old age myth of ‘there’s no work in art’.
Can you make a career out of digital art?
Absolutely. As you will see – there are many different options and routes. Traditionally speaking, working in ‘art’ was seen as a risky business to get into. A nice hobby to have; but no good for paying the bills. And in a pre-digital era – that was true to a large extent. You had to be very (very) good at what you did but often that was not enough. As there just wasn’t enough work for everyone.
But that was then. It’s now 2022. We are in a world that tech has completely transformed how we live. The technological revolution has changed the game and with that – brought many new professional opportunities for creative types. As we look into the future, with NFT’s (more below) and ever-evolving tech – there is an abundance of opportunities for those with the right digital art skills and mindset.
So, with that covered – let’s get down to business. What are the best careers in Digital Art? The below is by no means a comprehensive list; but rather some of the most common we see our alumni go onto work in.
Digital Art Careers
3D animators use computer software to create the characters and scenes in animated movies. They also design and produce drawings needed for animation film production, such as 3-dimensional models of scenery or other objects that will be moved around on screen during filming; shading techniques used by painters without paintings who want their work visible through layers upon layers until it’s finished–and more recently, created tools like projection mapping light displays where live actors perform alongside digital projections.
3D animators (and general careers in animation) have without doubt interesting and potentially varying roles in industry!
This is the person who creates digital models of objects using three-dimensional (3-d) modelling software. The field allows you to gain skills in art, engineering and industrial design with many other fields that can communicate information visually such as architecture or animation for example – just about any trade where visual communication is required!
Artist for Comic Books & Graphic Novels
Collaborating with the artist and editor of these comic books and novels can make for an interesting and entertaining career. While this not necessarily a ‘new job’ the role and tools available to the artist have evolved greatly in recent times. You will have to flex your digital art skills to the max to get (and keep) these gigs.
Pre-Production and Concept Art
It’s easy to get swept away with the finished product. Because that’s what everyone sees and raves about in the end. But true pros (behind the scenes) know that to make any project a reality – it has to start with an idea. This pre-production phase is critical. A concept artist may be involved in a variety of roles from gaming to film. This range makes it an extremely rewarding and dynamic career!
An increasingly popular route for many in the digital art field is going your own way. You might be a contractor for various studios or design agencies. The opportunity to work when and where you want, is a big draw for those serious about a life in digital art. (Important note: this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work! When you are self-employed – you’ll likely have to work even harder than the traditional employee. But you can do it on your own terms).
How do I get started with a career in Digital Art?
Fortunately, the digital age has torn down the barriers to entry in this field. While there are many options advertised and promoted online (think LinkedIn, Job boards etc) – there are many more that will not be advertised. These roles typically are word of mouth or simply you going out and approaching the company that you would like to work for. In general, it’s a field that is largely meritocratic. If you are good enough and can show this – then that’s a major advantage in landing work. This leads nicely onto the next point.
Developing your Portfolio is a great way to showcase your skillset. Not only does it demonstrate the best of your craft – but it also gives the important but yet subtle message: you are a go-getter. Someone who can take the initiative and show what you are about.
To make your portfolio shine – keep it simple. Pick your best work, make it obvious what you are about (use clear & simple language). And critically, make it easy for the viewer to contact you.
This is a great way to learn from others (and have fun!). Your peers in the industry are either in the same position you’re in or likely were there at some point in the past. By getting out there and interacting with others – you can gather those pearls of wisdom. A simple word of advice can point you in the right direction and laser-focus your efforts.
Plus, when that next professional opportunity rolls around again – you’re much more likely to be considered as a candidate. So, think meetups, online groups, mutual contacts to increase your network.
The industry moves fast. To keep up with the latest trends and best practice means a continual learning curve. And if you are serious about a career in digital art – that learning curve should excite you!
The opportunity to better yourself and your skillset is crucial for a long-term rewarding career. While a digital art course is not essential to work in the field – it can be the perfect springboard for many.
Introducing the BA In Creative Technologies & Digital Art
This programme has been meticulously designed to get you up to speed and ready for a career in digital art. As it’s a potentially very broad field with different career paths – we have covered a variety of different avenues with this course. This programme familiarises learners with the tools essential to multimedia development. Through a focus on studio training and practical work, graduates will emerge from the programme ‘industry-ready’ and equipped with a demonstrable portfolio of work.
NFT’s and Digital Art
We can’t really cover this subject without mentioning NFT’s. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) are hot topics in the blockchain and wider tech world. And with reason. There are numerous examples of digital art exploding in popularity with some art even selling for literally millions.
While it may be a bubble waiting to burst – it does (for now) represent a tangible way for many digital artists to showcase their work and potentially get paid for it. Although we are in the infancy era of blockchain – digital artists have a way to market and sell their work like never before. While it may be one for the future, our recommendation is to do your homework and see if it can work for you. (Of course, this is not a silver bullet – you still need to have the right skills and work ethic as above to produce something of quality).
What is the difference between a digital artist and a graphic designer?
Graphic designers are known for their static designs, but the digital world requires more than just pictures. Digital Designers work with movement and animation to create images that will end up on screens – whether they’re computer monitors or your phone’s screen! Of course, there is still overlap but digital art is more encompassing involving movement, such as animation, interactive pages, and 2D or 3D modelling.
Can you make a career out of digital art?
As above, Absolutely! However… There are no shortcuts. You have to develop your skillset and put yourself in a position to win. But yes, in principle, there are many opportunities in different industries to win in digital art. As the chart below from google trends show – the interest worldwide around this topic is growing. (Topic being ‘Digital art’)
Source: Google Trends
Why would anyone buy digital art when you can just screenshot it for free?
Great question. And there lies the power of blockchain. You can get all the pictures and duplicates you want of the Mona Lisa; but there still is only one original. And that’s a major part of what makes it valuable. Blockchain and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s) can tap into this psychology too. They are proof of the only edition of a specific piece of art. They are in essence certification of digital ownership.
Perceived value through originality is a big selling point for many buyers. You would buy digital art in the same way people buy collectibles like paintings, sports cards etc. (Well, this is the rational anyway – time will tell for NFT’s).
Is a digital art degree for me?
A degree is not a prerequisite for entry into the digital art field. But the right digital art course can give you a tremendous head-start. The opportunity to learn from seasoned pros and use the industry standard tools and techniques is invaluable in your learning curve. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to network. So, in sum – obligatory no. But generally wise – yes.
How to create a digital arts portfolio?
A portfolio is a great way to showcase your skills. Nowadays it’s relatively cheap to setup a basic website – you will just need to pick your domain name, hosting and choose a CMS like WordPress. But there are even simpler options for the less tech savvy if you do some research.
How you structure your portfolio is important too. It should ideally consist of two main ingredients: your work and details about that work (such as tools used, software used, etc).
Work samples should be representative of your digital art skills. These are what employers will use to judge your artistic ability, so it’s vital they’re high-quality and show your digital art strengths (if you can do digital painting, show digital paintings; if you focus on animation, show animations; etc.). In a nutshell – pick your best work, show how you did it and keep the language and flow of the portfolio easy to follow.
Final Words on a Career in Digital Art
“The artistic process in digital art is very much the same as for making other kinds of paintings.”
— Buffy Sainte-Marie
A career in digital art is without doubt one of the most rewarding careers out there. The opportunity to harness your creativity in your professional life is a great gift. And while there is more than 1 one way to succeed in this field – it does take a strong work-ethic and interest in the digital arts to thrive.
If you would like the help to make this jump, consider the BA (Hons) in Creative Technologies & Digital Art.
Any questions – please do not hesitate to get in touch.