Yu Cheng is a concept artist who specializes in character design for the games industry. He currently lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan, and his work has spanned studios including Square Enix, Cygames, Applibot, and Netease to name a few. In this article, Yu Cheng will share a few key points to consider on your path to becoming a character artist for AAA games, as well as walk us through a process breakdown of one of his works. Be sure to check out his Gumroad for more technique-specific tutorials!

1. Foundation

Having a foundation in art is very important and relates to your future development as an artist. You have to understand the perspective, light, color, texture, composition and design of all aspects of a project. This is the door for your entry into the industry and will allow you to overcome many challenges. Knowledge of the foundation requires a lot of time to practice, so it's important to make the time, as well as to seek out good teachers to give you guidance and save you a lot of time you might use on detours.

The fundamentals also determine how far you can go on the art. If you feel stuck, it is most likely because something in the foundation is not solid enough. This is the time to go back to the basics and overcome the problem.

2. Design

Design ability is particularly important in a studio because you may be faced with different styles of projects at work, from sci-fi to steam punk to fantasy and so on. You have to understand and research the background of each style in order to design an asset that fits that era, and any ideas you may add to the design also need to match the market.

For example, in character designs there are both external and internal factors to consider. With external factors, you must understand the character, the historical background, ambiance, weather, local availability of materials, etc. These will all help as a basis for your design inspiration.

Internal factors to consider are the character's job, the personality that created his career, and any emotions he may be feeling to help shape a gesture expression, and so on.

On the technical side, the shape language must match the character's personality. You may use a circle, square or triangle as your main form, and each one will convey a different feeling:

3. Credibility and Responsibility

Once you enter the industry, it's important to maintain credibility and relationships with clients. Examples for how to do so include replying to emails within 48 hours, staying humble, never over promising or under delivering. These will all help shape your career as customers may then recommend and introduce you to other companies or clients.

4. Your Portfolio is Your Salesman

In addition to your personal website and social media, I suggest you post more work in professional forums as well, where art directors are more likely to frequent. In this way, you'll increase your exposure and, if your work is good enough, they may contact you for a job. People may also offer useful suggestions or feedback for you, which is a great help for progress. I also recommend you submit your work to art contests for more exposure!

5. Keep Learning

Of course, if you enter the industry but do not continue to upgrade your ability, you are more likely to be eliminated in this industry. Especially in smaller studios or in positions of freelance where workers are not under the company's "Title" protection. In the tide of the global internet, you will face the competition of other artists around the world, so your ability is vital.

The pressure will not let you stay in a comfortable zone, and it will push you to stay on top of your game!

The following is a process breakdown for one of Yu Cheng's character pieces:

Rough Idea:

Line art - nailed down all facial features, clothing and equipment:

Basic color blocking - in this stage I focused on local color and darkening the background to pop out the character:

Added light and shadow, adjusted color temperature, brushed up and built the form:

Detailed the main character:

Finished the background - I did not add too much. Keep the background loose in order to focus on the character:

We want to thank Yu Cheng for providing us with these great tips for success. Be sure to follow him on Facebook to stay updated on his work!