Drawing isn’t my best skill. I’m not terrible at it, but I’m not amazing at it either. Here’s an example of some of my concept art:
This is some of the better sketching I’ve done, in my opinion, so I’ll let you judge for yourselves just how good/bad I am at sketching. I generally find it easier to model something first rather than sketch it. There are some people out there like me, especially some of the indie game devs out there who aren’t as artistically inclined as others. I’m not an artist by trade myself either: as I’ve said multiple times, I’m actually a programmer/software developer who doesn’t even work in anything remotely related to CGI. So for many dabbling in CGI, concept art isn’t the most important thing in the world. However, you will find that most professionals in the industry find concept art as a necessity. Why, you might wonder?
For some, it’s a necessity just to visualize what they are trying to model/texture in CGI. For others, it’s more of a habit. And for even more it’s just a good starting point. There are two really important benefits that aren’t immediately obvious to some in CGI
- It’s a great way to make a blueprint for how your model will look
- It is indeed a good starting point
The first point is especially important. Planning ahead not only makes modeling better, it also makes it more efficient. In many cases I’ve thought that I have the entire visual in my head of how the model should look only to find later that that isn’t the case. Making a concept sketch forces you to consider aspects of your model that perhaps you had not originally considered. It also forces you to consider proportions. For example, if you’re modeling an aircraft, the cockpit should be the right size for the number of occupants expected to occupy it. This also leads me to the second point: concept art does indeed give a good starting point, for much of the same reasons as the blueprint aspect. Modeling will almost always take more time than making a quick sketch on paper, so it’s always worth it, even if it isn’t a great sketch. Which is another excellent point to make as well: you don’t need to be great at drawing in order to make basic concept art sketches that are helpful. The whole goal here is just to get your ideas down in a more concrete form and to get a basic idea of what the forms should be. The tiniest detail doesn’t necessarily matter as much when initially starting out. You can always make more sketches later as you model if you find the need to, especially for more detailed aspects of your model.
Of course, not everything needs a concept sketch. If you’re modeling something that has tons of pictures available, or better yet, if you can go see the object in question for yourself and take pictures of it, that’s the better option. The idea is that modeling with a reference is much easier than modeling without a reference. If you have real life references, in the form of pictures from some source, those are enough. If you can actually go and see the thing for yourself, it’s even better. One of the projects I worked on, the inside of a cathedral, is based off of a cathedral I visited in Toledo, Spain:
You’ll notice that the models are not identical. This leads me to another point about concept art, reference images, and 3d art. Starting from a real world object/thing will almost always be helpful in concept art and in 3d art. This particular scene did not make use of a concept sketch: I simply used my pictures of the cathedral and combined it with some aspects I had seen in the game Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 to create my cathedral. The altar in my cathedral is my own invention. The larger point to be made here is that some sort of reference is important in 3d art. Usually real world images are best. Sketches are also helpful. The best is if you can go and see the real world reference for yourself. If not, internet images are still a great starting point. Even if you’re making something that doesn’t exist in the real world, it’s still best to start from a real world reference and build off of it, making concept sketches as necessary.