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3D Technical art vs graphics programming

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I want you guys to help me to know the difference between technical artist and graphics programming role.

I'm very interested in arts, maths and programming that's why i started to study computer graphics ( before i know that there is a technical artist role ) but after i know it i get confused knowing what the key similarity and difference between both of them.

Can both position be in overlap and may be work on the same set of tasks/problems?

What is the responsibilities of both of them?

What's the skillset one should have to work on either of them?


Thanks for your time,


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There's certainly quite a bit of overlap between them.

A graphics programmer on an engine team will work with APIs like D3D/GL in order to implement rendering of features, like deferred shading or shadow mapping, as well as general stuff like scene management, and generic shaders. They'll also work on tools, such as importers for art files, and have to work with artists as their clients. A graphics programmer on a game team will also work on game-specific special effects, post processing and content challenges. 

A tech-artist is not as likely to use D3D/GL/etc directly, and won't likely work on engine features such as scene management. They are the glue between the artists and the programmers though - so anything on that interface is stuff that they will work on. That includes shader code, importers, exporters, plug-ins and scripts for art tools, automation of processes such as baking, helping with naming conventions, and making sure that artists actually follow the right conventions. They also should know how to use all the art tools that they're writing plugins/exporters/scripts for (but they don't have to be a good artist - just have the technical knowledge of artists work flow). 

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On 12/28/2017 at 2:39 AM, Hodgman said:

They also should know how to use all the art tools that they're writing plugins/exporters/scripts for (but they don't have to be a good artist - just have the technical knowledge of artists work flow). 

So is it okay to work as technical-artist coming from programming side? As while i'm searching i found most of tech-artist are already coming from the art side and learned programming along the way.

I'm willing to spend some time of course sharping my art skills (i'm already familiar with software like Maya, Blender, ZBrush, Photoshop, Unreal, Unity) but as my whole life I've been doing programming and I've never take art class will this be an obstacle for me, and if yes how to overcome it?

Can you help recommending some kind of learning path, or what skills i should focus on next?

Thanks for your time.

Edited by iArtist93

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Don't worry, I know some technical artists, who started in the industry as programmers, but later successfully switched to tech art. In every company tech art means something a bit different, but usually you are responsible for some combination of:

  • Scripting inside 3ds Max/Maya/Photoshop/Substance Designer
  • Making procedural stuff inside Houdini
  • Writing special tools for enforcing some art rules (e.g. to check which assets are to heavy)
  • Special material shaders (usually using a graph based editor) 

Apart from those topics technical artists also know how to artist's job. E.g. most of them can do some solid surface modelling inside 3ds Max/Maya and make some textures inside Substance Designer / Painter. As Hodgman mentioned, they don't have to be great artists, but you need to know artists' workflow and mentality very well in order to become a glue between artists and programmers.

Edited by knarkowicz

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On 12/31/2017 at 12:23 AM, knarkowicz said:

Don't worry, I know some technical artists, who started in the industry as programmers, but later successfully switched to tech art

Thanks for your reply,

I'd like to ask if companies consider hiring Juniors/Entry level for this position or they just prefer seniors who already have years of experience as 3D generalist, or programmers who have been in industry for a while?

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