Advice for someone who wants to become a tech artist

Hello everyone, I will admit I feel a bit dumb asking this, and I tried searching through existing posts already but I feel like my situation is different compared to a lot of the other ones I’ve seen posted so far.

The reason I say this is because I don’t have a lot of experience so far with art. A bit of a background about me, I’m 23 and I went to school for audio engineering and worked as a lighting and audio tech at clubs for a while, but realized that the music industry wasn’t for me. My only experience with art has been graphic design as a hobby for a bit and was able to make a bit of money from it from friends but realized that’s another industry I wasn’t interested in.

I did briefly work in a large VFX studio doing IT which I really loved, I loved being able to help people, solve their problems, and the problem-solving aspect of it has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I knew from that moment I wanted to work in an environment like that, although my passion lied in games and not in VFX.

Technical artist instantly seemed like a good fit because my favourite parts of all the jobs I’ve worked has always been the support part, the problem solving and the fulfillment I get from helping people.

I’m currently learning python, and have spent some time learning unity and 3D modelling but I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near proficient in any of those things.

So essentially my question is, where should I spend my time and focus, and what should I aim for? From what I’ve read a lot of people don’t get hired immediately as a technical artist and often they start out as a generalist in 3D or something, and I feel like I’m starting from nothing compared to a lot of people.

If you’ve read this far thank you and any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot,

Hi @dingdingking - Welcome to the forum! and not a dumb question.

Technical art is a huge domain space - my focus is really in rigging and now more in deformation and honestly computational learning (deep learning). I got into this whole mess as an animator actually, which evolved into a rigger and then a script junky (learning math in the process - from some great mentors along the way).

I was not a technical person, I’m still not, rather I use it to solve the need i’m trying to work out - i.e I learn stuff to apply it solutions and problem spaces. The key question to ask yourself is what drives you and not so much the how - that will come in time.

Its also a journey so don’t beat yourself up, people start in one field and blend into the next - animation is what I studied and it is very dear in my heart. But doing it 8 hours a day would basically kill any passion for it. Tech-art for me is that theres always something new to discover and thats what makes it fresh. You mentioned scripting and thats awesome your studying python - its everywhere now and used in major packages and fields.

I’d ask if games is your calling, what about it beckons you? You said you were doing IT in VFX which you loved. That is not something to turn up either, if it’s an itch you want to scratch then go for it.

One thing I was taught in school, was that it’s better to study everything around the field than the field itself. And it sounds counter intuitive but for example studying life drawing, film, storyboarding, plot structure, acting, don’t really involve pushing f-curves around a graph editor i.e. animation but they are crucial to understand it.

Back to you, you said you have sound engineering, lighting experience at clubs and you weren’t too interested graphic design as a hobby. You loved IT and helping people out, are learning python and some 3d modelling. The question for me is modelling something you like to do, or something you feel you need to do? The rough vibe i’m getting is you like the nitty-gritty of pipelines potentially, building process, connecting systems together, building tools to help artists etc. For that, thats oop, system design, frameworks, MVC, logistics etc. It’s also totally fine to be a generalist too, it’s back to what things you like to do.

So very waffly, but I think we need more info in what about technical-art that creates an itch you need to scratch? And at 23 you are crazily young and have a whole world ahead of you!

Greetings Derek -

Good Question. Regretfully being a sound guy isn’t going to help you, ‘directly’, finding work as a tech artist. However, in the long run, it will be invaluable! Don’t loose faith!.

You say you like providing support. That’s great. Being a Tech Artist means you’ll be working in one of four main topic areas at first: pipeline, Rigging, VFX or Lighting/Rendering. Pipeline is by far the most important support role and the one that is in highest demand. It’s a great place to start as a Tech Artist. I would not suggest you classifying yourself as a generalist. IMHO, for large companies, generalists are those mythical creatures with at least 5 years of working experience in each of those topic areas. These folks are hired from word of mouth and connections. Nothing bakes HR’s noodles more then dealing with generalists. They just don’t know what to do with them. That’s why they are hired directly and not through HR.

Remember, a pipeline TA’s responsibility lies in doing whatever it takes to help the artist get their assets out of their heads into the game and making sure the assets don’t blow the game up. If you start calling yourself a pipeline TA, folks will know immediatly what to do with you. While you are hunting for work, keep learning your python and Unity. Unity recently became open to python in addition to C#. If you love Unity you may still want to switch to c#. If not, no worries, Python is more ecumenical.

Practice writing tools and scripts bringing assets into Unity and then using Python for manipulating the assets in the contex of the Unity editor. For example, changing the names for 500 assets in the game. Or create scripts which help export from Maya, Blender, 3DSMax, etc. into Unity. Your tools will become your portfolio. If you are just starting, how do you know what tools to create? Simply talk to the artists on the forums and ask them if there are any tasks which they do more than twice. Any task done more than twice is a good candidtae for a tool or script.

Create a small portfolio of 5-7 tools and start applying to anything asking for a pipeline TA. Don’t worry about learning everything. Nobody knows everything. You’ll learn more in the first month working as a Pipeline TA than your entire time before employment.

Being a TA is as much, probably more, about what you are willing to do than what you are able to do . If you are resourceful, you can figure how to solve any problem. Being autonomous and pro-active are the true star TA qualities. Demonstrate how you pro-actively solved certain problems or created new pipelines, (for example, bringing OSM data unto Unity through Blender), and you’ll definitely raise eyebrows. Be happy and fun to be around and you won’t have any problems finding work.


Hello everyone, thanks for the advice and guidance, I think I have a bit more soul searching to do before I can really buckle down!