Changing career path: character artist to TA


Ive been building a portfolio to get a job as a 3D character artist until I found out recently that character artists don’t get paid well compared to other positions and often work unpaid overtime. That made me decide to change my career goal to become a technical artist instead since salary is generally higher.

Would you please give me some recommendations on how to prepare for my demo reel as TA? Can I still use Character modelling that I have made on the demo reel?
I have no knowledge on python, c# or c++ so I will have to learn these by myself while also keep learning 3d softwares like maya, subtance painter, zbrush for my character portfolio. I would also need to keep learning anatomy and practice sculpting as character artist. I am so confused as to where to start and there seems too many things to learn by myself without guidance. I am not sure where to prioritize. I have a degree in animation and am in late 20s.

Thanks for reading and I would really appreciate any recommendations or advice!

I’m sure some more folks will chime in, but in the meantime here are some relevant threads from the recent past:

in particular

has a bunch of examples of TA portfolio discussions – if you skim the reactions you’ll see that the common thread is that TA portfolios are about demonstrating how you identified, analyzed and solved a problem. A traditional art portfolio is about eye-appeal, a TA portfolio tends to be about showing how you approached production or tech problems, which means that the accompanying text is often very important.

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Thanks for the advice. It seems that artistic aspect and modeling itself is much less important than I thought as TA.

There are lot of sub-species of TA . Generally the bit split is :slight_smile:

  • tools and pipeline
  • shaders and effects
  • rigging and tech anim

but within that there’s still a lot of variety, and many of us switch hit. As a character artists the rigger path is one easy side step – good models make it easy to show off high quality skinning and special-purpose deformations like muscles or cloth bits or hair. Tools work is the least graphic, shaders probably the most.

I think @Theodox hit all the points.
Content oriented TA roles are out there, though often its with an eye to optimization / prototyping, instead of creating final production assets from scratch.
I see job postings along those lines every so often and have to just nope right out of them because I’ve not done any meaningful content work in a shockingly long time.

My suggestion, start by taking part of the Character Art process you find monotonous and explore writing a python script to make it a little less painful. If you enjoy the critical thinking and creative problem solving, Tech Art may be in your future. This is exactly how I got my start many years ago. Kept working at my Character Art portfolio but gradually found myself coding more. By the time I landed a Character Artist position (tools portfolio helped) I knew it was only a stepping stone. Made the full switch to Tech Art a year or so later.

Higher compensation will come with experience in both disciplines, but I did find staff positions and reasonable offers easier to come by once established as a Tech Artist. Hours depend on your role, but I work no less than our Character Artists. For most of development it is similar, but the tools work upstream and rigging/optimization work downstream can impact that. Ultimately everyone works hard.


Thank you all for the replies. I think I would follow your path as well. I want to get my foot in the industry as a character artist first as I keep learning rigging and programming on the side for transitioning to TA later on.

Imagine you’ve heard this before but just understand that Character positions are no doubt one of the more difficult art paths to break in with. Generally speaking far fewer seats available than env art, yet more applicants. Starting out don’t rule out the relatively unknown studios and remote work. Some tech art can also help you stand out.