Do you enjoy being an FX artist?

Since I am consider getting into this field I thought I should ask. Though these questions maybe hard to answer honestly since your colleagues are probably watching this thread as well.

Are you satisfied with being an FX artist? Or are you over it? (I guess I am speaking to people that have been doing it for a while)
Are the hours long or longer than the other artist?
Do you wish you were an animator, Concept artist, programmer instead?
Is there plenty of work for you guys? Or do you get riddled with anxiety when you see your gigcoming to an end?

Hey I know this one!

Short answer: Yes and No.

I’ve been doing effects for quite a while now and it’s the best job in the world. I love making effects and working on games.However, I’m currently taking a slight break from AAA by studying a new field (engineering).
Huge projects with important deadlines take a toll on you as a person. I was feeling worn out and getting closer to hitting the wall (is this a saying in English? It means burning out) for every day. I was stressed to the level that my hands were physically shaking. My workload was beyond insane. This happens at the end of a lot of projects as the amount of vfx needed drastically rises but the number of vfx artists usually stays quite low. Since it’s so different from other art disciplines you can’t just shovel over some of the level artists to help out. It’s damn hard work, but satisfying.

If I compare that to my current situation, well, I’m more stressed now than I’ve ever been. Pro tip: don’t start your own company at the same time as you study at 125% of fulltime speed. However, it’s always hard when you start doing something new so I expect this to level out soon. Even though I’m learning a new field, I’m not done with this industry. I just need a couple of years of something different.

I’ve never held a different art role than vfx artist and I’ve never wanted to. I’ve had to do animation, design, techart and toolsdevelopment, but all within my role in vfx. It’s big enough for me to be very happy with it.

As for anxiety over having work. Not really. In my 8 years of gamedev, I have a total of 3 days of unemployment. And those days happened as I switched country, after already signing my next contract.

If you have any more questions, I’d be happy to answer them!


He jettam,
I’m still new to being an FX artist, and he’re what i can tell you from my observations so far.
Being an Fx artist means that you should be pushing your limits in both the technical and artistic fields. You can stay in the comfort zone but you’ll be missing out on many ways to improve your effects.
You should definitely Test all the famous engines out there, and test their limitation and adjust your effect depending on that.
Another thing is that you should be really observant of the world around you, on how certain things act/react/evolve across time, and you should be able to adjust that effect depending on the context of the game you’re working on.
It’s a huge, fun ( for some people ), and challenging learning process that will enrich you as an artist and give you a wider angle of how the world works.
At the end of the day being an FX artist, means you’re a little bit of an animator,3D modeller, concept artist, and a programmer, since you’ll be working with all of these departments.

So far i’m enjoying the ride, especially after finding a community that is very helpful and open to sharing their own tips and tricks and productive criticism, that will push you forward, which wasn’t available before.

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I started as a Texture artist, moved to level art, then VFX cause someone thought it would be a good idea to drop me on a project in alpha, without any VFX in it as the only VFX artist, and I was too young to know better. Long story short, we all get thrown in the deep end of the pool and we either drown or swim back with a smile saying “AGAIN!” like a kid in an amusement park ride.

You need to like puzzle and problems solving to like this line of work I think. Oh be a bit a gluton for punishment.


I really do, I enjoy the technicality of it, the challenges, and I really like animating stuff. But then I really need to do some environment art on the side to be fully satisfied, I love modeling and texturing too.

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I love it because I get to model, paint, and animate in a sense. I really love making materials in Unreal, and I could do that all day. I was brought on very new to effects, so I’m trying to learn how to sim things out and get them in a game, so tools are a double edged sword of having a lot to learn/remember, but at the same time you get to use so many cool things, as opposed to something like animating or modeling. I like getting to work with so many groups in our studio too. Our tech artist, the animators, the designers, and especially our sound guys.

I love doing FX (so far) but I don’t like being basically last in the chain of things with little feedback. “Oh, that boss you didn’t know we were working on, that is going in the level that you just found out about? Yeah, he needs to shoot lasers and teleport, and xyz. We are sending a build out this weekend, so we need that done by thursday.” “Well what do you want the FX to look like?” “Uh, whatever. Just make it cool” As for anxiety over work? Yeah absolutely, but I think that’s because I’m still new, to both the industry and the job. I swear, every time there is a change in my Photoshop license, or it says I can’t log in to our portal, my first thought is “Whelp, I’ve been fired” and then I get an email saying something changed with Adobe or we are moving things to a new server or something. However, one of the reasons I changed my focus right before my senior year was when I met an FX artist and he told me if you are good at what you do, you’ll always have work. That sounded pretty appealing when I was surrounded at GDC by other character artists who had all gone to art institutes and game design schools and made my work look like day one art. I looked into vfx, found I loved it and stuck with it.


I certainly am happy with my realtime VFX career, which I’ve been doing for nearly 10 years now. Before that I tried my hand at almost every art role in the game industry, with a particular focus on modeling/texturing, but really I helped out with everything, which gave me some perspective.

I find that it more fully engages my entire mind, to the point where I can’t even listen to music that has lyrics in it while working because I need to focus so much - which has not been my experience with any other art. It’s definitely a different feeling than making other game art. It’s more like channeling controlled chaos than meticulously crafting something. There are so many elements involved, and simple changes to numbers, geometry, or material math can have huge sweeping implications.

I get to be more creative because there’s seldom concept art for VFX, just conversations with team members about the general direction. Whereas a modeler would be floundering to make a complex asset if they didn’t have concept or reference photos, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to make VFX that way. I think that comes back to it being more controlled chaos than careful crafting.

On the practical side, it has higher job security than most other roles because there are comparatively few people who know how to do it well. But there’s a reason for that - not many schools teach it as a focus. I had to learn on my own through dissecting other people’s work and reading a whole lot of random things I found on the web. And of course experimentation - VFX is all about experimentation. It doesn’t help that your tools and process could vary enormously between projects depending on your game engine.

The stress and hours can get pretty brutal near the end of a project, because VFX go in toward the end of the pipeline, so a lot of features suddenly need art at once. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I’ve found I can eliminate much of that by being a very squeaky wheel, maintaining constant communication with producers, animators, engineers, etc., to make sure things are planned and implemented collaboratively on a reasonable timeline.

Be warned though that the job requires a certain kind of mind - one that is capable of picking up tools quickly, learning through experimentation, and thinking as much with math as with vision. But if that describes you, I highly recommend pursuing realtime VFX.


Thanks for your responses.

It sounds a lot more pressured than any of the other disciplines. So I wonder, How is the compensation, do you get paid well as a RealTime FX artist?

Do you ever get to work from home? I would love to be able to do this kind of work from a remote location rather than having to commute into the city every day, is that even possible.

It sounds that way cuz there are not enough VFX artists…

I am going home after 8 hours cuz It is reasonable. I just think that You need to be fresh and healthy cuz you work with your brain. If you start working too much you will hurt both your company and yourself. Quality of your work will go down. Time need to do a simple task will go up. That will escalate out of control and you will burn yourself up. And for doing work not many others can do - you can charge quite good. It is not compensation - it is good payment for rare kind of work.

And about working from home… I think it is impossible. Just cooperation face to face with others cant be replaced.


When it comes to compensation, to my experience it’s better than most artists, due to the scarcity of good VFX people. Gives you a lot of leverage when negotiating and once you reach a certain level of experience, you get offers constantly. It’s also less prone to be outsourced than other art disciplines, which can work for or against you, depending on your circumstances.

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when you find your love you will know it.

don’t try to go logically because:

“The flame will shut down when the wind get stronger. unless you are a natural burner”

“Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”


Also, this:


Yep :smirk: we are all crazy here, as mentioned in a different thread already.


You shouldn’t worry about compensation when you start out because you will probably be paid peanuts for the first few years. You may also reach a point in your life where direct compensation takes a back seat to quality of life and spending time with your family.

Pressure is relative and varies from project to project and your experience level. Most vfx jobs have been challenging but not too stressful for me. Being lead lighter on two console games was like living in a nightmare for two years.

You have to get your hands dirty and actually make some vfx to see if you enjoy it. The software is free and lots of tutorials out there, you have a computer if you are posting here so start making some cool stuff.


This for me too. I was on a mobile game as the sole 3D environment artist to start, then the team built up and we needed particles. I was the most technical person and the particles had to be coded in json.

It was similar, sink or swim and come back wanting more. I still love 3D modelling and texturing and do that in my own time.

As an FX artist you do bits of everything though. Currently working on Sniper Elite I’ve had to blow up trucks and environmental props etc. So you have to model damage if you dont get a damaged mesh provided, simulate physics, adjust the timing and animation to make it more punchy. Then create the FX and timings etc and perhaps even the camera cutscene.

Play around in unreal, or cryengine, unity and create a few different effects, try natural and un-natural effects. Explosion, Fire, try and create a little scene. Blow up a car model or tank etc.
Then try some magic or things like that. Re-create FX done in different games etc. “Luos” has some great examples in his A particle a Day on youtube etc.

It can be hard work, it can also be a lot of rendering sims and pyro from Houdini or FumeFX trying to make a good sprite sheet. But if you enjoy trying to create things that really add to the feel of an environment or cutscene then keep at it!