The concept design world is evolving : nowadays, AAA games, blockbuster movies with epic landscapes and incredible creatures need mind blowing concept art. With high-quality lighting, realistic texture work and an epic composition , concept design could appear a scary territory for newcomers.
From my experience , being versatile and curious, always experimenting new techniques is the best way to improve your pipeline of production, increase the quality of your artwork and escape from the routine.
3D is a powerful tool to add tou your asernal, and the best thing to do is :
Test new softwares, some are expensive , some are free , you can also download trial versions before to buy.
My choices :
3D Studio max from Discreet , the most common 3D software , used in almost every videogame company ( perfect do the link between the concept department and the 3D level art/design) 3DS Max is a versatile software , you can do everything with it : modeling , texture , animation etc…
Alternative choice : Modo, powerfull and easy-to-use , Modo is also a very good software inculding a different philosophy from 3D Studio , It’s up to you to try both of them and choose your favorite.
Google Sketchup is perfect for a beginner , you can find a lot of people using Sketchup in the movie industry nowadays . Another good thing , you can access to the Google database to download FREE 3D model of various buildings and places around the world ( for ex : Las Vegas casino , the Empire State building etc)
Sculptris from Pixologic: From the creators of Zbrush , Sculptris is a free 3D virtual sculpting program , intuitive and simple to use , it’s a good introduction to the character and creatures 3D sculpting tool.
If you want to sculpt without going through months of tutorials, especially as a concept designer who just wants to create a rough shape before painting on top in Photoshop , you should go with Sculptris. For an alternative and advanced sculpting software, go with Zbrush or Mudbox.
3D is a powerfull tool for any concept artist , your production pipeline will be faster , oriented toward production and you will gain in quality VS time.
Sure it’s a bit longer at the beginning of the production, creating your objects, building after buildings , but when you will have a certain amount of them , you will generate mood , vista and matte painting like a machine !
Your artistic director wants a different point of view ? no problem , change the camera angle , go behind your buildings , render and start another concept ! you will gain so much time and always be consistent with your quality and style.
3D is also a good and different way to play with shapes, do industrial design , experimenting crazy shapes and rendering, the good thing is that you can show a preview of your work , with just simple primitive shapes and lighting. It will improve your rendering , when you get alpha channel through renders , you gain some much time with your selections in photoshop.
3D is a great tool for concept artist , but a tool need to serve you , but if you start to spend too much time on your 3D , doing to many useless modeling work , spending time on details that you could paint with photoshop it’s the “darkside” !
In my point of view you need to spend maximum one or two days on your 3D , beyond this limit you losing time with your pipeline , try to do low res with more texture work rather than doing every chamfer of your model !
If you want to see how the 3d can be linked with concept : check our video at Steambot
Try many softwares , experiment things ,be versatile and try to always have fun but keep in mind a good and effective pipeline of work is essential in our job !