Career Advice - Working as a Material Artist in the Games Industry

Career Advice - Working as a Material Artist in the Games Industry

Mattia Giannuario is a Material Artist for a game development studio in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rainbow Academy alumnus, Mattia, sits down with us to today give his advice for other aspiring Artists looking to join the Games industry.

Mattia Giannuario is a Material Artist for a game development studio in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rainbow Academy alumnus, Mattia, sits down with us to today give his advice for other aspiring Artists looking to join the Games industry.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

Currently, I work as an Associate Material Artist, so I'm in charge of creating photorealistic textures and materials and assisting art teams with specific tasks.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I have the pleasure to work for a game development studio,  responsible for creating and publishing some of the most popular and critically-acclaimed games in the world.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

I discovered that working in the industry could be an achievable goal after my first 3D  modeling class, it was as if my whole life suddenly had sense, a classic love at first sight. I  was amazed by the possibility of creating whatever I had in mind in such a fun way! In that  moment I decided that working in the CGI world would be my goal (for this I want to thank  all my friends, teachers, and tutors of ITS Apulia Digital Maker for always being incredible  with me and supporting me).

How did you get your first big break?

My first big break was at the end of my Master's Degree at Rainbow Academy, when I had the opportunity to work for a few months as 3D artist on games (like VR experiences) and TV shows. This allowed me to meet many incredible people; they made me grow both as an artist and person. Having had experience in such different aspects of the  CGI world, helped me focus on what I wanted to become and what I needed to learn to  achieve it.

Describe the journey you took into your current role.

I have had a lot of fun on my journey! Just after I finished my Masters, I spent almost 1 year in Rainbow CGI as a 3D Artist. Unfortunately, the covid-19 compromised my work experience, and it ended early.

I decided to use my new free time to study new workflows and software. Unexpectedly, I was contacted by Gucci’s HR office, they offered me an unprecedented  challenge for me as Digital Material Artist and R&D staff.

I immediately accepted, and after moving to one of the most beautiful cities in Italy - Florence, I spent almost 2 years working with wonderful people, I learned so much; having access to an incredible archive of leathers and fabrics was amazing. I discovered that the productive  and artistic processes are extremely complex, but necessary because they can create clothes and accessories to excite millions of people.

When my current studio contacted me, I was very excited, because their games were a big  part of my childhood and meant so much to me and my family, so I couldn't turn down this  opportunity.

Why did you choose to study at Rainbow Academy?

I believe that their classes are of a very high level. They have a vast educational offering that includes different aspects of the world of CGI, for example, Concept Art classes, or classes focused more on soft skills like creating a good portfolio. During the year you'll have the  opportunity to meet recruiters from the most important companies (Ubisoft Milan, for example, is one of them), and at the end of your Masters, you might be selected for an  internship for one of the leading 3D animation studios in Italy: Rainbow CGI.

At Rainbow Academy, I met fantastic people who continue to be an integral part of my life. My journey there provided a holistic 360-degree experience, placing equal emphasis on both academic growth and nurturing the human spirit.

After graduation the school stay connect and helped me with things like relocating when I found my first job. The most important thing is that Rainbow Academy always helped me and listened if necessary; they managed to make this experience truly unforgettable.

How does your education complement your work?

Rainbow Academy has been very important in this as teachers are from the industry. Thanks to their experience it was very easy to keep up with the times in terms of workflow and software.

A day in the life

What does your workflow look like on your personal projects?

The software I use the most on my personal projects is contained in the Adobe Suite (such as Photoshop or Substance 3D), based on the need, I can also use 3D modeling or sculpting software.

Procedural fabric by Mattia

My personal workflow when I create textures always starts by looking for as many references as I can (I always make sure not to pick "useless references", they can lose you a lot of time during the initial design/layout). When I'm satisfied, I'll organise everything in  folders (so as to avoid file loss!)

After that, my favourite moment comes for me: creating textures!

Each digital material requires different approaches (and love too!) My favourite is to use Photoshop to create a "reference texture" using standard parameters, necessary for a  correct PBR rendering (physically based rendering), this resource allows me to always be focused during my experiments in Substance 3D. Substance 3D  Designer is my favourite so far  because I’m able to create interesting results in a short time.

When I'm satisfied with the result, I can save and start all over with new materials!

I am very active with socials media and it’s an incredible source of ideas, I like to experiment a bit with everything. My role is not static and requires some flexibility, I'm very  intrigued by simulations in Houdini or Unreal Engine to create sprite sheets or atlas and in animated textures for example.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

People! They are all incredible, a constant source of inspiration.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?

Nothing for now, every day I discover new things and I'm always encouraged to give 100%,  and this is very important to me.

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

No! Having an artistic education is certainly useful for speeding up the learning process of  certain topics like anatomy or colour theory, but thanks to the internet we can access incredible amount of resources useful for our learning path. Personally most of the 3D artists I know don’t have formal art education, but this doesn’t stop them from being incredible pros.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists trying to get a job, what would it be?

My advice is to use any existing social network or blog that allows you to browse through job offers and carefully search through them (LinkedIn, ArtStation, GamesJobsDirect, etc.) It is a good habit to study job descriptions and responsibilities. In this way, you have important  pieces of information (like must-to-know applications or preferred workflows). With this in mind, you can plan in advance what skill needs more study in line with your capabilities.  During this process, don't be afraid to ask for feedback! Asking recruiters for clarifications is  often overlooked, but it's a good way to network.

Expanding your network has always been underestimated (if possible, try to participate in  local or digital networking events via LinkedIn and contests like The Rookie Awards. Try to build a  network targeted to your area of interest, in order to always be updated with the latest  trends.

What tasks would you be typically asked to do as Material Artist?

The main duty of a material artist is to create materials, textures, or shaders, ensuring all  artistic and technical requests.

In the gaming industry, it is very important to know how to recognise and manage the  limitations imposed (especially by the game engine). This allows you to find new and  creative ways to solve problems, its very fun!

Personal work by Mattia

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?

Right now, I don't have the required skills to hire someone, but probably I would look for  someone that knows how to work in a group and is a positive input for everyone (especially  in large teams).

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

Probably some people don't know how to properly use social networks like ArtStation, The Rookies or  LinkedIn. I think we should always put extra care into published content, and that must be  part of a strategy because it is the only tool we have to make the public (and recruiters) understand our skills and what kind of pros we are. Some examples of bad content are “click  bait” posts or confusing WIPs (they risk making us look monotonous and, at worst, incompetent at our job).

My advice is to be inspired by people who have what you think is "perfect" for you and your content, and from that (without copying) study a way to make your content unique and incredible.

Describe your attitude towards your job.

I really enjoy being precise and methodical, and I achieve this by writing down my major goals for that project, for example trying to always be tidy with files, folders, their names, and  structures. Before concluding a project, I make sure there are no mistakes and that my initial  goals have been met. For me, not having a mental organisation affects the final result.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you implement it into your work?

I find it easy to study new workflows using recorded conferences made available on Youtube or Twitch (Keynote or GDC Vault for example). It is very convenient for me because I can  see them at any time of the day. I also have other sources like Pinterest for collecting  references, ArtStation,, or The Rookies for tutorials and breakdowns.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

Each project has different purposes based on the owner. I believe that for each type of work,  particular attention must be paid to the reference collection phase, at this point we really  decide the fate of our project. Obviously, things like style or technology (Game engine or software) can be changed during design, but you risk wasting a lot of time.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

A common mistake is not writing a correct cover letter. Usually, people use the same CL for different applications and you should avoid this habit, always! Adapt your resume according to  the job (because all jobs, even if similar, are not the same). This can easily highlight your skills because it is in line with the offer. This demonstrates that you're seriously interested in  the project, I think this is highly appreciated by recruiters.

Keep your resume readable and short! Your CV should be no more than 2 pages, depending on your level of experience. And finally, Save it as PDF, You will then avoid layout problems.

Student work by Mattia

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

My advice is to invest time and energy in yourself, study lots of tutorials and workshops, and try to not discourage yourself! Each person learns differently and it is useless to compare yourself to others. In the beginning, it is necessary to lay a solid foundation for your learning and skills, so start with small projects and give yourself a deadline, and after you are finished move on to something new and accessible to your current skills. Last, but not least, have fun! Never lose the desire to do and, above all, make mistakes, because only through  mistakes can you grow.

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

I would absolutely advise myself to not waste time trying to compete all the time with myself in a toxic way. In fact, while I was trying to reach unattainable standards (I was still a  beginner who didn't know anything about this world) I almost lost sight of the most important thing: the joy you feel in making (3D) art. But is possible to change your point of view, and for this, I have to thank my family and all the people who have been close to me. Thanks to them I have returned to having fun while working and to being more focused on my personal growth.

Reach out to Mattia via LinkedIn and ArtStation.