This is a blog.

This is a blog.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Hey everyone! So by popular demand, I've started an FAQ based on questions that...people have asked...frequently?

And remember, this is an ongoing project! So I encourage you to let me know here or via Twitter if you have any comments, criticism or suggestions!


Fan Art Stream:
Working at Riot:
League of Legends:
Art Tips:
Pro Tips:


Fan Art Streams:
  • Will any of these skins make it into the game?
    • So here's the deal with these sketches - There are a LOT of skin ideas out there (from the Skins team, other Rioters, the community, etc) and we consider each one before moving forward with one. That means during a brainstorm, I can definitely say "Hey guys, check out this cool community idea!", but ultimately the final decision is made as a team.
    • So yes, they are being made as fan art, not official Riot art - But no, that doesn't mean they're black listed from ever being made either. It just means that it's not up to any one person to decide which ideas we put into production :)
  • Why is Riot spending time on things like this instead of fixing so-and-so??
    • So first off Riot actually isn't. These are sketches I do for fun in my free time :)
    • Secondly, the whole "why don't you ___" is based on the assumption that Riot is not currently working on a given problem, and should, yes? So a good rule of thumb for questions like that: Riot Games is made up by a bunch of extremely passionate gamers who love League as much as you do, play it all the time, and are actually even more critical of it than most players (if such a thing is possible)...So chances are, if you - as a player - see something wrong, or want something new? We probably do too! And often, are already looking into it :)
      • (As an example, I had a ton of people saying "Dude, why isn't Riot giving Zyra a new skin already??"...AS I was working on Haunted Zyra :3)
    • That being said, some changes are slow, and take place mostly behind the it looks like nothing is happening, up until the point when it does!
    • Now, as a point of clarification - there may be hundreds of Rioters, and they are all highly skilled - but they are also highly specialize in specific skill sets, and not just randomly interchangeable.
      • For example: When people ask "Why is Riot spending time on champions instead of fixing the servers??" The answer is that Riot has a team of engineers working on servers, and a team of artist working on champions...And those artist have zero ability to fix an engineering problem (though admittedly it'd be hilarious to see them try!). So if you think about it, it's a bit silly to imply that by cutting back on art, we'd some how be able to spend more time on engineering :P
      • But you ask, why not just hire more engineers? Well, if you check out the Riot job boards, they are HUGE. Riot is actively hiring the best and brightest we can find to help improve League, our company, and the services we provide, and ensure you guys are getting the absolute best we can offer!
  • What's your favorite/least favorite champion to draw?
    • I really enjoy simple, yet diverse champions like Leona or Jayce, who have a very strong silhouette, and combine melee and magic - because that gives you a lot of really fun alternate realities to play with, while making them really easy to design for, and make recognizable.
    • I DON'T enjoy extremely complex champions like Kha'Zix and Quinn because they have a very complex silhouette, a lot of moving parts, and a ton of different things to have to figure out and make room for...So they just become a headache to design around. 
  • Where can I find this playlist/What music do you like?
    • I don't really have a set playlist. I just pull random music from my computer, and online depending on what I'm in the mood for.
    • And I like almost anything! Everything form Big Band Swing, to Classic Rock. Though for painting, I tend to favor movie/video game sound tracks because they are very clearly geared towards a specific mood/story, so it's easy and fun to find music that perfectly suits what I'm working on to get me in the zone!

Working at Riot:
  • What do you do at Riot? 
    • I'm a concept artist. So I do production art for the Skins Team, as well as helping other teams out with concept design - I give a more detailed breakdown of what that means here :)
  • What champions/skins have you worked on? 
    • Since I'm on the skins team, I have not yet worked on any champions - but as far as skins, I've done concept art for Headless Hecarim, Rune Guard Volibear, Woad King Darius, Riot Blitzcrank, Haunted Zyra, and Victorious Elise. I've also worked on a bunch of the seasonal, championship, and victorious ward skins. 
  • What's your favorite thing you've worked on at Riot? 
    • Two words. Draven ward. Nothing else in life will ever be that awesome >.>. Haha, but that aside, I have to say I really really loved working on Haunted Zyra, which also happens to be one of my favorite skins thus far (and not just because I worked on it either!) - It was a very rewarding challenge, I love how it turned out, and love playing her with it! 
  • What are you working on at the moment? //…...// Who's the next champion? //…...// When will so-and-so get a new skin? //…...// Are you working on a VU for so-and-so? 
    • Unfortunately I can't say anything more about upcoming content than has been officially announced by Riot...Sorry! :( 
    • But rest assure, Riot is made up of very passionate and driven League players - so chances are if you think a champion needs a new skin or upgrade, we do too! (despite what people may think, Riot mods actually read every single page of GD - so even if they can't always reply to every post, we do see it, and we hear you! :D
  • Was there anything cool you worked on that didn't make it into the game?
    • Yes, but just because something doesn't roll out at first, doesn't mean it get canned. So as long as it's unreleased, it unfortunately remains confidential :/
    • As an example, Woad King Darius was actually one of the first skins I worked on at Riot! But for various reasons it took a long while to actually get released. So things may be shelved for a time, but they are rarely completely killed :)
  • How does the Skins pipeline work? 
    • This is the general process of the team - but the whole thing is extremely collaborative, and the entire team provide feedback and input on each step - so it’s never just one person working on any aspect of the skin. 
    • So when it’s time to start a new skin for a champion (which champion that will be, is based on a TON of different factors and considerations, which are figured out by the Producers), the whole team gets together and brain storms possible ideas. We explore ideas from the team, other Rioters, the community, etc. and then vote on the strongest theme. The others are then logged for possible used later. We may put an idea on ice, but we rarely just discount it. 
    • Once we have the theme, a Concept Artist begins exploration on it. The idea is generally just a few key words and a brief description (like “A spooky, graveyard themed Zyra skin for the Harrowing event), so the artist has plenty of room to explore and push the idea to the limit and beyond. 
    • After a week or two of revising and honing the thematic, the concept artist creates a final design for a 3D Artist, who build and textures the skin, as well as adding further refinement to ensure a clear story telling and readability in game. 
    • When we have a finished model, a Technical Artist rigs it, to make sure the new model moves correctly, which they then pass off to the Animators, who work their magic on it. 
    • Meanwhile, a Splash Artist references the new model and concept art to create those beautiful illustrations that showcase the skin (and if the splash will be a login screen, that illustration is sent to a Motion Graphics Artist, who brings it to life!) 
    • After the skin is moving around in game, an Effects Artist will start building out the particles, in conjunction with a Sound Designer who adds the sound effects, voice processing, etc. 
    • Once the skin is complete, it’s handed off to and extremely important team - The QA gurus. These dude dig into the tens of thousands of possible action the character can take, help resolve any issues, and make sure the whole thing is solid and ready to ship. Once we have their blessing, it’s off to PBE, so we can hear from you all! 
    • The actual creating takes a few months (roughly 2 weeks per step), but how long it actually takes a skin to ship out is extremely variable, based on a number of other factors which can affect the release schedule. 
  • How did you get a job at Riot? 
    • I was fortunate enough to meet some cool cats on the Development Team (which includes the Art Team) while on a tour with a Rioter friend, and was offered a chance to do an art test. After the test, I did 6 months of contract work from home, before being brought in for an interview...which I suppose must have gone well, because it’s been almost 2 years since I started full time! 
  • Where were you before Riot? 
    • Prior to working at Riot, I was in grad school for Computer Science (where I focused on learning how to collaborate with programmers, as an artist), and before that I was at Otis College of Art and Design (where I studied Digital Media) 
  • What's it like working at Riot? 
    • It’s a lot of fun :) I really love the company culture, my team, and my assignments. One of my favorite parts is that people are allowed to jump around to other projects (so long as they stay on top of their primary responsibilities). This gives me great opportunities to work with lots of different people in addition to my work on the Skins Team. But best of all, I get to interact with you all! Which I have to say has been extremely rewarding :D 
  • Why did you choose Riot? 
    • I visited a number of other companies before Riot, and I'll admit, I was really excited about working at a big studio on a block buster game (I mean...who wouldn't be?) - But when I visited Riot, it was not yet the most played game, and almost no one I knew had heard of LoL or Riot...So needless to say I was a bit skeptical when I agreed to come visit...But the second I walked into the art pit, I almost immediately decided that Riot was where I wanted to work forever.
    • There was a palpable energy in the air. I don't know how else to describe it. The whole place felt...alive! Everyone was so happy and excited and passionate. I had never before experienced such an overwhelming sense of driven purpose by just walking into a room. So, once I started meeting the team, and seeing how passionate yet humble everyone was, I just lost interest in working anywhere else, and committed the next 6 months to trying to get hired full time. :)
  • Do you play League at work? 
    • On the Art team, we love the game and do sometimes play at lunch or before/after work but we really spend most of our time working on the game, so YOU all can enjoy it :) 

  • Can I add you? //…...// Can you play with me for my 1000th win? //…...// Wanna join a game with me and my friends? 
    • Anyone and everyone is welcome to add me any time :) -- here's how it works: The LoL friends list maxes out at 300 people, so every few weeks when my list fills up, I clear it so I can add new people. It doesn't mean I don't love you, I announce it well in advance, and you are more than welcome to re-add me! 
    • As far as playing games, I generally can't respond to just random invites (because I get tons of them all the time :/) - but if you want to message me in game, I'll let you know if I have time to play, and if not, when I'll be doing my next set of community games! 
    • The only caveat is to keep an eye on my status. If it's yellow and says something like "At work" or "ZZzz.." I'm probably just on for a quick game with friends, and likely wont have time for to play - but if it's green and says "Penguin Party!!" I'm playing general community games, and looking for people to invite :)
  • What's your favorite champion/role?
    • I love any CC heavy, front line tanks! Anyone who's job it is to jump right into the thick of the fight, and ruin people's day :D - So Leona, Blitzcrank, Amumu, Nautilus, etc.
    • As far as role, I main support, but more because it's the one that let's me play my favorite champions, not because I have any particular love of the role itself. I'd play more top if heavy tanks weren't so easy to counter in draft :( - But I do like jungling and am thinking of learning more of it in Season 4!
  • What are your thoughts on the new so-and-so changes //…...// Why did they nerf/buff so-and-so?? 
    • So I answer these when I can, but I actually don't always know the answer -- "But you work at Riot!" -- Haha yes, but I'm an artist on the Skins Team, and there are hundreds of other Rioters on different teams, working on different projects - so it's hard to keep track of everything that everyone is doing, all the time :P ... Just like a Rioter on the eSports team probably wouldn't know the priority/complexity of up coming skins, I won't know everything about game design, balance changes, legal issues, etc. 
  • How can I get better at League? 
    • Lol so I’m actually only Silver V at the moment, and play with all the subtlety of a runaway freight train, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice...But I'd suggest checking youtube videos of pro players, and even ask for feedback from your team after a game, to see what they think, and see if there's any sort of pattern in where you are weakest. But that's about all I got :P
    • So yeah...Contrary to popular belief, not all Rioters are Diamond I ;) The distribution of noob-to-pro players at Riot is probably similar to the community. Some beginners, lots of Bronzes/Silvers, some Gold, and a few Plats/Diamonds (the majority of which are probably on the Design Team) - So chances are, you're probably better than I am! 

Art Tips:
  • How did you get to be so good? 
    • I know it’s cheesy say, but it’s just practice. There’s no secret trick to getting good. You just have to do it, a LOT. And honestly, I’m just starting out professionally, so even I have a whole butt-ton of things to learn, so I also have to make sure to keep practicing at home...because painting a lot is not the same as practicing a lot. It’s the difference between playing football and running football drills.
  • Any tips for someone just starting out? //…...// How do I get better at drawing/painting? 
    • So here are my own personal thoughts. Everyone has their own perspective, so take it all with a grain of salt: 
    • First off, a quick note on the subject of 'talent': There are indeed those gifted individuals who naturally and seemingly 'effortlessly' excel in a given skill set. But that being said, I don't personally feel you NEED to be a naturally talented artist in order to become a skilled artist. If you practice (not just draw, but actively practice) every day for a few hours, you will get better…given enough time, it’s impossible not to. Not everyone is a born an artist, but I strongly believe that with time, anyone can become one. 
    • As far as starting out, I'd recommend building strong foundational skills in anatomy, perspective, and light theory - All of which have tons of free resources you can find with a quick Google search (of either the material itself, or suggestions for reference books). 
      • Anatomy is just memorizing the structure, placement and proportions of bones and muscles, and drawing them over and over and over and over, until you can free draw them without reference. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to render them perfectly, I’m talking about sticks for bones, circles for joints, and rough blocks for muscle groups. 
      • Perspective is more theoretical than anatomy, but is also just lots and lots of repetition and copying from reference and life until you build a vocabulary for it (a great way to learn is to trace perspective lines over photographs) 
      • Lighting is the most theoretical of the three, because lighting is easiest to paint once you learn the physics of how light actually interacts with objects, and what exactly it is you’re seeing. 
    • Lastly, I’d say copy from the masters. Take some art you really like (not just cool video game art, but the old masters) and try to reproduce them line for line. But don’t copy them like a machine. Analyze them and try to figure out why they made the choices they did, and then apply that to your work. Those dudes had it figured out, so there’s no shame in learning from them. No one ever said you had to do it all on your own :) 
  • What hardware/software do you use/recommend? 
    • I use a Wacom Cintiq 21UX with Adobe Photoshop CS5 
    • I would not however recommend paying thousands of dollars for professional gear if you’re just starting out, or paint just for’d be like buying a Formula 1 racecar as your first car. Super powerful, but complete overkill. 
    • For starters/fun I suggest Wacom’s new ‘Pen’ tablet. It’s like $80, I’ve heard good things about the quality (as compared to the old Bamboo tablets), and actually comes with painting software. If you already have a tablet, there are plenty of freeware alternatives to Photoshop, such as Gimp. Again, Photoshop is extremely powerful, but other programs can work just as well for casual painting :) 
  • What brushes do you use? 
    • So first off, please note, that brushes are a powerful tool for getting a specific task done faster...They are NOT however, a magical fix-all that will make you a better painter. You should understand lighting and texture enough to paint any material by hand with a normal round brush. Brushes do not paint FOR you, they simply let you do something you know how to do, in a more efficient way. 
    • That said, here are some of my favorite brushes I’m uploading (click here to download):
      • Chain Brush - So this is more to show you what you can do with the brush editor. I’d encourage you all to dissect these brushes, see how they are put together, and adjust them to suit your needs. Please don’t feel like they are some holy artifact that you have to use as is (though always remember to save out copies of your brush set periodically, in case you accidentally delete or change one you like). 
      • Wet Brush - Another example of the power of the brush editor. I like using this one for quickly brushing in values on a silhouette, because it has nice smooth blending. 
      • Scribble Brush - A type of brush that has a lot of variables and texture put into it, so you can sort of scribble out a general shape, and get some ‘happy accidents’ (shapes you may not have thought of but look really cool!) . I don’t go too far into a painting with this one, because it ends up with messy edges…(Clean edges can make even a quick sketch feel more finished, and rough edges can make a clean painting feel sloppy). 
      • Chunk Brush - My all time favorite brush. I rough out shapes with it (like the Scribble Brush) and paint with it (like the Wet Brush). I just love the feel, and slight randomization to it. The only downside, is that because it’s so heavily textured, it doesn't scale down very well, so I’d use a simpler brush like the Round Brush for smaller details. 
      • Round Brush - Just your normal, run of the mill Photoshop brush. Ideally, you should be able to take a painting from start to finish with this bad boy without having to rely on other brushes. 
  • How did you develop your "style"? 
    • Honestly? I have no freakin’ idea. I spent a lot of time in art school worrying about how to develope my ‘style’. But eventually I gave up, and just started painting a lot, and this is what came out. I honestly don’t believe in trying to force yourself into finding ‘your style’. I’d just paint, draw, etc. and get better. If you want to do more stylized stuff, reference stylized work. If you want realistic, go realistic. A style will come out in time, but I personally don’t think there’s much to be gained by stressing out about trying to ‘find’ it. But again, that’s just my two cents :) 

Pro Tips:
  • Any tips for breaking into the industry? 
    • I’ll go into more detail in the following questions in this section, but one big one is to think of the industry like college applications. It sounds crappy to say, but you don’t always get into your first pick school, and sometimes you have to go to your second or third pick, then transfer in time. Everyone wants to work at a big name studio for their first job, but there is a lot you can learn in a smaller studio. It may not be as prestigious on a resume, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to get into, and you’ll have more room to grow, learn, and make mistakes when its a small, cozy team, rather than a massive studio where everyone is expected to be triple A. 
    • And secondly, is obviously the importance of being a good guy and networking. It’s a booming industry, but it’s still a relatively small industry. Everyone knows each other, and everyone talks. That means getting to know people, making an impression, and making friends - it does NOT mean putting on a happy face for people you think can give you a job. Don’t act nice. BE nice. Because as with most any industry, who you know can be just as important as what you know. Most people I know who got work right out of school, got it through friends or teachers that recommended them...but BE ADVISED - it also goes both ways. If you’re a pain to work with, cause problems, and burn bridges, that doesn’t just go away if you go to a different company. People talk, so make sure what they’re saying about you is that you’re a really wonderful person to work with :D
  • What should I focus on/major in to get a job at Riot? 
    • My answer here is two fold: 
      • First off, Riot may be great place to work, and you may love League - but it’s not the only company out there, nor would I advise gearing your entire professional education towards trying to get into Riot. There are a lot of companies out there, and none of them last forever. Focus on what YOU want to learn, not what you think will get you hired at Riot, or any other studio. 
      • Similarly, I wouldn’t look to study on what you think someone else wants to see on a resume. You will excel in your field by being passionate about what you do, not by forcing yourself to learn something because you think it’ll get you a job. People want to see a skilled artist who is excited about what they one likes working with an arts for whom it’s ‘just a job’, no matter how good they are. So find read through my the section on “How do I become a concept artist” - and if that still sounds like what you want in life, then pick the major that you are most excited about. Skill will come with time, but if your passion isn’t there in the beginning, it’ll be hard to find it in the end. 
      • Now that said, things like Entertainment Design, Digital Media, and Illustration will all teach you skills for the industry, but each school uses slightly different terminology, so you should explore each department to find what suits you best…Now as far as Fine Art, I’m not going to say it’s not as good, I’ll just say in my experience, it’s geared more towards the notion of “Art for Art’s Sake”, than becoming a professional video game artist. 
      • Additionally, I know plenty of extraordinary artist who are completely self taught. School will certainly help you get there faster, but what matters is your commitment to your craft. If you are sure this is what you want to do with your life, and are willing to dedicate yourself to it, you can teach yourself, but you have to commit yourself to it with as much time as you’d spend in art school. 
  • How do I become a concept artist? 
    • First off, be very, very, VERY sure that this is what you want to do with your life. Because becoming a professional artist is generally not something you can do on the side. It’s something you invest your everything in. Even once you ‘make it’ in the industry, you have to continue honing your craft. So the first step is to be ready to jump in with both feet, and to fight tooth and nail for what you want! 
    • Second, it's not always about how well you can polish and render your art, or how 'good' it looks. Certainly there are professional standards you have to meet in terms of quality, clarity and speed, but that's just the beginning. There are thousands and thousands of skilled artists out there who have been doing this a lot longer than either of us, and more enter the industry every day. They are all darn good painters, so you can’t just aim for just focusing on how well you have learn the importance of WHAT you choose to paint. 
    • If you practice daily, in time you’ll meet the professional quality bar, but all the while, you should also practice the story behind your characters. Who are they? What reason do they have for existing? What makes your hero more than just a generic buff dude with a huge sword? Ttry to really captivate the imagination of the viewer, not just paint a pretty picture. Sure dragons have been done and re-done a thousand times, but how can YOU make them unique and interesting? What's their story? Are they physical animals that have a unique biology that enables them to fly without wings? Or are they magical entities that assimilate the weapons and spells used against them to become more powerful? 
    • If you can quickly communicate an interesting idea, and produce a high quality product, you’ll be well on your way! 
    • I'd highly recommend posting on websites like, where there is a huge community of artists of all levels who can give you really great feedback on your art. I know that a lot of people are embarrassed about showing off their art because it’s not good enough, but if you want to be a professional, you have to move past that. Being a badass artist counts for nothing if you can’t market yourself, and convince someone to hire you, and you can’t do that if you can’t even convince yourself. I’ve always liked the saying “Toot your own horn, because no one will toot it for you” that doesn’t mean be an arrogant bastard, it just means be confident and positive! You’ll receive harsh feedback on, and even more harsh feedback in the industry, and you can’t let that demoralize you. 
    • Always remember that you are often your own worst critic. Other artist being better than you, or someone disliking your art does not make YOU a bad artist. Even the biggest names in the concept art world have art they think looks like ass. 
    • So practice hard and often, look for inspiration everywhere, seek out and learn from criticism, and always have confidence in yourself! 
  • What are some good tools to know for the industry?
    • It depends what you want to do, but in general here is what I've come across most often:
      • Adobe Photoshop is main program used for digital painting and concept art
      • Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max for 3D modeling and animation (it's good to at least know the basics of both, even if you specialize in one)
      • 3D Coat, Mudbox and Zbrush for digital sculpting
      • Adobe Illustrator and After Effects  for vector graphics and motion graphics
    • Obviously you only need to know the programs for what you want to do, but having at least a working knowledge of the various industry softwares will make you that much more valuable on a team!
  • What exactly does a concept artist do?
    • So there are a lot of different ways to leverage a "Concept Artist", which has come to mean basically a really creative, highly skilled artist:
      • You can have illustrators, who's specialty is creating incredible, finished paintings that can be made into banners, posters, promotional pieces, book covers, etc.
      • Or story tellers, who specialize in using art to create a very clear flow of mood, and narrative, such as story boards for film, graphic novels, or environment design.
      • Then there are production artists - who design, and detail out everything a tiny thing a 3D artist would need to create a model (outfit, material, props, etc). 
      • And of course, concept designers - This's exactly what it sounds like. It's problem solving. The big old "We don't know what we want, but we'll know it when we see it!" - This is lots and lots of ideation and exploration to try and pull an idea out of someone elses head, and get it on paper. It's not as shiny or portfolio worthy, because it's a lot of quick exploratory sketches, but it is just as important, but often, if you're trying to solve a problem, or test the viability of an idea quickly, you don't have time for anything else.
    • Now, a good professional artist should be able to do any of these if need be (and there are other specialties as well that I'm sure I'm missing) - But everyone has their own personal strengths and weaknesses.
    • It's important to note that even though most of the art you see in portfolios is finished and super awesome - in actual game development, not every problem necessitates a fully rendered, highly detailed concept. 


  1. Hi RiotPenguin,
    great FAQ, enjoyed reading it!
    Just wanted to tell you that the second paragraph in 'How can I get better at League? ' was already used above in 'Do you play League at work? '.
    You may want to fix that ;D
    Cheers, 2Duffman!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hey Riot Penguin, just wanted to say I love what you guys at Riot do. I'm only in highschool but I am currently leaning towards going to university/college for media arts. I really love it and it's something I find so interesting. One quick question, for your skin concepts are they all created by hand or do you create some of the idea through photoshop or another form of design program? Anyways, loved your haunted Zyra! Keep up the great work!

  4. Hey! I'm excited to be working really hard to applying for an Art internship in riot and one day achieve my dream to work for riot but I'd love to discuss about the job in great details and hear your story!