• /
  • /

The power of 2D game art tutorials for designers

No matter how good as an artist you might be, there is always someone who does particular things better. It means you can learn from them and improve your skills. 2D game art tutorials and guides will be beneficial to everyone willing to dedicate themselves to art. Apart from manuals, there are plenty of tricks and nuances that can improve your perception and organize your mind and soul. More on that topic in our latest blog entry.

How 2D game art tutorials and design documents can improve your work

Creating visual content for games, movies, and commercial needs will always be in high demand. Established artists never stop honing their skills, learning more about graphic design and specific techniques. It helps them expand professional competencies beyond their current limits. Some prefer to draw more and look for aspiring references. Some take professional courses. 2D game art tutorials are also an excellent option. We say they lie somewhere between those two aforementioned approaches, maybe just a tiny bit closer to academic courses, though. There are lots of tutorials and guides online – both free and paid – and as a 2D artist, you should look up to them.

Core aspects of 2D art

Every aspiring 2D artist must have a knack for drawing and love the craft itself. It is the basic rule and common sense. One shouldn’t ignore this when choosing this profession. A modern-day 2D game designer does not really need to be a pro with pastels, watercolors, and regular pencils, but some experience with physical drawing would be a big plus. Most 2D artists in the gaming industry usually do the following:
  • Draw concept art;
  • Create objects, characters, locations in accordance with the style of the game;
  • Work on promotional materials.
The range of responsibilities depends on the place of work and the project in which the artist is employed. 2D art for games is incredibly varied and can be super complex. Creating visual content for casual games for kids, for example, is different from drawing assets for strategic titles with realistic graphics. Each project has its style, ideas to convey, and mood. All of those must be discussed within the creative department and approved before the actual drawing starts.

The most typical way into the industry for a 2D game artist is to graduate from a university or decent art college, where CG-art is at a premium. Suitable specialties, in this case, are "Computer Graphics", "Web Design", "Design". However, young 2D artists have to acquire lots of specific knowledge themselves, so various 2D game art tutorials will come in handy too.

Game design document: preparation before the art

Every game is a big and complex project, so naturally, it requires a blueprint for building it right and avoiding mistakes. That blueprint is a game design document. It contains ideas for characters, world, locations, gameplay, visual style, and other related things. First, GDDs were gigantic and meticulously detailed, which is no longer the case. Modern documents are relatively short and include tons of visual info to simplify the explanation (short gameplay showcases, images, and sometimes even audio files). All data in a GDD is divided into the following categories:
  • General info: genre/niche, platform(s), famous similar games, target audience, etc.
  • Project overview: details about game’s mechanics, history, rules, modes, etc.
  • Gameplay: goals, controls, game economy, win/lose conditions, levels, etc.
  • Game assets: visual and music style, desired graphics, required soundtrack, and audio, etc.
When the basic draft for your 2D game design document is ready, it is time to put your brains and hands to some action. The whole process consists of the following phases.


Brainstorming

So you have some fundamental ideas for the project. Now you need to transform them into something bigger. Brainstorming with your team will help to generate tons of bold new ideas for the future 2D video game. Imagination plays a vital role at this stage, so don’t limit anyone in expressing their thoughts. Explore possibilities for visualization, original characters, environments, and so on. Quick advice:
  • Write down all ideas you can and sort them out later.
  • Draw quick sketches or add inspiring images for references.
  • Organize the content into themes.

Moodboarding

With moodboards, you can visualize your ideas and present them to others. We recommend creating multiple moodboards for various tasks: reference collection, refining raw sketches, etc. Finalized boards can be merged together later if needed.


Worldbuilding

You cannot underestimate the importance of the setting and game environment. World aspects must be set in stone in pre-production. Will it be vast open fantasy landscapes or mostly minimalistic corridor spaces? Or maybe a mix of both? Come up with rules of player-environment interactions and integrate them into the level design to add more structure to the game. The starting point, however, should always be the environment. Answering these questions can help you:
  • Where the action takes place?
  • What climate/geography the in-game world has?
  • Who inhabits the area, and what culture do they have?

Level design

A great and detailed game environment must be accompanied by a good level design. Otherwise, all your worldbuilding efforts will go to waste. Level design adds immersion points and lets players engage in the process fully. Plan the strategy for map layouts, objects to fill the space with, and milestones along the way. Level design gives you an excellent understanding of the scope and size of the game.

Characters

Any world will look dead without inhabitants and various forms of life. While it won’t be a huge problem to fill the environment with representatives of flora and fauna, designing primary characters for the story is a major undertaking. Work on a character design starts with a bunch of bitty ideas, possible traits, and plot suggestions. Some of them might work, many will be rejected. The process will take time and dozens of sketches, concept art pieces, and reiterations.

Character design vs. environment design

Apart from drawing skills, artists must have specific mindsets that allow them to excel in different departments. That is why most creators choose to go for one of these specializations: character design, environment visualization, or prop making. The last category covers all objects you see in games – weapons, furniture, machinery, vehicles, and other minor 2D art for games. As for character and environment designs – let’s talk a bit more in detail.

Without a character of some sort, it is almost impossible to write a solid story for a game. Each character must have a background, specific traits and play a certain role in the script. While the last aspect is entirely up to writers, the first two belong to artists who define how the character will look, move, and react with facial expressions. It takes a tremendous amount of skill and talent to convey the nature of a 2D character. There are also specific 2D game art tutorials that explain useful techniques which can be used to make two-dimensional heroes livelier.

Our 2D artists, for example, complete a full cycle on each individual character, starting from collecting references, drawing concepts and sketches, adding details, textures, and painting. This approach allows us to produce memorable 2D characters with personalities and souls. We genuinely believe that compelling personas draw attention to the game and improve immersion. In addition, well-drawn and original characters can catch the audience from the first glance.

Environmental 2D artists dedicate themselves to creating virtual worlds and their parts, including landscapes and architectural objects. The main elements of environment design are points of interest, lights, silhouettes, and composition. Arranging compositions with only two dimensions is all about creating general views of buildings and natural sceneries. Lighting and colors make environments more believable.

When talking about 2D game art, we must not forget that environments also must have an interior design. All those buildings and points of interest must look equally good outside and inside. Different shapes, lights, colors, and visual hierarchy rules should be used to achieve this. Correct implementation of grids and assets enables 2D artists to conjure breathtaking environments that excite the audience and motivate people to explore the world.

The art style factor

One day Walt Disney invited four of his artists to a park and told them to draw a tree. When the artists asked him in what style they should do it, the answer was simple: “Yours.” So each of these professionals drew the tree in their own style. To clarify an important bit here – it was the same tree, but none of the artists saw it the same way.

As you already guessed, the results were far from being similar. One of the participants focused on the heavy monumental branches and came up with an overall silhouette in the shape of the main body. Colors were not the factor as the painting was in black-and-white. The next guy went full abstract on the job. Realistic shapes didn’t matter for him – he just wanted a tree: beautiful, colorful, almost otherworldly.

The third painter took the photorealistic path. He drew the tree’s trunk only because he believed it contained most of the plant’s details. His goal was to convey to viewers just how intricate and beautiful the tiniest details of the wood really are. It is ancient, full of history, wise, and strong. The last painter blended the tree into the environment, making it connected with the world around.

If you look at each painting, you will immediately understand who sees the world in black-and-white, which guy likes to see the bigger picture vs. the artists who are into details. And which one goes beyond traditional painting.
This simple yet brilliant experiment shows that every creator has their own art style. If you are a professional, your art style will naturally adjust itself in order for you to realize your vision for any project you face. What part of the reference picture catches your eye? On which elements would you spend more time during recreation? How important are the colors for you? And the environment? Answering all these questions lets you determine the peculiarities of your art style. You will understand how you see things, how you create 2D game art, and, most importantly, how you share the vision with other people.

When others see your art, they can easily decide whether you prefer focusing on one small thing at a time or want to be aware of everything simultaneously. People can tell if an artist likes to keep things simple in general or organize drawings in clear black-and-white. Such subtle factors define one’s art style and it becomes especially noticeable when you create 2D art for games.

Most popular digital art techniques

Apart from actual drawing with software tools, CG-art encompasses a variety of other techniques. Some of them are more popular than others, and which one to use depends entirely on the artist and the task at hand. The most commonly-accepted techniques to create 2D game art include:
  • Photography – original shots made on a digital camera often undergo different modifications such as changing colors, lighting adjustments, saturation, and so on.
  • Photo painting – with this method, some photos can be transformed into new unique art pieces by painting atop the original image but preserving its general layout.
  • Digital collaging – the process of layering multiple images in one frame and combining them into original art.
  • Digital painting – any artwork that is created with digital painting tools and popular editing software like Photoshop.
  • Vector drawing – uses vector graphics that is based on lines, shapes, points, and curves constructed with mathematical formulas.
  • Algorithmic – this technique also relies on mathematical computations to create artwork. The algorithm serves as a detailed plan for the machine to execute in order to draw required shapes. May includes complex functions and expressions.
  • Mixed media – simply any combination of multiple digital art techniques like those mentioned above.

Conclusion

In the end, comes the question of whether it is reasonable to hire someone to create 2D game art for your project or do it yourself. It depends on your goals, ambitions, and resources (including human ones). If you lack certain skills (specialists) in some departments or your creative team is overwhelmed with tasks, then looking for an outside art producer would be a smart move.

Furthermore, professional design studios like Argentics can also take on whole projects under your guidance. Things like consulting, calculating, and project management are covered as well. Plus, you won’t have to worry about recruiting new people for the job.

Should you choose us to work on your game, check our extensive portfolio that proves we are the team for any art job! Argentics cooperated with many game studios and independent developers who asked us to make 2D designs, game assets, and concepts.
Ukraine / USA / Israel
© 2021 Argentics. All Rights Reserved.
in