Jul 5, 2018 IN Art

Art Tutorial: How to create game assets

Klaudia Bulantová
Visual Artist

Let's do a fictional graphical task for Diggy’s Adventure! It’s an adventure type of a game where we can cross reality with fantasy. And since this game has already a distinct style, we will learn also how CG artists work when there is already an established art style in a game you are creating assets for.

When creating any type of graphics for games, it is essential first to define what our task is.

What is it we want to create? And what is the function of this particular asset that we are creating?

We have a specific decorative type of assets in Diggy’s Adventure which every player can keep inside their camp area. We want to create just that! Something with which players decorate their individual play fields, their own campsite they hold dear! And since Diggy celebrated his birthday not so long ago (it’s already been 6 years, congratulations!), we will do something that is a must for every adventurer!

So, our answers to the two crucial questions are at hand:

We want to create a decorative asset that players can put into their camps with the topic of Diggy’s birthday!

There is a lot of options how we can create our asset. Each can be fun or a challenge to create depending how we handle the task. But nothing can go wrong if we stay systematic about our process. So, let's break it down to simple parts:

  • Research
  • Brainstorm
  • Sketch
  • Render


Research

First, when there is a blank canvas in front of me, I usually start with some research right away. To start from completely nothing can be discouraging, so let’s make our work space a bit more inspiring by searching for ideas that represent what we are about to create.

1

Gather as many visual references as you can that go well with your assignment. It can be anything from material close ups, scenes from movies... anything that will set up the right mood! But don’t get too crazy, too much ideas can be overwhelming and there’s still a lot to do here, so focus! ;)


Brainstorm

After you’ve gathered your ideas, think what is connecting them. You probably started putting your mental puzzle pieces already together while doing the research. You might have started an inner monologue thinking, what is it that could make an adventurer really happy, what is the perfect birthday present for somebody that risks their lives on a daily basis?

While I was working on this assignment, I figured out there is no adventurer on his way through jungle or a desert cutting their way through to get to the legendary temple of forgotten Gods without a backpack!

In any case of danger, they can work their way through! So yes, a backpack it is!


Sketch

Sketching is the best part where you can put your brains into how to make it work best. And of course, we cannot leave out the restrictions for each illustration that go for game assets. For example, this asset cannot be more that 120px tall and wide but it still has to be impressive enough to catch your eye and be ‘readable’ even in such small size so that you know what it is you are looking at.

2

This is something every artist struggles with but it can also be liberating for your process! When you are forced to reduce your options, you usually figure out even more creative and clever ways to do what you want with what you currently have.

For instance, you will build your shapes more consistently with clear intention because you don’t have a big canvas to express your idea of the most complicated adventurer’s backpack that the world has ever seen! But you will figure out the best shape possible to capture the essence of a perfectly clear backpack even if you zoom out and in!

There is just not much that can go wrong with this magical artist’s formula: if it’s readable and clear in small scale, it will definitely be working in big scale! And if you have clean shapes, you can always add details. However, it doesn’t work the other way around. ;)


Render

We can apply the same rule as for sketching. Build your asset from big to small. Prepare your flat colors and adjust them accordingly. What colours symbolise what we need to depict the best? How can we get a nice, balanced palette? What type of lighting are we about to use?

3

Then render step by step. Try to work out the whole image at once. Avoid concentrating on one detail while leaving the rest loose. It can trick you to feel that you are unable to finish it since one part is super rendered and the other is almost flat, it’s irritatingly unmatching and you’ll spent a lot of time getting it right. Work with discipline and calm your urge to do the most desired details (we all want to do that, trust me:D)!

When rendering, use your research material or create new visual board where you gather only materials of same light conditions or study the materials of what you need to paint to depict the right type of texture.

4

And of course, at the final stage there is a space for details where anything you add is only 5% of the overall image. It will not change your asset drastically, but it will give it the nice extra touch!

So, there you go! Basics of how we do our assets for Diggy’s Adventure. Good luck creating your own ideas!