This post first appeared on www.vickiwenderlich.com.
I’ve gotten a couple of questions along the lines of “How do I make art like (X game or Y game) has?” What people really want to know is “How do I make my game art look good and stand out?”
You don’t want to have a clone of a successful game. No matter what you do, it will simply feel like a knockoff (not to mention the copyright issues). However, good games often have a distinctive, appealing style that many gamemakers want to emulate.
What you need to do is create your own look, and the best way to do that is to find artwork that appeals to you and figure out what makes the artwork so good. Then you combine the features you like into new art style.
Here’s how to develop a cohesive, distinctive style for your game:
First: collect screenshots of games with art you adore.
It doesn’t have to be an iPhone game. Flash games, cartoons, websites, pretty much anything that catches your eye and has something about it that fits your game.
Second: analyze what your screenshots have in common
A specific style will have concrete aspects about it that give it it’s characteristic flavor. When you can identify what those things are, you can start incorporating them into your own art.
Things to look at:
- Are they used? How thick?
- Are they a constant width, or irregular?
- How does the stroke color compare with the object color (darker, lighter, less saturated, or more)?
- Are characters created by combining basic, recognizable shapes like ovals and rectangles, or are they organic and irregular?
- Do the shapes have sharp corners and straight lines, or rounded corners and curves?
- What is the overall color scheme of the game: bright, dark, pastel, monochromatic?
- What is the “mood” of the game: eerie, playful, elegant? How do the colors contribute to that mood?
- How do the background colors compare to the foreground colors?
- How are gradients used?
- What are their expressions like? Goofy, mean, realistic, etc.
- Are their features in general oversized, or undersized? Big eyes, tiny feet?
- Are the heads, bodies, and appendages separate, or combined? Do they even have bodies, or just oversized heads?
Source: Drop The Chicken
Third: Choose which features to include in your game’s art style.
You probably won’t want to do everything exactly the way they do, so pick and choose which features you will put into your art. A bold color scheme? Oversized eyeballs and cute, ball-shaped characters? No gradients and a thick stroke?
A couple of tips:
Strokes are your friend.
Almost every good art style will use strokes (I said ALMOST! TocaBoca doesn’t use any and they have a cute, clean style). They define the edges of a form, and the shape they take will contribute to the feel of the app.
Choose a set of rules for your art. It matters less what the rules are than that you stick to them. A cohesive set of art will naturally look better than art with mismatched styles.
Choose a single stroke style, and use it on everything. There’s nothing wrong with a basic 1 or 2 pixel stroke of a darker shade than the inside of the object. Choose a color scheme; tools like Color Scheme Designer or Kuler can help. Decide how you will compose your characters and objects, and use the same basic process for each.
One exception: games will often treat backgrounds differently than the main content (characters, objects and foregrounds). For example, using strokes on the main content and none on the background content.
Background Colors Vs Foreground Colors
One general rule is that backgrounds should be composed of quieter, slightly desaturated colors, while objects and characters in the foreground should be composed of bright, bold colors.
This helps the user understand the distinction between objects he should interact with and the scenery that he can’t affect.
Follow these steps, and you will be well on your way to developing a distinctive style of art for your game. Be creative and explore different options – the best games are unique as well as memorable!
If you have any questions, or more tips, please share them in the comments!