5 tips for aspiring 2D game artists

Greetings, fellow alpacas!

Art is the first thing you notice when you see a game. Whether it’s a nightmare-filled shooter or a cute and bubbly puzzle game, art draws the player in and creates a complete, engaging experience. Do you want to be a 2D game artist? Our Art Director Chester Ocampo shares with us his five top tips on what makes a good mobile game artist. Check them out!


1. Know how to use the right tools

Any game artist must be knowledgeable in the following software:

  • Digital art creation software that can output the necessary image file formats for the game engine, such as Adobe Photoshop (what we use here at Altitude), Corel Painter, SAI, Manga Studio etc.
  • For integration and animation of those 2D assets, we use Unity

Several tutorials are available online for both digital art (specifically, game art) and Unity; you can find plenty on the Internet with a little bit of digging. Here are a few to start:


2. Observe and apply art fundamentals


Anatomy, perspective, light and shade, color theory, composition, contrast, emphasis — the unsexy textbook side of art, you still need it. A 2D game artist is expected to have working knowledge of all these, to be able to draw anything (body-building cats, space freighters, you name it) because our medium (games) can have anything! Observing the latest visual trends and analyzing other artworks’ techniques are also important, as these cultivate personal and commercial artistic sensibilities.


3. Have a wide range of styles


Mobile games come in all shapes and sizes. As artists, our job is to represent each game appropriately. An art style that looks good for an action game may not look good for a bubble shooter. A resource-management game with minimalist characters might need more bling in its user interface. Flexibility in executing different art styles for each mobile game is necessary to be an effective 2D game artist.


4. Be prepared to make lots and lots of rough drafts


Getting the right design — whether it’s for characters, weapons, or items — is not a quick process. A winning design is one that satisfies the gameplay function, and of course, looks good while doing so. To arrive at the right design faster, our artists are trained to quickly churn out rough, low-cost concept sketches so that we find out early what works and what doesn’t. We use a “fail fast” iterative process, using quick and rough sketches, before committing to a polished, final execution.


5. There is no such thing as “final”

A piece of game art is only as “final” as our deadlines allow. We polish and refine artwork as much as we can before the game is released into the wild. Depending on schedule, product priorities, and player feedback, we clarify and polish some of the graphics further. This is one of the advantages of modern game development where a live product can still be improved through updates (and not just wait for the sequel).

That said, we try to stick to the priority list for polish, which is sometimes difficult because we want to touch all of the things! So, do you think you have what it takes to break into the industry as a game artist? Head on to our Jobs page and send your portfolio!

Posted in 5 tips, Blog, Game Development.