How to Sketch Game Assets
In this video, you will learn how to create
game assets using a sketch-like process. There are 2 approaches a game artist can take
to build assets or slap down ideas on the canvas: drawing contours and painting shapes.
Both are valid methods that can lead to the same results. Picking either one is a matter
of taste. Someone who sketches with a pen will feel comfortable sketching on the computer.
A painter will probably feel more efficient painting. You can also choose to use both! Anyway, today, we are only speaking of the sketch approach. Before we talk about drawing, let’s talk about graphic tablets. To sketch on the computer,
you want to be using a pen or graphic tablet. For starters, a graphic tablet enables you
to hand draw images on the computer in a similar way to drawing with pen and paper. There are
tablets that you can place flat down on your desk, like this Intuos4. And there are expensive
screen tablets that you can directly draw on. I have a 13” cintiq myself right here. If you have never owned a tablet before, you should start with a cheap Wacom bamboo or
Intuos. Pick one with an A5 drawing surface at least. In my experience, screen tablets
are only worth the investment if you draw a lot. If you paint digitally instead, you
will likely be better off with a regular, cheaper tablet.
If you can’t afford a tablet or you want to create game assets using your mouse, it
is still possible! However, it is hard to draw with a mouse. You will be better off
using a vector software like Illustrator or Inkscape. Let us make a cute character as a game asset
example. The first step is to establish the pose and
proportions of our character. We can start using a big brush size to prevent us from
getting caught up with the details. I start with a curve that represents the spine and
vertical flow of the character’s pose. The character’s head, chest and center of mass
will most of the time be placed along that curve. You can also start with the head if it works better for you After that, I often add the axes that represent the orientation of the shoulders and of the
pelvis. You can draw from that idea and establish the broad orientation of all limbs using a
simple curve. That way, you can focus on establishing the pose and balance of your character. It
is also fast to do, so you can quickly experiment with many poses!
The next step is to add the big shapes and to define the size of your character’s limbs.
I will come back to proportions in future videos, as they can vary a lot from realistic
human beings to mobile game characters. Here, I’m going for a multiplatform browser type
of game. I want to focus the player’s attention on the character’s upper body. I’m giving
it a prominent head, and I exaggerate its torso and belly to give it more weight.
Now that we have nailed down the structure of our character, we want to plot its main
features. We want to detail its facial features, its clothing, its hair… still with loose
and light strokes. Once we roughed out the whole drawing, we can start inking our character. Inking is the process of taking the rough sketch, and drawing over it in order to produce
clean lines. Inking is not a passive job though. We are not supposed to only draw over the
initial sketch. We are supposed to reinforce the design of the character with our strokes.
Actually, in the comic book or animation industry, this is a job in itself.
In game art, we generally want to draw each limb on individual layers as closed shapes
to make it easier to fill later. That is what I am doing at the moment with this little
astronaut. The idea is that the strokes you put on the
canvas actually bear meaning: a thick stroke reinforces a certain area of your drawing.
For example, you can emphasize your character’s head using a thicker stroke. The curvature
of your lines also matter: flat lines tend to convey a sense of steadiness and solidity.
Curves, on the other hand, create a sense of flow or movement. But I will come back
to those concepts in future tutorials dedicated to drawing. For now, we are just going to focus on creating clean, closed shapes. We simply go over our
initial sketch one limb after the other. And don’t be afraid to redo your strokes multiple
times! We cannot always get them right at the first trial. Once we have our character’s outline, we can use it to fill in our character’s shapes.
In Photoshop, we cannot use the fill tool to fill our shapes in a clean way. To fill
the shapes, I use the Magic wand tool, which you can access using the W Key. I then expand
the selection and fill it using the alt delete key combination. This is a shortcut to fill
the selection with the foreground color. To make the filling process faster, I have made
a simple action that expands and fills a selection for me. All we have left is to repeat the process until all shapes are filled. Sometimes, it
is not enough to expand the fill. This can leave some visible gaps in our layer! In those
cases, we have to fill the area using the brush tool. We have one last step to tackle: shading the character. To do so easily, I lock the alpha
of all layers. I then simply pick the basic round brush. Then, I select a shadow color
using the color picker. And I paint each limb one by one until the whole character is shaded.
Sometimes, I also use clipping masks to add gradients or details that deserve their own
layer. Overall, you can see that the process is relatively
straightforward: you are supposed to draw like you would draw on paper. This means at
least 2 things: For one, I recommend that you don’t zoom
on your canvas, even if you have trouble drawing precise lines at first. You never want to
get caught focusing a single area or on useless details until you nailed the big picture.
Secondly, you are generally going to redraw your assets multiple times. Even professional
animators and comic book artists or game artists draw in multiple passes. They start with many
rough drawings that they ink much later. A quick tip with sketching in general: you
have to keep in mind that you draw using a whole chain of muscles, from your forearm
to your chest. When you start drawing, those muscles need about 15 to 30 minutes to warm
up. During that phase, your line quality will certainly be relatively bad! Or at least under
your capacities. So keep drawing! That’s it for this video! If you liked it
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