Choosing the art style for a game, pt. 2


Last time I wrote about the struggle to benchmark and analyze my skills when creating 2D background art. I learned that hand-painted 1080p 2D art was laughably slow approach for me and pixel art is sweet, but still cumbersome.

Most of all; I lacked distinctive style due to lack of experience and skills.

I came into a conclusion that:

  1. I should use Blender as much as I could.
  2. After modeling, the picture would have to be transformed into a more painterly look.

And because I like HTML lists, I also learned that to ensure the quality and efficiency, the necessary steps to achieve something described above would require:

  1. As much as simple 3D geometry as possible. This is fast to create before the actual painting-over begins.
  2. Adjust and finish the lighting already in 3D scene. The lighting would be “done” before the painting begins.
  3. Only minimum painting-by-hand would be applied. This means that I’d utilise as much as textures in Photoshop as possible.

But wait a minute! Textures? On top of a 3D model? Surely you jest?! Why not texture the actual model in Blender? And what about the painterly graphics?

This would produce the typical pre-rendered 3D backgrounds such as in Black Mirror games and Syberia which I wanted to avoid. As I like those sort of graphics a lot, this would require lots of work in modeling and with materials and lighting. There is just so much geometry! And I could kiss the painterly look goodbye. And fiddling with UV maps is something I don’t much care for…

I did a lot of testing, and for the sake of sweet lists, this is the workflow I found for myself to be the best. The resolution didn’t actually matter. The output would be almost just as quick to create in 1080p as it would be in something like 320×240.

  1. Model the scene in Blender.
  2. Adjust the sky texture and the lighting in Blender, then render.
  3. Collect some sweet textures to lay over the base render and apply those.
  4. Apply a carefully chosen Photoshop filter and/or do some hand painting to transform the look into a more painterly one.
  5. Add details by hand.
  6. Final adjustments of the image.

The part four was actually giving me shivers and still is pretty loathsome. Pretty much each Photoshop filter is overly used. I’d have to be very very careful. But luckily there are 3rd party plugins that would help me achieve what I want.

I studied a couple of artists I found who employed a somewhat similar approach to creating a piece. I also found out that I’d be able to export line art in Blender with a feature called Freestyle. Eventually, the final image style would be something like in the Borderlands game series. Great! In the next post I’ll show a step-by-step process to create a test image using this method.


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