How to Draw 2D Graphics for Games

General / 16 March 2021

This series of articles is primarily intended for those who already have an understanding of how to draw at least on paper, and the persons who want to repurpose and create arts for game development companies. In the first part of this article, we will break down the principles of character building. 

Charismatic characters are the reason why many people start to draw. Often artists do not have a consistent plan of where to start and how to finish.  Let's figure it out together. Stay with us!

When you work on creating a character, it is important to come up with a story for them. You must define:
Who are you drawing? 

Where does he/she/it live?

What time period is it?  

There are two approaches when working with references.

Approach 1.

Once you created the story, draw the character fluently without references. It will allow you to run the story through your vision. Your filter is the most valuable thing in your art. Only after you have no less than ten sketches, refer to references to finalize the character in separate story parts. This, in theory, will give you a perfect character that is not a copy of a copy.

Approach 2.

There are times when after drawing 30+ sketches, you cannot find a good option for finishing. The sketches end up resembling one another and look somehow bleak. In this case, open the references right away, but not the drawings of other artists but real photos, interiors, and so on. Create new things!

Now let’s get down to the practical part of drawing a juicy character with a story of their own. 

The Trick is in the Shape.

Sharp shapes — evil character. Soft shapes — good character. Sharp shapes are about someone artificial, foreign, unusual, uncomfortable. Rounded shapes, on the other hand, are about the organic origin, someone familiar to us. Environment shapes hero. For clarity, we took Hades from the Hercules cartoon. He fits well In his usual environment. His chair is built of sharp shapes. The glass with a creeping reptile only emphasizes his belonging to this habitat.  

When he ascends to Olympus, his image does not correspond to the environment. This is how the viewer understands that he does not belong here. The shapes of the clouds are soft, the colors warm. 

When the hero meets Zeus, we become even more aware of who is who. Zeus is a round-shaped nice guy who lives on Olympus. Even without knowing the history of the characters from books, the visual makes it clear to us, who is good and who is not. 

If you remove color, details and leave only the shape, the characters will still be guessed. As you can see, they have a common background. 

Rounded lines at the level of perception seem more pleasant than angular ones. This is why it is crucial to immediately work out the the character’s story to understand which silhouette is better to choose. If the character’s silhouette is hardly distinguishable from others, reconsider their design. Check yourself and simplify the forms like in the picture above. 

Do not forget that every shape narrates its own story. The next step is the complication. There are three basic shapes: circle, square, and triangle. 

Traditionally, the triangle shape is perceived as evil, dangerous, sharp. The round shape is good and soft. The square one is stable, strong, and tough. The character’s image can be revealed better as the game progresses, but its perception by a person, nevertheless, comes first.

As you can see in the example, you can transform any of these shapes, but the image still must be guessed. 

Let's summarize:
Work from general to specific. 

Always develop your character’s story.

Make sketches in a way you like. 

Before you start to draw, make it clear whether the character is good or evil.

Choose the right shape. 

Good luck!