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Becoming an Artist

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#1 Vincent_M   Members   


Posted 19 March 2013 - 07:07 PM

I'm a programmer trying to like more about graphic art so I can draw sprites for my RPG. I'm aiming for something along the lines of Final Fantasy II for PSP:




I'm totally new at this though, so I'm not sure where I should get started. Should I start with a vector art program like Adobe Illustrator, or draw everything rasterized in PhotoShop/GIMP? Btw, what is better when I'm starting off? PS, or GIMP? Does anyone know of any good tutorials online or books I should order to learn?

#2 Prinz Eugn   Members   


Posted 19 March 2013 - 08:39 PM

I am in the process of writing an article about this very thing, actually... that's not helpful to you right this second, though.


Paper and pencil are best when starting off. To be very good, you have to practice a lot and that's easiest to do the old fashioned way. Even if you aren't planning on being a professional artist, it's a really good idea to draft everything multiple times on paper before committing to a design. You can even scan or take a picture of the final version to use as a base for your sprites.


Photoshop is good if you can get it, but GIMP is free and not very different in terms of capabilities these days. Inkscape I believe is the vector equivalent of GIMP: http://inkscape.org/. I would Inkscape and GIMP and see which one you like better.


The original FFII is pixel art, but that version looks like they made large raster versions and scaled them down. It's definitely not Vector art, although if you're just starting that might be easier to work with if you're willing to have a pretty different style. Here's a pretty good tutorial on getting art done fast (raster): http://www.gamedev.net/page/resources/_/creative/visual-arts/better-programmer-art-r2594.


I just got this book last week: http://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Basics-Video-Game-Art/dp/0823098478/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363745212&sr=8-1&keywords=drawing+game+art. I think it's probably as good an introduction to drawing as any, although I think any book or tutorial is inherently limited since getting better depends completely on you actually practicing. It's a good reference, anyway.


Good luck! I'll let you know when I finish my article, you sound exactly like my target audience!

Edited by Prinz Eugn, 19 March 2013 - 08:39 PM.

-Mark the Artist

Digital Art and Technical Design
Developer Journal

#3 sunandshadow   Members   


Posted 19 March 2013 - 09:36 PM

I second pretty much everything Prinz Eugn says - that example is raster, which Gimp is the appropriate free software for, and Photoshop is the similar expensive software for, though Paint Tool Sai is also growing in popularity (I think the full version of that is pay too).  Gimp actually has a more handy animation preview feature, IMO.  I also agree that if you're willing to go with a slightly more cartoony style, vector art would work fine and probably be faster, and it's friendly to people who don't have fine motor control developed by years of drawing practice.  Inkscape is the free software that I personally use to do vector art.  There are very few capability differences between Inkscape and Illustrator, and a huge price difference.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.

#4 BagelHero   Members   


Posted 20 March 2013 - 04:16 AM

Agreed fully with the above, and adding:

I have Paint Tool SAI. It's more of a sketching and quick painting program, and I would not suggest its use for most game assets.

It has a binary pen that's fabulous for pixel art, and interlaced (transparent) PNGs can be saved using it. Those are pretty much its only pros when it comes to in-game assets... But it lacks an animation preview tool, as well as every single Photoshop image editing tool apart from brightness/contrast and Hue/Sat. As I said, great for painting and sketching, not so for finished assets.

I highly suggest going for Photoshop if you can get access. Last time I touched it, GIMP was still quite pale in comparison. The Animation preview is a plus in its favor for raster sprites, however.


Go for Photoshop if you can get access at all.
If not, GIMP, it being very similar to PS.
Lastly, SAI if you want to play with freehand, since it's cheap (roughly $20-$40) but still good and works for sprites.


But software aside, look for lots of tutorials for good pixel art practices (I.E., "Don't pillow-shade"), and just do more art and small-scale life-studies. It's really the best way to get better, even if you can't put in too much time because it's not where your career aspirations lie.

Good luck!

#5 Rakilonn   Members   


Posted 20 March 2013 - 06:12 AM

If you really want to be an artist and work on PC, you should take a graphics tablet. Drawing with the mouse on PC is really a pain even when you are a good artist. Wacom is well known for that and they have a tablet for beginners : the "Bamboo" model. Don't take a huge one. I took one and I only use a small portion of it.

Of course, as it has been said you can also draw on paper and scan the drawing to color it.

The best pixel art tutorial I found, is this one : http://makegames.tumblr.com/post/42648699708/pixel-art-tutorial

For pixel art there is also this website : http://www.pixeljoint.com/default.asp (go in the gallery and enjoy smile.png )

Here is my advises :

Try to build your drawing with basic forms like a line for the vertebral column and a oval for the head.
Something like this :

Found on http://www.foxprints.com/tracy/misc/tutorial/char_drawing.html

You can use his basic forms, they are very good and common.

It's important for anyone because if you constantly start with the details, you will realize that you will not be able to draw something with an original position/point of view.

Learn how to draw something with the perspective.

Learn anatomy and proportions.

Copy shamelessly your favorite artists BUT always start with the basic shapes (as mention above) or you will learn barely nothing.

And of course draw a lot.



When you are comfortable with these points (especially the anatomy) you must take a big book of Burne Hogarth.

This artist has an old style sometime, but it will give a real deep knowledge about anatomy and muscles (and how to draw them properly).

Edited by Rakilonn, 20 March 2013 - 06:35 AM.

#6 Vincent_M   Members   


Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:51 AM

I've been playing around with GIMP, and it's interesting. I'd like to find more resources on how to draw things from scratch though. Such as in-depth video tutorials, but haven't found many for total beginners on YouTube or Vimeo yet. Then again, if they were easy, I'm sure many programmers like me would have been through those videos, and I would have heard about them by now lol.


I have started drawing things on paper, so I totally agree, I think that's a good starting point! It's also fun and a break from the computer. Then, I can scan it in. I'm thinking about playing around with Inkscape since I had the opportunity to take a graphic arts class using Illustrator back in high school (when it was CS2). I had some success, but being able to trace in a vector-art program where things are easier to modify would be nice.


One turn-off I have about rasterized art programs is the lack of exactness I seem to have. For example, if I want to draw a 32x32 square outline with a 4-pixel thickness, it seems that I just have to drag out a 32x32 square in GIMP, and pray it's exactly 32x32. I haven't learned how to make exact selections (if even possible), although I did learn that there's ways to align selections once they're made!


When I was really young, I used to pick up drawing books for things like cartoon characters, dinosaurs and airplanes. The first few steps were always pretty basic, and basic shapes like loosely-looking circles, etc. Kind of like Rakilonn's image shows above. I get the part about setting up a frame as a reference point in the beginning, but they how do I go about removing those lines? Do I erase them over time, or do I draw a skeleton on one page, then put a new page over it, and see through it?


I believe I need to look into a basic drawing book :)



Thank you all for the suggestions!

#7 sunandshadow   Members   


Posted 21 March 2013 - 03:39 PM

You draw the drawing right onto the mannequin if you are doing it on paper.  Then you scan that in and on a new transparent layer you "ink" a clean copy of the lines.  If you are using a painting style you don't ink, instead you paint areas of color on the new layer over the lines.  Blend Option: Multiply or whatever it's called in gimp can allow a bottom layer of lines to show through upper layers of opaque color as a guide while you are working.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.

#8 / rouncer   Members   


Posted 26 March 2013 - 10:29 AM

Palette colour selection makes a huge difference in quality you get at the end also, experiment with all sorts of gradients, red to blue- green to cyan - yellow to purple, etc etc, dont forget to adjust saturation too as a grade to greyish can look nice.


Then, if you want it like final fantasy, its a matter of pixel by pixel at low resolution, try crafting some small ones first, cause youll find them easier, then work your way up to doing whole 320x200 screens.

#9 TheSasquatch   Members   


Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:22 AM

The original FFII is pixel art, but that version looks like they made large raster versions and scaled them down.


Kind of off topic, but I've been thinking about this for a week and can't resist: that new version looks terrible. They increased resolution without adding much (if any) detail to the sprites; they're imitating the conventions(?) of low-res spriting (the character poses, facial features, etc.) with all the technical limitations that originally required those conventions removed, and the result just isn't good IMO. If you want examples of good pixel art--communicating as much detail as possible in an extremely limited number of pixels--you'll have to go back a few generations, i.e., to the original releases of FFI-VI. Personally, I'm a big fan of the 2D Castlevania games as well, but that's a different style entirely.

#10 riuthamus   Moderators   


Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:11 PM

Honestly the purpose of them can overlap but the tools are very different in use. Vectors can come close to achieving what you want but you have to know how vectors work. ( this is a complex process if your brain does not work in that way ) Adobe is more like painting as you put down some color and go with it. You have thousands of colors to work with and creating realistic blends can be done with a fair ammount of ease. Vectors, on the other hand, tend to be selected regions for highlights, some form of gradiant to give the effect of realistic shadowing, and they normally have a limited color pallet. It really depends on the type of art you want


Vector Stuff:

Game UI

Splash Screens

Chibi Art

Comic Art

Logo Design

Scalable Art

Typography Art


Rastersized Stuff:

Game UI ( not as scalable as vector )

Splash Screens ( more complex )


Realistic Art

Photo Manipulation

Logo Design ( for more detailed ones )

Special Effects


So, to answer your question... either or. It just depends on the art style you like and what others feel is needed. There are plenty of indie games that use a form of vector art. Most Game UI's for tripple A companies are a mix of both so you could get a job there... but if you want to work with realistic stuff you will not use a vector system as it does not lend well to such an effect.

Edited by riuthamus, 26 March 2013 - 01:12 PM.

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