If you’re like me, you’re a terrible artist. You’ve never taken art classes, and when you were a kid people couldn’t tell if you were trying to draw a person or a genetically mutated worm. Let’s face it: you stink at making art for games.
That leaves you with a big decision: do you try to learn how to make good art, or do you shovel out the big bucks to hire a professional to make art for you? (For example, they say a good bit of Jonathan Blow’s $200,000 budget for Braid was spent on art alone) For most of us indie devs, option two simply isn’t possible, but option one seems like absolute insanity. The truth be told, trying to learn how to make your own game art is insanity. The good news? You’re an indie game developer! You’re already crazy!
When it comes to making art for your game, I personally feel that pixel art is the perfect place to start. It’s small, which always means easier. It’s also quite simple a lot of times, which makes it good for experimenting and learning different techniques. This will lead into later art developments which will be to your benefit. Don’t get me wrong: it is going to be challenging. But you just may pull it off! So here are some pointers to help you increase your art skills.
1. Look at reference works! Google “pixel tree” in image search. You will be amazed how many pixel trees – and different types of pixel trees – are out there for you to examine. Take a look, get some ideas, then try to make it yourself. Below is an example of a grass/stone tile I’m using in Super Mega Bob. I used about five different reference materials to put together my concept of how to pull it off.
Yeah, I know. . . it’s so beautiful it moves you to tears!
2. Draw every time you get a chance! I teach at a private school all day long before I get to pursue my game making dreams in the evenings. As a result, I have a beautiful whiteboard at my disposal just about all the time. Not only do I doodle on it when I get the chance during the day, I also make doodles in class to better explain what I’m teaching. My skills and confidence increase, and sometimes the students even tell me it actually looks nice. Believe it or not, all that drawing/building of confidence really helps!
3. Be open to criticism! Let’s face it, we’ve all sat somewhere and had our imaginary interview with IGN about what it took to become an amazing indie game developer. We worked, we toiled, we made one game, put it online, and the people immediately flocked to us like cows to grass because – let’s face it – we’re an amazing indie developer. For those of you that have already released a small indie title, you know that such is not the case. And many developers have trouble taking negative criticism. Welcome! It’s part of the industry. Some people will love your work, and others will give you extremely valuable criticism which you can use to make the game better. Be open!
I hope you can learn a little bit about making better pixel art from this blog. Please take the chance to subscribe to the RSS, follow on Twitter, like the FB page, and stay in touch with Jenito! I’ll talk at ya’ later