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Better Programmer Art


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I decided to improve my programmer art. Yep it's atrocious and I find animating characters the most hardest / frustrating. But the act of art making is a nice break from the code and gives the brain a moment of lateral thinking.

Here are a couple scenic backgrounds I did, my flow is to find a creative commons image as reference, reduce the size and palette to any easy 12 colours, trace out structural features, fill them and add shading. Finally I add doodads / furnishings / flotsam.

Staring too long at the images makes it hard to see what seems strange, out of place, or wrong. Know of any neat tips, techniques to share?






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There is a reason people have roles in companies - if your a programmer it might be worth considering focusing just on that and outsourcing the artwork. Critique and improvement is a learning, time consuming and harsh process.


That being said, consider joining an art developer community where you can get meaningful feedback on your work and how to improve than you can get here. If your focus is sprite work find a community focused on that. Read books on the subjects, read about 1,2 and 3 point perspective. Imitate artwork colors from photos or other drawings using a small palette. knowledge of color theory would probably help. You have the internet at your fingertips.


I'm not much of an artist, so take with a grain of salt but here's my critique:


the first two images the colors seem out of place - it doesn't seem realistic or cartoonish, it just seems like you need to keep trying - it can take several attempts. The clouds are mostly a flat color and don't look puffy. There is actually a bit too many flat colors for a sky background - the sky looks more like a gradient if you want to take more of a realistic approach? Look out the window wherever your at at the sky - observe and draw. Sometimes artwork takes a lot of refining to get to looking decent.


The third image is ok I suppose, and the fourth image seems like too much is missing - the angle bothers me because it's flat looking and we see a little bit of structure for a blue building with windows, but we can't see all the building or the sky. There is no sidewalk or grass, it's almost like we are standing on the roof of a building that keeps going up. I can't tell by looking at it if it's a brick building or what it's made of. I see a bicycle and what looks like two garbage cans -- but this image doesn't really catch my eye. The colors are dull - for a game that's not really good unless it was a horror game or something. There is no real focal point to the image, nothing stands out. Is this the message you want someone viewing the image to see? Dull colors, nothing of interest here? Google images for the side of a building or building sprite artwork.


If you want to focus on spritework, you might look into sprite images from DOS or Nintendo games, maybe commander keen series for example.


I suggest you start by observing, then drawing, and imitating, Slowly developing your own style. Hope that helps.

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On 8/9/2016 at 2:21 PM, kbmonkey said:

Staring too long at the images makes it hard to see what seems strange, out of place, or wrong. Know of any neat tips, techniques to share?

Ok, one weird tip for this is ... flip it horizontally or rotate 180 degrees or go black and white and invert it ... the imbalance will be revealed.

That's not to say everything should be balanced, but this trick helps us see what our familiarity has auto-balanced for us.


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Isn't criticism the best, it feels like growing :D Agreed my use of colour is bad, I would say non existent! For your info, my goal is not to become pro, but to improve speed + details in programmer art for those game jams: where you must code and create assets by yourself, from scratch, in 48 hours - *Ludum Dare*.

Thanks all, excellent feedback!

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