So they say there are no rules when it comes to art, but in this case I’m going to be the guy who says there are. It’s not ok to be so militant about everything as you never know what’s going to be the next thing, however over the past 5 years there’s been an increase in demand for video games with a higher technical level, including the mobile market (for certain types of hardcore/midcore games). You only have to look at games like “Hearthstone”, “Clash Royale” or “Mobile Legends” to realize this.
We’re not about to start judging a game on how well or badly it’s been drawn in the store, in this case, what we mean by the “technical level” is your ability to justify the choices you make when creating the artwork to promote your video game. Why you pick one color over another, why saturate or desaturate the background, what is the reason behind an unfocused area, a certain shape of an object or even why move that thing a little to the left… etc.
Basically, you have three aspects to play with in order to create striking and easy-to-understand icon art for the store: COLOR, VALUE and COMPOSITION. The synergies between them will enable you to achieve a cool looking piece of artwork without needing to have a top notch technical level.
One of the first choices you`ll make about color, as many of you will know already, is to set your art apart from similar games on the store by using a different background color or general tone for your games’ icons. Having said this, you`ll need to take into account factors like the psychology of color or color in relation to the objective of your game.
Vibrant colors and pseudo realistic light behaviour
We can thank studios like Blizzard for this way of interpreting colors for games. They seem to have taken inspiration from the 80s, they took out the tackiness, and then exploited the striking parts . This way of interpreting colors works relatively well in the mobile market and it has to be understood in parallel with real light and color behavior (in the case of our game being more “realistic”, of course).
There are some shortcuts that can be unintuitive at first sight but they`ll give plenty of life to the colors we use, they’ll make the light more vibrant and give them warmth so they ‘ll attract our attention more.
Something curious about these cases (as a little example of the many combinations that we can use) is that mid, bright and dark tones have almost the same values, however midtones are more saturated and we use white not only for lighting but also to add tones of yellows, greens or reds.
Shades and balance
Here is where color and composition have their first synergy.
On the one hand, we should be able to synthesize a composition of 3, 4 or up to 5 basic colors, and make sure that they are well-balanced, for example, the most saturated colors should take up the least surface area on the artwork.
Colors like black, grey and white are not so relevant in order to verify color balance in our artwork.
On the other hand, it is important to know where to place a color in the composition and why. In most cases, it is convenient to balance a color by placing it on both sides of the composition but with variations in the space in between. Unless we want to achieve a certain feeling, like confrontation, where the color of one side could be isolating the other one in order to accentuate it. Or perhaps we want to focus the attention on one detail so then the color should be placed on that focal point.
Values are the most important aspect (even more so than color!), which allow us to create this type of art,. However, we’re going to take a more global and basic approach to them because to master the correct measure of light in a composition is another issue, which is far more complicated than what we are discussing here.
In this case we are going to use the composition as an excuse to justify basic values, creating a loop in which the local tones determines them and then the values determine the colors and composition, and finally the composition determines the local tones. This way the user’s brain puts less effort into trying to understand the image and therefore much easier to visualize and retain.
We differentiate each element of the illustration with 5 basic local tones, therefore creating depth, making it easier to interpret and also obtaining a better planning process.
Composition and balance tips
Do not forget to play with thirds or fractions of five in order to compose a scene or a design. Praise be Fibbonacci!
Just like colors, shapes can also be perceived in different ways from a psychological perspective, so remember to take this into account when you want to express something.
Visual narrative can be the difference between the user seeing one of your images or all of them. Make sure that screenshots of the directions (of the different scenes) help the user to advance to the next one, avoiding vertical obstacles and trying to include fewer directions to the left than to the right (if we are following the Western style of reading, of course).
As you can see, making cool and striking artwork, without being tacky or extremely picky, is just a matter of knowing which aspects to put into play and being able to justify your decisions.
To sum up, the overall impact of the image is more important than the finer detail of the artwork.
So our advice is to get planning first!