Learning to Draw Concept Art

Before the game comes the concept. While Eric is busy working on the game’s backbone – the climbing mechanics – I’m trying to learn how to draw environments. The trick, as I’m discovering, is to make a scene evocative of the feel you’re seeking for but still done quickly.

Truth is I’ve never been incredibly skilled with drawing. My best work has always been with lineart, like the webcomic I did for a while in college. But now that the game needs art assets more complex that simple geometric objects – as in Shaped – my skills have got to be stretched and improved. Like I told Eric, the trick is finding a style complex enough to bring across what you’re interested in, but simple enough that you can do it quickly and easily. And consistently. I’m terrified that somehow the elements of the game aren’t going to fit together. Phil Phish talked about that problem in the Indie Game movie, he ended up redoing half his art in a grueling process so that it all meshed together correctly.

The above picture is clearly a concept work of a concept work – just a playground for me to experiment with various techniques. One of them is using varied-opacity layers to draw receding walls, as you can see on both sides. The other is messing around with soft and hard shapes. The foreground is dark and fairly hard, but I’ve learned that an environment looks more complex when light is subtly shifting, as in the background. The water effect I experimented with is total crap – still going to have to learn more about that. I’m fairly happy with the rays of light breaking into the cave.

I get the impression that I’m learning… which is good, I hope.


For the heck of it, I’m throwing in our current backdrop, where you can see me attempting to figure how to light stone.