Skip to content

2D & 3D Video Game Art Styles + Modern & Popular Ones


The art styles in game refer to all the art in the game’s look, including the characters, lighting, colors, etc. As we all know, some games look different. There are two types of art styles for games, including 2D and 3D games, each with fans. Here, we will define some 2D and 3D video game art styles.

2D and 3D Video Game Art Styles

2D Game Art Styles

In the past, the graphic capabilities of software and hardware were so limited that games had simple shapes and a poor level of detail.

As the technology improved, designers could add much more creativity and variety to their 2D game art. It resulted in many different 2D art styles we see in games today.

2D Pixel Art

Pixel art is one of the most popular video game art styles in the field. Each pixel is a square or basic shape that makes up a tiny part of an object, character or set in a digital image. 

Each object is typically a combination of hundreds or thousands of pixels. Pixel art animation reminds most people of early video games and old times, but it is still trendy.

Some of the games made with modern 2D Pixel Art style are:

  • Minecraft
  • Stardew Valley
  • Undertale
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Papers, Please


  1. Involves manipulating individual pixels to create low-resolution raster images and sprites
  2. Has a nostalgic, retro video game aesthetic
  3. Focuses on precision, planning, and attention to pixel-level detail
  4. Main tools are pixel art programs like Aseprite, Pro Motion, GraphicsGale
  5. Used extensively in classic video games like Super Mario, Pokemon, Zelda
  6. Remains popular for indie and retro games today
game art styles (2D pixel art)
From Pixune portfolio

Vector Art

Vector art is another primary game art style. Artists create vector imagery digitally through special-purpose programs. In this style, images are not split into pixels.

Programs designed for vector art creation rely on mathematical algorithms and store the data and color data in lines, dots, and polygons. Vector art files have a smaller size than pixel-based ones and higher quality when zooming in and out on images.

Any video game artist or game art studio creating vector images can have their style. So, the overall characteristics of vector art are high quality and resolution.

Some of the games made with vector art style are:

  • Monument Valley
  • Don’t Starve
  • Superbrothers
  • Red Alarm
  • The Banner Saga


  1. Uses points, lines, curves, and geometric shapes to create images
  2. Scales infinitely without losing quality
  3. Has a clean, crisp, graphic aesthetic
  4. Created using vector graphics software like Adobe Illustrator
  5. Commonly used for logos, illustrations, technical drawings
  6. Useful for printing, web, UI, UX design, and data visualization

Cutout Art

Cutout art is a style mainly used in animation. This art style in games imitates pictures on paper, cut out, and imported into a new medium. Artists who create cutout art can import a digital asset of a character from real paper cutout art or create it on a computer.

The cutout images remain unchanging, but their positions are changed to show action and motion. State changes are simulated by instantly replacing an image with another cutout.

Some of the games made with cutout art style are:


  1. Created from cut-out shapes, characters and textures
  2. Has a layered, collage look and feel
  3. Scenes created by arranging cutout elements
  4. Retains crisp edges with no blending or gradients
  5. Evokes a handmade, DIY aesthetic
  6. Often made using paper, fabric, felt, or digitally
Cutout game art style

Cel Shading Art

This one is a relatively new game art style with a great influence on the community of game developers and dozens of successful examples. Artists use cel-shading to make 3D models and objects seem 2D, flat, and paper-like.

Imagine you are looking at an object, and it turns into a 3D model. Then, you put the way you see this 3D model from one angle on the paper, with just part of the object visible, and remove the depth. 

It is the method used in cel shading to keep a high level of detail and omit the object’s volume.

Some of the games made with cel shading art style are:


  1. Mimics look of hand-drawn animation cels
  2. Uses stark jumps between light/dark shading
  3. Creates a flat, cartoon-like appearance
  4. No gradients, only solid colors and sharp edges
  5. Gives a 2D feel to 3D computer graphics
  6. Used in animation and stylized 3D games

Monochromatic Art

There is no definition of a monochromatic art style that everyone agrees on. But we usually call an artwork monochromatic when it includes a minimal color palette, including 1 or 2 colors.

However, they use various shades and tints of chosen colors to distinguish between different parts of an image. The most common choice for creating monochromic art is black.

If black is the only chosen color, the artist designs most elements in black and differentiates the rest through white or shades of grey.

Some of the games made monochromatic are:

  • Limbo
  • Badlands
  • Gris
  • Return of the Obra Dinn
  • One Upon Light


  1. Only uses shades of a single color
  2. Varies lightness and saturation of one hue
  3. Can create depth and contrast without color
  4. Evokes a dramatic, moody aesthetic
  5. Allows focus on form, light, and texture
  6. Used effectively in design, photo art, drawing
Limbo (A puzzle-platform video game art style)

Flat Art

Objects, characters, and settings in games designed in a flat style are all presented without volume and depth. Artists designing these games are not dedicated to realism or physics at all.

It means that they have an incredible amount of artistic freedom in their work. Flat designs and models usually have unique looks and no common characteristics unless they borrow them from other video game art styles.

Some of the flat games by the best game art companies are:

  • Journey
  • Downwell
  • Superhot
  • Alto’s Adventure
  • Crossy Road


  1. Omits lighting, shading, and texture
  2. Only uses solid, flat colors without gradients
  3. Has a bold, graphic, and symbolic aesthetic
  4. Reduces elements down to basic shapes
  5. Popular in poster, website, app UI designs
  6. Also seen in paintings, cartoons, anime

Doodle Art

Unlike the other game art styles, doodle art is defined by the actual content of the work and not by specific characteristics resulting in a unique look. 

Doodling is drawing something when your focus is on other things. So, doodle images usually have a strange, abstract, and warped composition. 

Doodles have a collage of unrelated characters and objects that appear together to occupy the available space. Doodles are hand-drawn art at first, then imported as digital assets.

Some of the doodle games are:

  • Doodle Jump
  • Doodle God
  • Scribblenauts
  • Sketch Nation
  • Line Rider


  1. Loose, casual drawing with a playful, improvised feel
  2. Uses scribbles, glyphs, characters, and abstract shapes
  3. Gives a spontaneous, energetic aesthetic
  4. Evokes handwriting, childhood expression
  5. Often created digitally using a tablet or mouse
  6. Used for note-taking, brainstorming, cartoons

3D Game Art Styles

3D games came out ten years after the first 2D games. They soon became such popular that many thought the era of 2D games had ended. 2D games are still popular, but the surprising popularity of 3D game art resulted in a dynamic and exponential improvement in 3D games.

The outcome of this improvement and popularity is too much competition in the 3D gaming market. 


3d game art styles


When creating realistic art, the artist brings graphics to look like reality as much as possible. Almost all top projects come out in this style. The setting, genre, and era can differ. Realism is mainly used in horror and survival games.

Some of the games made using realistic art are:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • The Last of Us Part II
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Uncharted


  1. Depicts subjects as accurately as possible
  2. Aims for a high degree of visual authenticity
  3. Uses accurate lighting, textures, anatomy
  4. Render forms, surfaces, and materials realistically
  5. Applied in games, CG animation, visualizations

Fantasy Realism

The factors that separate this 3D art style from the previous one are its popularity and independence. This style includes any fantasy, science fiction, and steampunk setting that the game producer wants to look realistic, although it is impossible to exist in the real world.

Fantasy realism is also considered as a mobile game art style that is primarily suitable for creating adventure shooters, quests, and action/RPG games. Any game that needs a realistic but unreal setting and imagination without restrictions can be made using the fantasy realism style. This style keeps players interested as it remains fresh and exciting.

Some games made in fantasy realism style are:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Dragon Age
  • Dark Souls
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Shadow of the Colossus


  1. Blends realistic rendering with imaginary/fantasy subjects
  2. Realistic portrayal of fictional creatures, objects, worlds
  3. Brings the impossible to life plausibly
  4. Used in sci-fi, fantasy games and films
  5. Makes the unreal seem tangible and convincing
"Dragon Shield" by Pixune Studios

Low Poly Art

Low poly illustrations usually look like a bunch of triangles. Since each illustration element is created individually in this style, it is famous for its high labour intensity. In low poly, they do not use anti-aliasing, which means each polygon is visible. They also do not use textures and paint each polygon in one color.

The focus in low poly is on the materials and shape of the model and stage lightning. The number of polygons in this type of art often exceeds a million. So the word “low” in the name does not mean that the artwork has a low number of polygons. Gamers usually see low poly game art style mixed with other styles or modified in some way, not in its pure form. 

The complexity of low poly artworks varies, but they are primarily minimal and pure. This style is what artists use in almost all genres, from shooter to strategy, when the most emphasis is on the plot or puzzle, not the graphics.

Some of the games with low poly graphics are:

  • Poly Bridge
  • Firewatch
  • Donut County
  • Celeste
  • Walking Zombie 2


  1. Models created with a low number of polygons
  2. Retains sharp edges rather than smooth surfaces
  3. Creates an angular, faceted look
  4. Evokes early 3D gaming graphics
  5. Used for performance needs or stylistic choices
  6. Gives a minimalist, retro aesthetic


Hand-painted style is known for freehand texture painting. The artist draws all shadows, highlights, and sometimes small details on the texture without geometry. You might think this method is not popular now, but you can see it used in popular games like Dota and Warcraft.

The hand-painted style is most often used in fantasy and strategy games. It is bright enough to engage the player and light enough not to overload the hardware. This style can be biased toward comics, cartoons, or realism if mixed with other styles.

Some of the games with hand-painted graphics are:


  1. 3D models and textures are digitally painted
  2. Maintains visible brush strokes and artist fingerprints
  3. Has an organic, illustrated look
  4. Softer and less photo-realistic rendering
  5. Used in animation, games, and art
  6. Warm, traditional feel compared to full CG


Cartoon or casual art style includes both hand-painted and low-poly options. Sometimes artists draw the textures for such graphics by hand, and sometimes do not use textures. Features of this style are colourfulness, exaggeration of accents, relative simplicity, and non-standard proportions. This style includes many sub-styles, the most famous of which is the voxel style.

Voxel is a kind of 3D pixel art in which everything consists of 3D cubes of the same color. This style is mainly used in simple casual games, puzzles, and games for children. Developing a cartoon game is very fast as developers do not need to stick to realistic standards, and its colorful and clear graphics are an excellent attention grabber.

Some games created using a casual art style are:


  1. Exaggerated shapes, forms, and features
  2. Simple, solid colors rather than detailed textures
  3. Clean lines and bold outlines
  4. Smooth, rounded surfaces
  5. Evokes hand-drawn animation style
  6. Used in stylized games, animated films
  7. Playful, imaginative and expressive

The Most Popular Art Styles for Games

Over time, the popularity of art styles in games may change, influenced by game art trends and player preferences. However, there are several art styles that have gained popularity in the gaming industry, like:

  • Realism
  • Cel-shading
  • Pixel Art
  • Low-Poly
  • Hand-Painted Art

Modern Video Game Art Styles

In the realm of visual game art, modern art includes a wide range of styles that emerged from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. Here are a few prominent modern video game art styles:

  • Minimalism
  • Postmodernism
  • Pop Art
  • Surrealism
  • Abstract Expressionism

How to an Art Style that Fits Your Game?

Here are some tips for choosing an art style that fits your game:

– Consider the game genre and target audience. Certain art styles are more common or expected for different game genres. For example, pixel art for retro platformers or cell-shaded graphics for family-friendly games. Think about what visuals your target players will find appealing.

– Decide on the overall mood and atmosphere you want to create. A lighthearted, cartoonish art style suits a casual or silly game, while a gritty, realistic style fits a serious or intense game. The art should match the tone.

– Look at your game mechanics and gameplay. The art should complement and not conflict with the actual gameplay. For example, minimalist visuals help highlight puzzle mechanics, while lush graphics suit exploration games.

– Factor in your team’s artistic skills and technical capabilities. Avoid art styles that would be too complex or challenging to actually implement with your resources. Go for something achievable.

– Research games with art directions you admire and think would work well. See what styles are currently popular within your genre. But don’t just copy – put your own spin on it.

– Concept some key visuals in different art styles. Bring an artist on board earlier to mock up character designs, environments, UI elements, etc. Compare how each style looks and choose what fits best.

– Consider scalability and versatility. Art that can work across platforms and capabilities is ideal. Test how it translates to low and high resolution.

Bottom Line

The art style is all the visual art we see when playing a game. There are two main types of video game art styles: 2D and 3D. 2D and 3D game art can be created in several different video game art styles based on the genre and type of the game. Every art style in video games carries advantages and disadvantages concerning visual aesthetics, technology, and gameplay. It also intensively affects the game’s immersion and public likability. So, we recommend you decide on your game’s art style after settling on the gameplay, creating an initial prototype, and testing it.


  1. The visuals, examples, and analysis provided are truly captivating. Your article has deepened my understanding of the artistic aspect of video games.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! Your feedback really encourages me.

  2. The article gives a nice high-level perspective on different game art styles. Looking forward to more posts like this!

    • Thank you for the encouraging feedback. Please feel free to suggest any other topics you would be interested in me covering in this conversational format.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let’s start a project together!

Message us and receive a quote in 24 hours