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2D & 3D Game Art Styles

The art styles in the 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 game art styles, including 2D and 3D games, each with fans. Here we will define 2D and 3D art and introduce some 2D and 3D game art styles.

Table of Contents

What Is 2D Art?

2D, or 2-dimensional art, is generally associated with flat shapes and objects. By two dimensions, we mean width and height. Anything we draw on paper is 2D because it only has width and height. 2D designs are pretty flat in appearance, but artists use color, line saturation, style, and creativity to add more characteristics and uniqueness. Here, we introduce some video games with the most popular 2D 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 work. It resulted in many different 2D styles we see in games today.

2D Pixel Art

game art styles (2D pixel art)
From Pixune portfolio

Pixel art is one of the most popular 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:

• Fez
• To the Moon
• Undertale
• Owlboy

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 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:


Red Alarm
• The Banner Saga
• Ghost Trick

Cutout Art

Cutout art is a style mainly used in animation. This game art style 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:

Paper Mario
• Sonic 4
• Sega Heroes
• Don’t Starve

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:

• Ultimate Spider-Man
• Jet Set Radio Future
• Mega Man Legends
• Pokémon X & Y
• X-Men Legends

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
• Inside
• Minit
• One Upon Light

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 game art styles. Some of the flat games are:

• Gravity Defied
• Stick War
• Flat Kingdom
• Nidhogg

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
• Toontown
• Krusty Towers
• Google Doodles

Now that you know the most common 2D art styles, it’s time to talk about 3D art and get familiar with some of the most popular 3D art styles in video games.

What is 3D Art?

As you know, 2D shapes only show width and height. When we add depth/length to a shape, it becomes a 3D shape. It’s like turning a triangle into a pyramid. 3D objects are like any object we can see in the real world, with one significant difference: after all, 3D art remains flat, and we can’t see it from all sides.

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 titles 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. Now let’s see what the most popular 3D game art styles are.

Realism

6ix9ine NFT collection
6ix9ine GINE NFT Collection By Pixune

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:


• Assassin’s Creed
• Halo
• Uncharted

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 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 Demon Lurks
• Kentucky Route Zero
• Hand in hand with destiny
• Landlord of the woods

Low Poly

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 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:

• The Battle of Polytopia
• Clustertruck
• Walking Zombie 2
• Shelter

Hand-Painted

Hand-painted style is known for freehand texture painting. 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. 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:


• Hades
• Skullgirls: 2nd Encore
• Omori
• Tale of Immortal

Cartoon

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 colourful and clear graphics is an excellent attention grabber. Some games created using a casual art style are:

• Minecraft
• Severed Steel
• Bonfire Peaks
• Moonglow Bay

Bottom Line

The art style is all the visual art we see when playing a game. There are two main types of game art styles: 2D and 3D. 2D and 3D game art can be created in several different 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.

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