The 5 Points of Quality
Having seen many projects and it’s team members. There is often the problem that teams have trouble getting aligned to each other regarding art quality. In many companies this is resolved by the art director, reviewing all the work. It works, but it takes up a lot of unnecessary time. For this reason here at High Priority – Game Art, we use the ‘5 points of quality’ to uphold our creative output. Each team member can do this on his or her own.
1. Is it’s silhouette clear and easy to read?
If the shapes and silhouette are lost in itself or the background. How will people be able to distinguish them from each other? Improving this not only makes your art easy to read. It also improves it’s visual power. For example with a Samurai character. If it’s body and limbs are positioned is in such a way that powerful features like his helmet, sword and armor. Are lost within the body silhouette. The character loses a lot of its power. But if they are positioned so they “stick out”, for example he is wearing his helmet up high with all it’s details. And he is holding his sword to the side with a firm grip. They are easily seen and felt by the viewer. Showing his warrior’s power.
A good way to test this, is to take your model. Give it a full black flat color, so no lighting or shading. Give the background a full white color. And look at your model. Look at it from multiple angles, from close up and from far away. Do major features pop out? Can you see that awesome sword, or that awesome helmet. Can people even see what type of model it is? Is it still interesting to look at? Does it convey the emotion that it should. Is it a strong samurai warrior, or a rookie who is scared?
The same applies to space ships, notice the bridge tower sticking out on top.
2. Is the composition between shapes and colors appealing?
In short, did you do your composition correctly? Something you should train yourself in, and get a feel for. A topic that will get its own attention in the future. But for now here are some of the important points related to 3D game art.
– Focus point
Is the viewer drawn toward a specific point? For a character this is often the chest and head. Make those area’s lighter or more saturated compared to the lower half of the body. For a spaceship, it might be it’s cockpit or engines. Use contrast in color, brightness, shape or detail to have elements pop out. A dark grey space ship with a bright red cockpit will make your eyes focus on that red cockpit.
– Spacing and clustering of objects
When building a scene, for example a forest. Populating your tree’s so most of them are evenly spaced, means there are no unique area’s. It is all the same and bland. Instead, cluster them into groups. Some groups are smaller, others larger. Now the viewer can wander between groups of trees. Area’s are now unique and distinguishable from each other.
– Balance, simplicity & harmony
Both in shape and color. Does your art look and feel harmonious? Do the different elements help each other, or fight each other. For example, if your character has a belt, if you fill it up with many tools and pouches. It might become too cluttered, the identification of the belt is lost. If instead you leave it mostly empty, with perhaps 3 small pouches on one side. And a single tool on the other. Now viewers easily see what it is, and each area of the belt has its own unique feel. It is the same with colors. If you take a car, and give it many different colors. It becomes chaotic to read. But if you choose from only 2 or 3 main colors. The car becomes organized, it feels balanced, and in harmony.
– Color and color range
Color theory is a topic in itself. But I wanted to share some small tips to make sure your colors match together.
- Keep it simple. Choose a primary, secondary, possibly a tertiary, and limit it to that. The same counts for generic parts, like a car engine. Choose between 2 or 3 different metal colors. And perhaps a red brown rust color.
- Keep saturation levels together. Keeping this on the same value on all your colors is an easy trick to get things matching.
- Choose off colors. So not red, but slightly purple or slightly orange red.
- Use a color wheel to find complementary or other matching colors: https://www.sessions.edu/color-calculator/
3. Is it boring or too chaotic?
Your art should be interesting enough with details, but not hard to read with to many features. What I often see new artists do, is that they make objects too detailed or complicated. They add a lot of grunge, dirt or micro details. This might sound cool, but visually this is hard to read. There is no focus point, the shapes are lost because everything looks the same. There is no guidance of the eye.
You don’t want your work to lack details and be boring. But you also don’t want it to become a mess of details and chaos. Learn to simplify your work. Find the balance between simplification but keeping it interesting.
For example with a spaceship. Have large parts of it’s hull be clean and “empty”. But here and there, add complex area’s like part of the engine sticking out with pipes, bolts and electronics.
4. Does it fit the art style of the project?
For some artists this is common knowledge. But for others they have not yet learned how easy it so to lose alignment with the projects art guidelines. They slowly drift off into their own new style path. At the end of the day having something that doesn’t fully match.
A good way to prevent this is to always have your reference material open on a second screen. Even better is to have example objects next to the object you’re working on, inside your 3D scene. You are then constantly reminded of how your asset matches the others. From time to time do a “check-in” by importing everything into the game scenes created by the rest of the team.
5. Does it represent the object as seen in the brief or concept art?
Make sure your object fits the already approved concept art. The concept art phase is there for a reason. I understand that translating from 2D to 3D always changes things. But the overall shape, size, details and how it feels should match. I have seen it way too often where a 3D model turns out to have incorrect proportions. Always make sure you get your basics right. Build a block-out to get the proportions right. Then add global details, followed by small details. Define flat color area’s first before texturing. Do the colors match with each other and the project art style. Add texturing and details that match the texturing style. What happens when you place it into the game scene. Does the object still read well and does it match the rest of the game scene?
Founder & 3D Artist