Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 Hide
44 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

BGG» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Art and Graphic Design

Subject: Learning Graphic Design in Spare Time - Possible? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
Anyone care to teach me graphic design in a short post? (kidding)

Is it even possible? Can a hobbyist game designer become an acceptable graphic artist in his limited free time?

I appreciate good graphic design:


And, I can tell bad/amateur-ish graphic art when I see it.

For a hobbyist game designer who would just like to add some “pop” to his game designs, where should I start? Just copy get inspiration from what I like? Are there general guidelines somewhere, or is that like asking for general guidelines for brain surgery? Or, just pay up and hire someone?

My issue with hiring someone is I’m just doing this for fun, maybe to submit a few games to BGG contests, maybe “publish” a few print and play games, so my business plan is: ~$0 income and ~$0 expenses.

Specifically, if I am looking for “cover art” for a game design, where do I start?

The game theme is steampunk "lite", or "realistic steampunk": no flying submarines, more like steam powered WWI.

The game is a turn based strategy, light 4X, collect resources, build up tech tree, build army, attack the other guy game.

Here is a shot of a mini game version of the game (just battle units, no resources, no tech tree), just to give you an idea so far:


I'd like to create a "cover" for the game that fits my theme and has a feel like these WWI posters:



Oh, and I don't have any non-free software to use. Currently dabbling with Inkscape.

So, where do I start? start from scratch, or pick one of the above images and try to modify it (eliminate existing text, add my text)?

Thanks.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Wocken
United States
White Bear Lake
Minnesota
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Freelance Game Graphic Designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi Scott,

Yes, hobbyists can become acceptable graphics artists, but it takes time. Keep in mind that there are four year BFA degrees in graphic design. A lot of the learning comes from not only good foundational design knowledge, but also from a lot of practice, and more practice after that.

My recommendation if you're looking to play around with designing game components would be to tackle InDesign first. It's the best way to learn how to lay out the various game play elements for play testing and revisions on the fly. After that, Illustrator and Photoshop would be the next programs to learn. There are a lot of tutorials out there on YouTube, so just follow along, struggle through it for a while, and eventually, you'll start to get the hang of how to convey your thoughts into the computer.

Continue to analyze designs that catch your eye and critically break them apart to figure out why the pieces resonate with you. There are also a lot of design books that talk about composition, and those are worth reading as well.

Good luck, and have a fun day!
–Peter Wocken
4 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thomas Büttner-Zimmermann
Germany
München
Bavaria
flag msg tools
badge
Wiggle It!!!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While I can understand, that you would like to learn this, I recommend simply ask a graphic designer!
I think it is a good idea to split the work - designing the game for you, and designing the components for the GD...

Edit: Oh, an while you are designing a game for fun, there are GD out there, who like to illustrate a game just for fun! :-)
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Berg
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
You can count on me!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You can't really beat InDesign and Photoshop for their power and ease of use. There are free alternatives that have come a long way, but you pay for them in usability. There are also a ton of tutorials available for them.

I would start by copying a design you like. I would also start with minimalist designs, as they are the easiest to figure out how to recreate. Once you get rolling, you start seeing everything in terms of layers, filters and textures.

If you are not looking to officially publish your game, you could host a contest here to design a cover or box. There are plenty of us who like graphic design as a hobby and would be excited to help out.

EDIT/ADD:

For the cover design process, I would start with a source image with nothing covered - for example the scrap metal picture would be a bad choice, Back Them Up would be good option.

I'd also avoid any source images with a background that is not solid. Textures, like the sunburst effect on the top of Mine More Coal, are limiting because you can't just stretch them to expand your canvas, and it makes selecting the object of desire a pain. It is much easier to toss in your own texture effect on a background layer than to manipulate one already in place.

As for software, I'd start with GIMP - its free and has a wealth of knowledge for it available. Oh, and if you get stuck on something, ask!
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
CasualSax wrote:

If you are not looking to officially publish your game, you could host a contest here to design a cover or box. There are plenty of us who like graphic design as a hobby and would be excited to help out.

Thanks all for the quick replies. As I dabble and learn, I really like the idea of the contest. Does GameCrafter count as "officially publish" the game? I'd like to do that, but if that is a problem, I'm OK with just a PnP self "published" here on BGG.

Contest idea: design "cover art" in next 30 days or so, then a poll for the "people's choice award", plus a "my choice" award, 100 GG for 1st in each, 25 GG for 2nd in each. Sound OK?

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Berg
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
You can count on me!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Narrow Gate Games wrote:

Thanks all for the quick replies. As I dabble and learn, I really like the idea of the contest. Does GameCrafter count as "officially publish" the game? I'd like to do that, but if that is a problem, I'm OK with just a PnP self "published" here on BGG.

Contest idea: design "cover art" in next 30 days or so, then a poll for the "people's choice award", plus a "my choice" award, 100 GG for 1st in each, 25 GG for 2nd in each. Sound OK?
I'm not familiar with GameCrafter, so I can't speak to that specifically. If your game is not being sold for a profit, then a contest would probably be a good method. You need to talk with a community manager here on BGG to get an unofficial contest approved. I suspect that they would also be able to provide guidance to keep things kosher.

Once you start making a profit on a game, it is bad form to source artwork via contests.

As for the prizes, that sounds fine. There are other alternatives, too, like purchasing a print for the artist of the winning design, or sending them an autographed print and play copy you put together yourself.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Esko
United States
White Haven
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just my $0.02, find a program that you are comfortable with and start working with layers. Once you understand this concept and how to work with them, you will be able to do a lot more.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Beachler
United States
Woodburn
OR
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Simply put as others have said it's going to take years of time to learn things whether you are doing it in your spare time or even if you were using your every waking minute. It will take time to learn the skills. No martial artist walked into their dojo and walked out a black belt on their first day.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh Uitvlugt
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
FREE BREAD!
badge
FREE BREAD!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Learning Graphic Design
If you want a good free art program for getting started, you should try Paint.NET (get it at www.getpaint.net). It is as easy to use and intuitive as the infamous MS Paint, but it has lots of nice features like layers and transparency. It clearly doesn't have as much horsepower or options as something like GIMP, but it is much easier to get started on. My experience has been that GIMP is much more disorganized and prone to bad behavior, but more powerful if you take the time to learn how to use it. Paint.NET is easy to use and has enough advanced tools that you can do quite a lot. That's what I used to create my webcomic (while it was still actively updating) and I was barely even scratching the surface of what it can do.
2 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
robbdaman wrote:
Simply put as others have said it's going to take years of time to learn things whether you are doing it in your spare time or even if you were using your every waking minute. It will take time to learn the skills. No martial artist walked into their dojo and walked out a black belt on their first day.
Agreed. Didn't mean to imply that I could master it in a few evenings.

Not trying to be Eddie van Halen, but it would be cool if I could learn to strum a few chords, to use a guitar analogy.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
I'll check out Paint.NET. Thanks.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gene Haas
United States
Lenexa
KS
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Back in the 80s and 90s, there were cheap programs like PrintShop where you just pick graphics and drag them around. It was so simple to make a birthday card. The programs were intuitive and versatile although very rudimentary.

Where are those programs today? Is there not a PrintShop card maker that would be adequate for making playing cards designs and war game tiles? You'd think these super simple graphics programs would have only gotten better and easier in the last 20 years.




 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justen Brown
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
The secret to becoming a good artist/designer is to steal ideas from other people that you like. Don't rip them off but take elements you enjoy and apply it to your own work. I can't give you tips on what software to use or material to read, but hop on pinterest or tumblr and you can find inspiration from literally anything.

Given what you're trying to create, there's a ton of public domain images and resources from that era. Propaganda posters, paintings, decals, and the like. You could probably whip up a WWII era poster in Word using clipart. Or if you find stencils, available at nearly any hobby shop, you could make it by hand.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Berg
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
You can count on me!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
leifericson wrote:

Back in the 80s and 90s, there were cheap programs like PrintShop where you just pick graphics and drag them around. It was so simple to make a birthday card. The programs were intuitive and versatile although very rudimentary.

Where are those programs today? Is there not a PrintShop card maker that would be adequate for making playing cards designs and war game tiles? You'd think these super simple graphics programs would have only gotten better and easier in the last 20 years.
They still make Print Shop, they're up to version 23. The last time I checked it out, many of the changes were not things I considered improvements. Microsoft Word now does everything Print Shop can do. That said, InDesign is really the new and improved version, it just happens to have a V8 under the hood.

So many cover designs, though, are just three layers: Title, object, and background. You can do that in Word save it as a PDF and you're good to go.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
My first 10 minute hack job using Paint.NET, original image and my edit:



2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Berg
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
You can count on me!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
See! You've got this. Some ideas to play with:

- Add some noise to the text, so that it matches the feel of the background

- Coverup the vertical line on the bottom left edge, or increase it to make it more bold and intentional

- Add a bar at the bottom in a different color, to frame Narrow Gate Games. Example:


- Fade the noisy black to solid black at the bottom using the gradient tool (transparent to black)

2 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justen Brown
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
My first 10 minute hack job using Paint.NET, original image and my edit:



As you experiment more, try looking for high resolution artwork in PNG format. You'll notice the hazy "artifacts" around your objects as a result of JPEG compression. You definitely don't want that on finished work.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
Thanks. I added noise to the image to try to soften some of that up and hide some of my hacking, but you make a good point. Thanks.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
CasualSax wrote:
See! You've got this. Some ideas to play with:

- Add some noise to the text, so that it matches the feel of the background

- Coverup the vertical line on the bottom left edge, or increase it to make it more bold and intentional

- Add a bar at the bottom in a different color, to frame Narrow Gate Games.
-
Fade the noisy black to solid black at the bottom using the gradient tool (transparent to black)

Headed in the right direction (hopefully).


Should I add noise to the gray bar and white text at the bottom also?

Thanks.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Berg
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
You can count on me!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Looking good. Some more random thoughts:

- For the noise, I would run the noise over the gray bottom, but not the Publisher name. Most publishers use a standard logo/font regardless of the game, so I'd say don't blend it in with the design.

- Make sure you are working at a high resolution canvas, even if your background is low resolution. It will keep your text looking crisp. For visuals designed specifically for screen viewing, I usually work at four times the intended viewing resolution. For printed material, I work at 300-600 pixels per inch (ppi).

- Right now the bar at the bottom pulls the eyes away from the Title, because of the lightness of the bottom. Something worth fiddling with, I don't know what the right answer is. You could try matching the red at the top and essentially letterboxing the title, or just darkening it up.

- The publisher name is pretty large, shrinking it a bit more will keep it from competing with the game title.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robin Gibson
Canada
Powell River
BC
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Don't forget that fonts carry a lot of meaning too! daFont is a great resource for those.

Any professional guys will probably cringe if you tell them you use free fonts, but if it looks good, whatev. Just know that some fonts won't have all of the characters in them, and some of them you should pay for if you're selling something that uses them.
4 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
Thanks guys.

This is really just an exercise in expanding my horizons and learning more. I appreciate all the feedback and advice. The "publisher" is just me, and this game will most likely never be more than a PnP here. And, this picture I'm playing with doesn't really fit completely what I'm looking for, so like I said, more of an exercise for me at this point.

Keep those ideas coming.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
I still like the idea of a contest, so I am waiting patiently for approval from BGG on that.

As I wait, I will continue to dabble in Paint.NET. And, if I get serious about it, I will definitely use sites like daFont.

My practice project progression from original image through 3 drafts:


I didn't like the gray bar at the bottom, wanted that part to be more discreet. Not perfect, but a good learning exercise for me.

Thanks!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian O'Toole
Australia
Queens Park
WA
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You should be aware that design contests are often characterised as being exploitative, essentially asking for free work from people with marketable skills. Not saying you won't get willing participants, just something to think about.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Feudal fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Hnefatafl fan
Ianotoole wrote:
You should be aware that design contests are often characterised as being exploitative, essentially asking for free work from people with marketable skills. Not saying you won't get willing participants, just something to think about.
I can understand that.

Full disclosure:
- Someone else suggested the contest idea, and as a hobbyist that hangs out here and participates in some contests, it sounded like a good idea to me.

- If anyone looks at my game design resume, they will quickly find out that I won't be making my riches off their artwork. I have "published" a total of 1 game on GameCrafter with total sales = the ones I bought for playtesters.

- Like many here, I have volunteered my skills to fellow BG geeks (rules editing) just for the experience/practice/love of the hobby, so if I do a contest, I would expect those type of people to participate in it.

But, as a relative newbie, I could be all wrong and the contest could just create a reputation for me as a slimeball.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   |