Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How to make Art for Card Games

In case you are interested how game companies design their cards and include the art, here is an overview from Stonemeier Games:

Games like Shards of Infinity and Ascension are deck-building games which means they have lots of cards and therefore require lots of art. This art is all original, and only a few characters/monsters make it from one game to the next - you spend a lot of time makin' stuff up. 

When you’re developing art for a card game you have about 50+ pieces of art that need to be made, several artists to manage, and deadlines.

At Stone Blade, the process looks like this: Once we have the big picture mechanics and story locked down, it's time to start working on character briefs.

Character Briefs are little blurbs that artists use to create their art.

Once you have a bunch of these briefs written up, they're sent off to the artists. Generally, we look at the briefs and pick the artist who we believe will execute the piece best.

In other words, maybe you have one artist who is great at creating monsters, and another who's awesome at designing heroes in action, you'd send the monster to the monster person and the action to the action person. Sometimes we switch it up for fun because throwing a wrench into your process every once in a while can drum up new ideas, but most of the time this is how we do things.

And then you get the sketches back--

What you imagined when you wrote the brief and the art you get back doesn't always match up and that's part of the fun. If you get too attached to what your perspective of a piece of art should look like, you're going to be in for a lot of disappointment, because it's a sad reminder that you are not telepathic.

If you want to get a taste for what the brief to sketch process feels like, try this quick experiment:

Read the character brief below and imagine what this character looks like, then scroll down to check out the sketches at the end of the newsletter. How much alike or different the character is that the one you imagined? 
Rue Bo Vai wears black power armor that is pieced together all over her body. She is more human than most Wraethes. Her head and hands burn with pink/purple Wraethe energy. Under the flames, her skin looks smooth and pitch black. There are a few burning symbols etched into the skin. She's holding an Order monk in the air with one hand, staring him in the eyes. He looks terrified. She looks calm.
As you and the artist learn to communicate better, the work you get back should start to be an awesome mix of both your imaginations.

Once we have the sketches there are several rounds of notes and tweaks that bring the card to their finished form. Adaptability is key here: Can you see the potential in any piece of art you get back? What changes to the sketches would get you to that goal?

Even if the piece isn't exactly what you envisioned, its best to work with the artist to tweak the design if possible rather than starting over. This is done by talking to the artists and being strategic with your edits. It's wild to see how the change of a color or the slight adjustment of an arm can affect an image.

Then the card is done, but your work is not over. The next part of the process is looking at the card and saying: If I had to go through the art process for this card again, how would I have done it differently? 

The answer to this question is specific to the way you and each individual artist work together. Here are a few examples of changes you might make:
  • Maybe it means adding more details about the character's personality.
  • Maybe it means describing the pose before getting into the details of the costume. 
  • Maybe it means writing a little less or writing a little more. 
  • Maybe it means adding a bit of the character's role in the story into the description.
I've found all of these to be true at one time or another with the artists I've worked with. Asking this question helps me improve my ability to adapt to imaginative differences and work together with the artists to create consistently cool art.

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