Game Career Guide is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Get the latest Education e-news
  • An Approach To Understanding Art Styles

    - Ricardo Bess

  • (b) How can we draw in different art styles

    If you try yourself to pin some styles to the "style triangle" above, you'll see that it's almost intuitive (especially if you already have images in the triangle you can compare to). But knowing what makes an image "realistic" or "cartoony" or "stylized" can be handy. Let's try to analyze examples of art closer to the corners and see if we can find patterns in shapes, values and colors.

    Please, realize this is pretty much my observation and interpretation, so take everything I say with a grain of salt and let me know if you feel I'm wrong.


    As close as an image can get to reality. It tries to represent reality as is. Be aware that most of the time even the most realistic renders are edited (contrast, saturation e color balance) to look more appealing or "cinematic".

    Shapes - Are three-dimensional and complex (or detailed). They are organic (even architecture and industrialized products have cracks and bumps that break their perfect straight lines). They tend to be subtle (not exaggerated, people are 6 to 8 heads tall). Shapes obey perspective. Since we are used to seeing images through cameras, it's also valuable to know about camera lenses (and the types of distortions they create).

    Values - Work with physics accurate lighting (you should understand how light behaves in nature to render the values consistently). Some things you should be aware: how light intensity behaves (it's inversely proportional to the square of the distance) bounce light/color bleed, subsurface scattering, hard and soft light differences, fresnell effect, ambient occlusion, rough and smooth surface differences, etc). The tonal range is generally bellow 50% black and it never gets 100% black (but remember you can overexpose or underexpose an image to get different effects). You must be aware that perspective also affects values. Values can also be influenced by lenses (or film).

    Colors - Are rarely pure (one "green" grass leaf can actually have several colors), they bounce from object to object. They are mostly bellow 50% saturation and, as the above, get influenced by lenses and films.


    As close as an image can get to the meaning. It tries to represent things in their essence.

    Shapes - Tend to be simplified (a head becomes a sphere or even a circle, hair strands become hair locks). Can be flat or present some simplified way of lighting (sometimes not cohesive in the whole image). Proportions get reduced (people are 5, 3 or 2 heads tall). Exaggeration is very welcome.

    Values - In its extreme, values are completely absent (think of a line drawing on a white piece of paper). You can also have hard values (simply used to differentiate one shape from another). There's a tendency to work with high key values (especially if there's line work involved).

    Color - Colors are generally saturated. Tend to work with primary and secondary colors (red, blue, yellow and green).


    Not concerned with representing anything. The artist is consciously aware that he is moving pixels on a screen (or paint on a canvas).

    Shapes, values and colors can be.... anything really. For the sake of readability I would suggest considering the Gestalt principles (respecting and breaking them when needed). They are: proximity, similarity, closure, continuity, symmetry, common fate and continuity.


comments powered by Disqus