2D Game Art Styles That are Time-tested

2D Game Art Styles That are Time-tested
May 17, 2022
10 mins read

Despite a wide variety of 3D games, the two-dimensional ones do not lose popularity among players and development studios. 2D video game art styles are easier to create, and the games themselves have more straightforward controls and gameplay instructions.

2D games are more simplistic, allowing designers to develop marvelous art styles with no extra hassle. This freedom of creativity is one of the reasons two-dimensional games are still so popular. For instance, the 2D fighter games market is expected to reach a CAGR of 9% during 2022-2028.

What are the major 2D video game art styles, and how can you create one? We at Whimsy Games have over seven years of experience designing diverse two-dimensional creatives. With this guide, we want to help you learn key differences between 2D and 3D art. Read on to find out how to make your unique design. 

What is 2D Game Art?

Two-dimensional art is usually associated with flat characters and objects. Unlike 3D art, which includes depth, height, and width, 2D game art is always just height and width. However, this doesn’t mean 2D art styles look incomplete or dull. It’s easy to add character and uniqueness to your two-dimensional styles with light, saturation, colors, and creativity.

 

2D art styles used to be not as good as in the beginning. Computers and game development software weren’t capable of producing high-quality, well-detailed creatives. However, today you can see it is no longer valid. With advanced tools, apps, and hardware, you can create 2D art styles of any complexity, level of detail, and imagination.

What is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Art? Advantages and Disadvantages of 2D Game Art

The most apparent difference between 2D and 3D art styles is volume and depth. However, it’s way more than just that. 

Let’s look at what sets 2D and 3D art apart.

  • Goals — in 2D games, the goals and mechanics are just as simple as the art. 3D allows developers to widen their horizons and create more complex gameplay 
  • Controls — 3D games offer more complicated controls and allow players to do more even if the game itself is pretty easy to play 
  • Movement — since 2D games are liner, and they are usually about forwarding movement with limited ability to explore the surroundings; however, it’s more distinct and always has a start and endpoint
  • Environment — with less focus on landscapes, 2D can’t offer a rich visual experience; the core aspect is gameplay

 

These are the main factors affected by your choice of game art styles. It also can influence the level of visual attractiveness and engagement with the game. Although 3D projects may be more complex and diverse in movement and controls, focusing too much on visuals can distract from the very gameplay. 

 

Plus, 3D titles may seem too difficult to control or understand. People can get confused and not realize where to go and what to do in the game. Too much freedom isn’t always helpful, so people often stick to 2D games.

If we talk about the scope of genres for both styles, 2D art works best for casual games, time-killers, and games for kids. They’re easy to play and comprehend, so you can quickly get to the whole point of playing. As for 3D art, it’s the best to use in hardcore games, motion games like simulators, and the ones with detailed, complex environments.

And what about the pros and cons of 2D game art styles? Let’s look through some of the major ones.

The advantages of 2D game art include:

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Fast production
  • Ease of updates

However, there are some drawbacks too. Here are some of them:

  • Lack of navigation and movement variety
  • Low versatility
  • Lack of realism

If we speak about 3D game art, some of its key advantages are:

  • High-quality graphics
  • A multitude of tasks and missions
  • Easier movement creation

The main drawbacks of 3D game art include:

  • High production costs
  • Complicated pipeline development and maintenance
  • The higher complexity of production and updates

Overall, here’s a comparison table of the main differences between 2D and 3D game art styles:

2D Art Styles

  • Greater focus on the gameplay and mechanics
  • Cheap production and updates
  • Simplistic and more cartoonish look
  • Linear games with start and end points
  • Simple production process

3D Art Styles

  • Greater focus on the visual compounds and special effects
  • High production costs
  • More realistic look
  • Freedom of navigation and movement
  • Tech-savvy

The Process of Creating 2D Art for the Game.

Let’s look through some of the key steps in creating 2D video game art styles. 

Step 1. Define the Style of Your Project

Choose the style you want for your future project. There are various options: from cartoonish or monochrome to pixeled and flat-art concepts. Or, maybe you want to mix the styles somehow and add a personal touch. While thinking about it, always keep in mind what genre you want to work on, your target audience and their preferences, and the game’s story. 

Step 2. Work on Game Assets

Once you’ve chosen the genre and the style, you’ll need game development assets. They are among the main things you’ll need for creating 2D art styles. They help set up the surrounding world in your game. It’s every detail you add to the project: buildings, objects, characters, status or health bars, etc. No need to explain why you won’t be able to produce a game without them. 

Step 3. Start Developing the Concept Art 

If you already have some basic ideas on what your project should look like, you may start working on concept art. It’s fast and simple — this is a perfect thing to do to get an approximate vision of what your game would look like. It’s not the final one that you’ll be implementing to your game. Still, it gives you the core you can work with.

Step 4. Bring Your Ideas to Life

After that, the design process begins. 

Work on character design. Artists take the plain text description from the scriptwriters and turn it into an actual person, animal, robot, or any other creature. Character design is also about drawing clothes and everything that makes up their look.

With characters comes the environment design. You already know what style you want to apply, so you must consider the details of the world you’re about to create, its specific features, history, and locations for particular levels.

Finally, think of the icons and items. Your game can look perfect and be a great hit, but it all might be ruined if its UX and UI are bad. Work on proper control buttons — you can add various options to facilitate the gameplay and make it convenient for players. 

As for the tools where you can work on your designs, try Figma, Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, or Gimp, for example. Finally, once your designs are ready, you can get to actually developing your game. Pick the engine you prefer and start creating your next hit game!

Top 2D Game Art Styles

If you have the game idea but still have doubts about which art style to choose for your project, here’s a quick rundown of all the most popular and attractive two-dimensional game art styles. They’re easy to implement and, with a personal touch, they can create the perfect vibe and gameplay atmosphere. So, what can you work with?

2D Pixel Art

Everyone loves pixel art. It’s one of the most popular choices for creating 2D games. It’s not just universal and simplistic — it brings you back to the good old days of the first video games you used to play on a computer or Nintendo. This creates an old-school vibe and perfectly fits arcade and “creator” games like Sandbox or Fez

Pixel art comprises millions of squares grouped to create a wholesome world, characters, and objects. Creating this game style is super-easy because it doesn’t need a high level of detail to look cool or make players understand what they see and do.  

Monochromatic Art

This one’s among the most haunting and beautiful 2D game art styles. Here, designers use a limited color range — it’s usually one or two primary colors. However, to liven up the characters and the surrounding environment, you can apply shadows and experiment with light and tints. 

One of the most popular color choices for this art style is black, as it’s perfect for a wide range of genres. With this, you can create horror, adventure, magic games, and so on. Some of the most exciting titles that used monochromatic art style are Inside and Badland.

Doodle Art  

This one is probably the most playful and original art style for 2D games. Sometimes, designers use hand-drawn sketches of objects and characters before importing them as digital assets. 

Since we usually draw doodles while our attention is focused on another task, the final results look pretty abstract and somewhat weird at times. However, this adds more uniqueness and originality to your projects.

You may apply doodle art for any action, arcade, or even puzzle games. This art style goes well with some fun scenarios and positive characters — even the villains in such games also look quite comic and not scary at all. ToonTown and Doodle Jump are the perfect examples of that.

Cel Shading

This art style is younger than the others and it’s quite an interesting one. The main concept of this art style is trying to make three-dimensional characters and objects look flat or paper-like. For better understanding, take a 3D model of any object and “put it on paper” from just one angle. It maintains a high level of detail yet with no volume. 

This is a perfect choice for creating captivating characters and environments. This may seem a bit more time-consuming than creating other 2D art styles, but it’s also quite inspiring and rewarding. If you want to look at some of the most famous examples of cel shading in games, try X-Men legends or Ultimate Spider-Man.

Cutout Art

The name speaks for itself: designers try to imitate paper objects and characters and put them into new surroundings. You may even use an actual cutout or draw it on your computer before making it a digital asset. It all remains static in the game, but you can change the position of objects to start the motion. 

For example, it’s an excellent option for puzzle and adventure games for kids. It’s more playful and engaging to younger players because cutout is something they used to do in real life. Some of the main examples are Paper Mario and Sonic 4.

Flat Art

Flat art is an eye-catching style used for action games, horrors, platformers, and many other genres. It’s not just flat objects and characters with a simple background. Here, some images overlap the others to create a sense of volume. You can especially see it in the games’ locations: forests, mountains, and valleys become more realistic and “deep.”

Flat art gives you great paths for creativity. Compared to monochromatic art, where you can use one or two colors and not pay much attention to the surroundings, flat art is more complex. Create tons of combinations, overlap objects in the most unpredictable way, and immerse players in a truly unique environment they would love. 

If you want to see and play some outstanding flat art games, try Eliora — the game our team made the art for. Here, we used rather minimalistic flat art elements that significantly represent the vibe and atmosphere of the Ancient Roman Empire. We produced this art from scratch, so we were involved in every step of 2D art style development.

If you want to see more game visuals and try it yourself, follow this link and enjoy!

The Best 2D Dame Art Development Services that You Can Choose

Creating 2D game art is a critical and gratifying game development process. By picking proper design and styles for your game’s world, you’ll not just create a pleasant outlook but also enhance the overall gaming experience and attract more potential players. 

If you or your studio lacks experience in concept art and design, you can always outsource these tasks. Our team at Whimsy Games offers high-quality concept art and 2D design services for your games. 

What can outsourcing teams help you with?

  • Character design
  • Vehicle, weapon, and object design
  • Location visualization
  • Spatial level design

One of the main perks of ordering concept art is that teams are working really fast and trying to deliver the best ideas and results as soon as possible. It’s more cost-effective than creating final designs and gives you the freedom to choose which concept to work with.

Here are some benefits you’ll get from working with an outsourcing company:

  • Low risks and better results
  • Competitive pricing
  • Unlimited ideation
  • Access to professional artists
  • Flexibility of teams
  • Enormous time savings

Another problem that might occur is security doubts. However, you may quickly solve them by defining a clear schedule and arranging all the legal obligations to protect your intellectual property. There are, however, some minor moments that you need to be aware of. It may sometimes be challenging to ensure proper communication since the outsourcing team can work anywhere. 

Finally, let’s look at some of the main points that you might consider while choosing an outsourcing company for cooperation:

  • Extensive portfolio with successful cases — the core aspect of picking an outsourcing vendor. You need to see what the company has done so far and whether anyone liked it. This way, you know you can trust your ideas to them and be sure you’ll get what you want.
  • Experience working with the leading game publishers is an important trust factor for many companies. Check out the publishers’ feedback and whether they recommend working with a company to ensure it’s a worthy one.
  • Wide range of services — usually, big and successful companies offer a variety of services: 2d game art design, game art 3d, animation, concept art production, etc.
  • Active online presence — it’s important for such companies to spread the word about their services to drive more clients. Check out their social media pages, read testimonials on their website or review platforms, and see if they reply to comments or questions.
  • A big number of specialists — usually, outsourcing companies that offer multiple services require enough staff for due project completion for all of their clients. This way, you’ll be sure there won’t be any problems with deadlines and/or urgent tasks.

There’s a wider list of the decision-making factors that depend from company to company. Keep these major points in mind and you’ll never pick the wrong outsourcing vendor for your projects!

Conclusions and Outlook

As you can see, there are plenty of cool, unique 2D video game art styles that you could use for your project. Two-dimensional art is easier to produce and more cost-effective than 3D, and it allows you to develop stunning concepts way faster. 

2D is a perfect choice for time-killing and casual games, and it’s great to use in kids’ games. It’s still a worthy area of game development — with some impressive art and extraordinary mechanics, you’ll be able to beat the best-selling 3D projects.

We at Whimsy Games have immense expertise in creating enjoyable 2D game art. If you’re not satisfied with your creativity or want to outsource any 2D art production, we’re here to help. You can always reach out to us — we’ll work on something great together!

FAQ

Denys Kliuch
Denys Kliuch
CEO

I'm a CEO and a Co-Founder of Whimsy Games. Before that, I advanced my expertise in engineering, management, traffic marketing, and analytics working for large game development studios with a $1M+ monthly income. With a clear vision of how game development should work, I run Whimsy Games, being responsible for the marketing and sales of our products and services.