3D art styles have always been quite popular among game artists and players: if you look at the top game downloads (up to 4 billion), you’ll see a bunch of 3D titles like PUBG, Subway Surfers, and way more. Key success factors include high-quality designs, complex graphics, and art. While most of us argue that 3D games are more about visual content rather than gameplay, the most prominent games keep surprising millions of satisfied gamers.
Creating a stunning 3D project is a multi-stage, complicated process that requires extra effort, software, and exceptional imagination. And, if you’re willing to develop one, you’ll need a team of highly-skilled professionals who know what you need and how to bring your ideas to life.
What are the main types of 3D art, what makes them stand out, and what would you need to create a stunning 3D game? Our team at Whimsy Games can give you some tips! Having extensive experience creating game art design, we deliver top results and make any 3D art forms you have in mind.
In this article, we’ll tell you more about creating 3D art and show the major styles used in three-dimensional games.
What is 3D Art?
Game artists create three-dimensional styles using width, height, and depth. In contrast with 2D art styles, it encompasses greater space. So, you can view and interpret it from any possible angle or side. In addition, all 3D objects, characters, and environments come to life using advanced software that allows the creation of real-looking people and scenes together with any kind of magical, fantasy elements with no limits to imagination.
What else makes 3D game art styles differ from two-dimensional ones? Here are the key factors:
- Visual element — needless to say, 3D games look more realistic and deep, and your designer can add any kind of visual effects to the surrounding world;
- Movements — there’s no limit to the way where and how you move your character or walk around the environment; you can go closer and deeper into the screen with 3D games;
- Controls — 3D titles usually need a joystick to move around properly and change speed or the movement direction, while 2D games use digital pads to use only the four main commands: up, down, left, and right;
- Production — to design a 3D shape, you need to model it on your computer, while you can simply draw a 2D object on any flat surface.
As the gamedev industry keeps growing and is about to reach $196 billion in 2022, the demand for 3D game development is rising too, especially for AR/VR projects.
Sure, 3D art games are generally more complex to create. The pipelines are harder to develop and maintain, and developers deal with separate animation assets and skinning for each object or character. Despite this, a well-made game is highly rewarding. If you look at the current list of the best-selling games in the world, most of them would be 3D titles: LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Elden Ring, MLB: The Show, and others. So, is it worth trying?
Where 3D Art Styles Are Used
Three-dimensional art, if speaking globally, is used practically everywhere. Buildings, sculpture, 3D printing, and many more regular processes relate to 3D art. In games, it’s pretty much the same. Below, you’ll see some practical usage of 3D art in-game art development.
Livening up the scene and characters
Game artists use 3D art forms to bring more vibrance and life to their titles and create a feeling of presence. Creating movable objects and landscapes by adding animated flora and fauna increases the interaction and makes a game more exciting and explorable.
Environmental discovery and object usage
The fact that you can move around and look at objects from different perspectives and angles allows players to discover more of the environment they’re in and influence the gameplay. For example, in Mortal Kombat, you can use nearby barrels, columns, and other people to tackle the enemy.
Creating a more complex universe for raising involvement
3D art styles generate more value and complexity. They increase the gameplay time and the level of players’ engagement. It is a perfect option for creating immersive worlds for VR, console, and PC games. Visuals in most three-dimensional games are usually a wow factor that adds to the overall gaming experience.
Top 3D Game Art Styles
So, what are the top-selling 3D art styles in games? They’re all so different and original — even the most real-looking ones! We’ve compiled a list of the main ones to get a closer look at each one of them.
Practically, it is transferring the real world to a digital platform. People, weapons, objects, buildings, and everything else look like you see in your everyday life. This is a number-one choice for developing simulators and training and racing games, shooters, and adventure titles.
The main point of such an art style is to create an immersive experience for players and make them believe they’re part of this world. It is one of the “simplest” yet effective ways to engage players in 3D titles.
Another representative of the most popular types of 3d game art styles. The whole surrounding and the characters look like they’re all made of geometrical shapes – polygons. Each has just one color, and it’s unique — developers produce every element individually. Plus, there are no textures, and the primary focus here is on shapes, materials, and lighting.
The polygon count exceeds a million in many titles, so this is quite a time- and labor-consuming art style, so it’s not that cheap to produce. Here’s a fun fact: artists mix low poly with other styles to create unique worlds and experiences, getting a suitable option for adventure, mystery, and puzzle games, both for kids and grown-ups.
Together with sci-fi and steampunk, fantasy games are always full of action, movement, and drive. That’s why a lot of gamers enjoy them a lot. Obviously, this art style involves fantastic creatures like aliens, monsters, and robots that look real.
Add some magical or futuristic environment together with endless battles, races, and quests — you’ll get a rockstar 3D game. It adds an even spicier experience than usual realistic games and is an excellent option for VR and console platforms.
This one is a popular choice for kids’ games, puzzles, educational, and adventure titles. Developers also use it for casual and hyper-casual mobile games. However, the look of characters, objects, and environments can be more or less human-like or not like this at all, making it hard to define the key characteristics of this style clearly.
This art style creates a friendlier, more playful, and seemingly harmless feeling. However, not only kids like cartoony games — some of the well-known titles are definitely not for children!
Our team has recently launched a new cartoony 3D mobile game too — Super Panda Rush. We developed a game for real gourmets who don’t love waiting for their deliveries. The game was made using Unity3D, C#, and Firebase. It’s a fun and simple game enjoyed by both kids and adults. You can learn more about the game and try it right here!
Collage style is an impressive thing to explore. It includes combining different art approaches and techniques. This provokes a whole specter of feelings: from fascination and excitement to fear and horror.
How to Create 3D Game Art
Depending on the complexity of 3D art games, the styles you pick, and whether you have a team of industry experts or newbies, the costs and timeline may differ drastically.
The whole process of creating 3D art is more complex than the one for developing the two-dimensional game art, and it consists of the steps we’ll discuss further.
Creating a 3D image of a future object or character. You can get references from pictures, real people, and your imagination. It has to be of high quality to go through the next steps, so it’s quite a time-consuming process.
Giving a model its shape, color, texture, and relief. For example, this involves adding wrinkles, scars, or folds on clothes. It also allows to demonstrate the materials and their physical properties and makes objects and characters look realistic.
Practically, visualizing a character or an object. It includes applying proper lighting, camera positioning, shading, transparency, special effects, and reflections. These are the final touches you do before bringing your characters “to life.”
A.k.a. making 3D objects move. Some major animation types include:
- Animation by keyframes;
- Animating along a path;
- Animation in a dynamic environment;
- Animation using a motion picture.
Creating 3D art forms for games is a demanding yet promising process. If you want to deliver a high-quality product, look at the modern trends and the most successful game titles you want to take after. It may take a while and a little fortune to create, but the return on investment will pay off.
And, if you need any assistance creating some stunning 3D game art styles, you know where to find help! Our experienced team at Whimsy Games will develop some incredible models and art concepts for your next hit game. So, just drop us a line, and we’ll work on something outstanding together!