Game Art Tutorial

Choosing the Right Game Graphics

This tutorial will hopefully help you create a better looking game, whether you are using original or ripped graphics.

Okay, what makes a truly visually pleasing game. Let’s look at some of the greatest RPGs made to figure it out.

Here’s a few screenshots from Secret of Mana (I’ve double sized these to make the details more visible):

What makes this game arguably the most graphically beautiful SNES RPG? Well let’s break it down to see.

Theme: Okay this is pretty easy, it has a fantasy theme. But more specifically it has a very bright theme as well, it’s obvious that good will always triumph over evil in this world.

Consistency: All the graphics fit together. There’s no change in style, the game uses the same color palette throughout, and details match the current scene.

Color: Bright, cheerful. Even in areas were things are less nice, things are never truly dark. And most importantly the colors work well together.

Activity: This game is very active. The sprite movements are always very exaggerated. Almost everything that can be is animated, water, grass, critters, etc..

Originality: No game before Secret of Mana looked like this. While it had many elements of previous games the way it was put together made it seem completely original.

Artwork: Quite honestly the tiles and sprites in this game are incredible. The artists did an unbelievable job.

Alright now for the tricky part, how to use these ideas in your game to make it more visually pleasing. Let’s take these in order.

Theme: This is the most important since it defines your game. So ask yourself some questions.

  • What genre is your RPG (Medieval, Sci-Fi, Modern, etc.)?
  • What mood is your RPG (dark, comedic, cheerful, etc.)?

Once you’ve decided those two things you can start making some decisions about your graphics. Obviously if your making a cheerful medieval RPG then you don’t want to have mechs walking around with fresh blood splattered on them.

Consistency: Your graphics need to look like they belong together. With original graphics this is easy but if you’re using ripped graphics here’s a few tips.

  • Make sure the graphics are all from games with similar art styles (a Secret of Mana sprite wouldn’t work well with Breath of Fire tiles but would look fine with Chrono Trigger tiles.
  • Edit the graphics if you needed to make them work better together (such as changing colors so that the tiles all blend together.

Color: Color plays two main roles. Using the same palette of colors throughout your game helps maintain consistency. And color helps portray the mood of your game (dark gloomy colors in a dungeon for example).

Activity: This also depends on the mood of the game. Very active exagerated sprites like in Secret of Mana just wouldn’t work in a dark gloomy sci-fi game.

Originality: This is very hard for those using ripped graphics which is the main downfall of ripped graphics. Editing and using them creatively can help. Also using some custom elements like a cool message window, fight backgrounds, menu background, etc.

Artwork: Again this is a problem for ripped graphics, while the artwork is generally very good in professional games they then don’t always fit well in any other game. Even if you aren’t an artist don’t be afraid to edit your graphics. Sometimes just altering the colors can make a tremendous difference.

A few final comments:

This tutorial is really rather basic and is more to give you a place to start than anything else. The biggest help in all areas of making an RPG is to study professional games. Playing through them isn’t enough, you need to pay very close attention to all aspects of the game. Whether you’re making your own graphics or ripping them, take some professional tiles and sprites open them in your favorite graphics programm and zoom in. Study how they are done, it will really help.

For those making their own graphics these links are very beautiful.

Pixelation: A pixel art forum where you can get lots of comments and critiques of your works.

Sprite Domain: A nice tutorial site especially the “creating a basic hero” tutorial.

So You Want to be a Pixel Artist: The tutorial to read if you’re just starting out.

Pixel Zone: A variety of nice tutorials. There is a wonderful isometric tutorial here.


I'm a sculptor and jewelry designer from Maine, I sell my work at I work primarily in polymer clay and mixed media. My work is inspired by science, nature, and my beloved cephalopods.

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One comment on “Game Art Tutorial
  1. gamegirl says:

    Great tutorial for beginner game artists! Thanks!

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