Post feature RSS Corral Countdown 36: Body-Kun Helps You Draw!

Corral Countdown 36: Learn how I improved my sprite art from "blah" to "pretty okay" using "this one weird trick

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If you ever wanted to make art for your own game but have almost no talent as an artist, then this is the post for you.

Artwork for this series has come a long way. Even though I’m not a great artist, I wanted to try to create all the art for Boot Hill Bounties myself. And that meant learning a few tricks along the way. On today’s DevBlog Friday, I will share one of them with you.

Boot Hill Heroes had about eight human enemy sprites in the game. These took a very long time to make look halfway decent. Humans are much more difficult to render into sprite art than animals. Most of the trouble comes from finding the right pose without the use of a model.

For Boot HIll Bounties, I knew I would need to make a lot of humanoid enemies, so I needed to find a way to improve the art workflow. I experimented with software like Poser but it still wasn’t working out. I was shopping online for one of those wooden posable dolls when I found this:

body kun Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

This is a “S.H. Figuarts S.H. Figuarts Male Body Set 5.5″ Action Figure”, aka “Body-Kun.” Much more articulate than other figures. Just take a look at these poses:

51ww51oKAPL. SL1500  Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)f4a22f0d7eb84d8399399fd4ad6df660 Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

This was a while ago and “Body Kun” wasn’t even available yet. I wonder how common it is these days among aspiring artists.

I had a plan that I thought was pretty ingenious. First, pose the doll. Then, take a picture of the posed doll. Finally, simply trace the picture and follow its shading to make great sprite art.

But this method didn’t quite work out. By tracing the doll, the characters came out looking too thin. That’s what I get for trying to take shortcuts. Instead, I had to add a step. After posing the doll, I needed to draw the character by hand and scan it. Then I could use it as the basis for the sprite character.

Here’s the same character made using each method. I think you’ll agree that the one on the bottom looks much better.

calaca Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

Here’s the workflow again.

Step 1: Pose the sprite and draw the character on a sketchpad. Sorry I don’t have the original Body-Kun photographs, but here’s the sketches I made using it as a model.

cyprusalleypeople2 Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

Step 2: Scan the drawings and resize them in photoshop. Shrinking these sketches to the size of the sprites makes them extremely blurry since the resolution is down to pixels. So the sketches are more of a “jumping off point”

cyprusalleypeople3 Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

Step 3: Trace the outline of the sketches the best you can and color the parts. Pixel art is really tricky and there are much better pixel artists writing about it than me so I’ll spare the details here.

cyprusalleypeople Corral Countdown 36: Body Kun Helps You Draw! (Friday Devblog)

This new workflow was so successful I ended up making a lot more humanoid enemies than I intended to. There are now about 50 human enemies in Boot Hill Bounties. I promise I’m not shilling for whoever makes these Body-Kun figurines, I just wanted to share how I turned my art from bad to much improved.

Okay, that’s a wrap for week three. I’m glad people are noticing that I’m living up to the promise when this Corral Countdown thing started. I really have something interesting to share about Boot Hill Bounties every day. And with 35 days left, you can only guess what’s in store.

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