I know a lot of good programmers that want to develop games, but don’t go forward because they don’t know any artist and lack the skills to make something beautiful. For a while, I also complained about that. I am a skilled programmer, but I ain’t an artist, what should I do?
My answer for you is: stop whining and deal with it! Yes, you don’t need the artistic skill to create a copy of Bioshock Infinite, or the wonderful atmosphere of Alan Wake. You need, most of cases, simple graphics. You may want to create a ultra beautiful game with painted sprites that even Picasso would be proud, but you probably won’t. Recognize your limitations and adjust your game to what you can do. Go for simple graphics and work hard in the gameplay and other aspects of the game.
Following, I will give some tips to create you game art. I’m not a Picasso myself, but I can handle the basics. I hope I can help you in this process.
Know Your Tools
Before starting to draw something, you need to know what tools you will use, but remember that a tool itself doesn’t do anything, you do. Personally, I like vector graphics, for this I use Inkscape, but you can use Corel Draw, Illustrator or many other tools like them. You may like pixel art or 3D models – you can use GIMP, Blender, or even MS Paint – just choose the tool you feel more comfortable with and learn the basics.
For the final touches, I use GIMP. You can use Photoshop, Z Brush or any other tool related to your style of art. Again, just pick one and go through it.
With your tools ready, go for tutorials. There is a lot of them around the internet, a simple search can reveal several great how to’s. I recommend you follow sites and blogs with general tutorials, such the 2D Game Art For Programmers and Tutplus, also take a look on Devian Art and other artistic forums where people create a lot of tutorials.
Do it for specific things too, for example, if you want to draw a simple sword for you game, take a look on google, you will find a lot of things, e.g.:
When you have a certain skill with your tools, go for references. Search images of real things, line drawing things, clip arts, etc. You don’t have to create everything from zero. For example, if you want to draw a hand, take a picture of your own hand, search for images of hands on google or use reference such this one:
Hand Reference Sheet by Ultimate Iron Giant (http://ultimateirongiant.com)
Learn With The Bests
When you see a game or a cartoon, pay attention to details. For example, cartoons usually have large borders, ridiculous proportions, fast movements, caricatured expressions, simple forms, poor shadows, just like the Dexter Laboratory. The Samurai Jack is other example, but now without any border, which makes it special among other Cartoon Network’s programs.
Pay For It
If you are too lazy to learn new tools or can’t spend any time to do it, or even simply don’t want to, your solution is: pay for it! There is a lot of freelancer sites and forums where you can find artists and pay their prices.