Spaceship Design

Inkscape Tutorial

Another quick tutorial deriving from some feedback on how to create certain game art objects. I see a lot of overly complex approaches, drawing complex shapes with the pen tool causing major problems when altering or shading them.

In order to avoid the editing pains and aches that come with complex shapes consisting of dozens and dozens of nodes, I tried a quick modular approach based on rectangles. Doing a rough shape with rectangles that give me an idea of the ships shape and then modifying those simple paths with the node tool.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Let’s start with a bunch of rectangles.

I turned the fill off and just used the stroke to show the separate objects. Usually, I would work with a dark coloured fill to see the silhouette of the shape I am creating.

Let’s colour the different elements that will make up the spaceship in different colours to be able to distinguish them.

This model has:

  • hull of the ship
  • cockpit
  • wing
  • gun
  • engine/ turbine
2Dgameartguru spaceship design
2Dgameartguru spaceship design

To move nodes and give the ship a sleeker less blocky look, convert all objects to paths (SHIFT + CTRL + C).

Start by sloping shapes towards the front end of the spaceship for a ‘pointier and aerodynamic’ look.

With the basic elements in place, it’s time for some decorations.

Two more rectangles make up the boards on the front, a square is turned into a window and combined with another rectangle and a circle makes the door.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Thinking ahead

It’s easy to work on the elements that are the most enjoyable. The character design, the ships or car – their design is usually the first task. They define the game. We want them to look great and stand out. In order to do that we need to have a rough idea of the surrounding of those elements. What will the backgrounds look like? What’s the main colour scheme and how does my ship fit in? Taking some time to go through rough ideas on the other elements before going into detail with the main parts can save a lot of headaches. Reworking elements, later on, is no fun. It creates unneeded iterations.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Arrange the order of the elements – the turbine goes behind the base shape and the gun underneath the wing.

Adding another front extension and a tip to the wing make the ship more visually interesting.

Colouring the ship depends greatly on the design of the background you will be using.

You want to be able to distinguish the ship easily – either as player or target.

Allow for enough contrast between the background and the ships.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design
2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Use the gradient fill for volume and visual interest.

Define the light source – in this case above the ship towards the left.

Duplicate the shapes of the turbine and scale them down. Use a darker base shape and a lighter colour on top

The shading of the turbine is done via interpolation (Extensions/ Generate from Path/ Interpolate).
20 steps make for smooth shading.

On top of those, a couple of rectangles are deformed for highlights and a shadow object.
Using transparency or transparent gradients to shade the base object.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Grouping elements

When working on parts that should be reused later, try and keep them grouped logically. In the case of this spaceship, it wouldn’t make sense to have layers representing base colour, shading and highlights. You want to group the parts: cockpit, wing, tail, engine, gun, etc. I prefer working in layers rather than groups but it works either way.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Create a duplicate of the base shape of the ship. Move the nodes down for a darker shape at the bottom.

Add more highlights and some details – again just using rectangles and circles and combine/ deform those.

Once you create the first ship, use the elements as starting points for the next ships.

Reusing the turbine, the wing, the gun element or the tail make it fast to create new and different looking ships to add variation to your game.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Keep it simple

Remember to keep an eye on simplicity and reusability of the elements in your designs. After all, this is where vectors really shine. It’s not just limited to the game art production process but all illustrations. Think about similar elements in the design that can be created with a simple copy and paste and minor modifications.

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