Space ships

Initial Design

Let’s get started with the requested tutorial on space and space ships. I have to admit it took me a little longer than expected and halfway through writing this tutorial I decided to change the approach as I found myself getting lost in details.

Rather than putting the focus on the shading, material structure and detailed look of body parts for the space ships, let’s start by defining a good shape first. One way to do that is by sticking to the silhouette and just working with black shapes.
This approach is frequently used for all sorts of concept designs from creatures to buildings and even animation poses. A good silhouette makes for a more interesting and recognizable design

Let’s start

For the ship design, I start out with simple shapes, mainly rectangles that get deformed by moving some of the nodes.
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2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Let’s start with a few rectangles to form the base of ship.

Modifying the top two rectangles to form a pointy nose for the ship.

For a traditional design this ship will get wings on either side.

Shaping the wings by moving the outer nodes.

Bring the shapes and place them to overlap with the central part of the ship.
Duplicate the wing parts and flip them horizontally for the right side of the ship.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design
2dgameartguru - designing space ships

Add a few more rectangles to form the propulsion system.

Modify the base to form a more turbine like shape.

Placing a few more shapes (rectangles as was a scaled-down copy of the ship’s nose) to add some visual detail.

2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Reusing elements

Once you create the first design, you already have the base elements for the next ones. It saves time when you use what you have created. Add to it and alter the elements rather than start from scratch with each new design.

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2Dgameartguru spaceship design

Take the base shape of the ship and start regrouping the elements to create variations of the design. Playing with the elements allows me to find a silhouette that looks interesting without getting lost in details. Try out non-symmetric shapes, go weird and wild or try something more organic in the design or your spaceship.

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2Dgameartguru spaceship design

At this stage of the design process, it’s all about finding a nice shape that will get filled with detail, depth, and contrast later on.

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2Dgameartguru spaceship design

One thing to keep in mind though is the scale of the ships. Keep in mind how big the design is compared to other ships in the fleet.


Usually, you would try and build a design that is unique for a special group of ships [e.g. a race or fraction] not just a single one. There would be different ships in a fleet which should be identifiable through their design.
Keep certain characteristics e.g. rounded shapes or long wings, extended tails or huge propulsion systems on one side of the ships.
I will take the ship design and add colour, shape, and detail in the next tutorial.
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