How to Design and Illustrate Video Game Backgrounds

Whatever world you’re designing for your video game, you’ll need to illustrate the perfect video game backgrounds. Is your game a side scroller? A 3-D world? Think of what environment you want to create for your character to run around in.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Creating Video Game Backgrounds: The Side Scroller

When creating a side-scrolling video game, you need to create your levels in layers. Here is an example of how I created a world using different layers.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Middle Ground

I started with the middle ground. The middle ground is the layer that the characters will interact with in each level.

Background

The background layer will scroll or move independently of the middle ground layer. The background will also add a sense of depth to the world.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Sky

The sky will also move on its own layer and help to create mood and motion for this living video game world.

Characters

You will want to see how characters interact with the levels. New characters might have to be created with traits specific to that level.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Now all the elements come together to create the side-scrolling lava world. Notice the addition of the foreground layer at the bottom. Not every game has this, but it can help to create depth in the game and intensify the mood.

 

Upgrade Your Video Game Backgrounds: 3-D Worlds

There are games where the characters play in a three-dimensional environment. I am going to give a very basic example of how the design for a 3-D world works. 

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Step 1

Start with a background. The rock formation that looks like a skull is the focal point of the game. We want the player to get the hero to the skull cave. Draw a simple grid so you can see the perspective of this world. This will help mainly for the middle ground on the next step.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Step 2

Now the middle ground leaves our hero with a bit of a challenge. She has to cross the large ravine to get to the other side and then progress on to the skull cave. The grid lines help me decide on the placement of the ravine.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Step 3

The last thing to create is the foreground layer. Use the trees and vines to create a frame around the background and middle ground images. Putting each level on its own layer allows for easy adjustments.

video game background | how to draw | how to draw video games

Step 4

Even when you go to the final art level, leave elements on different layers so you can remove or add these elements as needed. Here I removed a set of rocks and some bushes from the middle ground so the scene looks less complicated.

 

You can find all this and more in How to Draw Video Games, available now!

How to Draw Video Games by Steve Harpster

 

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