Video Game Art: Create A Low-Poly Game Character in After Effects | Aaron Bartlett | Skillshare

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Video Game Art: Create A Low-Poly Game Character in After Effects

teacher avatar Aaron Bartlett, Motion/Graphic Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Painting Textures

    • 3. Building the Rig Part 1

    • 4. Building the Rig Part 2

    • 5. Pose, Light & Export

    • 6. Create the Scene

    • 7. Fun, fun!

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About This Class

When you’ve got cool graphics software at your fingertips you can make make really fun video game art! In this lesson we’ll learn how to replicate low-poly characters that can easily be custom tailored to suit your creative ideas!

You’ll be able to do this class in Photoshop and After Effects.

If you’d like to learn how to do this in Cinema 4D, you can find the companion lesson right here. The photoshop sections of both lessons are identical so you’ll just need to redo the middle sections that cover Cinema 4D.

Music Credit:

"Chipper" Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Meet Your Teacher

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Aaron Bartlett

Motion/Graphic Designer


I'm designer who works in LA and I've spent much of my career in entertainment marketing creating promos and ads for TV, movies and video games. I've got a fairly broad background in a variety of media. I love cartoons and comics books.

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1. Intro: no Polly. Game art is a fun style where you can create a lot of unique images in a relatively small amount of time. I'm going to show you how by painting textures, creating a character rig, exporting, oppose and using it in a scene. We'll be working in photo shop and after effects. Once you've built your character, you'll have the flexibility to change it easily and make even more if you want to time to get to work. 2. Painting Textures: before we start painting the textures. I just wanted to explain how I'm going to teach this lesson. A lot of this process is very repetitive, so I'm going to show you the basics of how it works. And I'm including some extra materials so that you can finish it on your own. Whenever I skip over one of the repetitive sections, you'll probably want to pause the video if you're working along. The primary inspiration for this project is Minecraft, as well as other old school games that use the doom engine. Part of what gives the art the unique look it has is being able to see individual pixels. Now, we could work at a normal resolution and paint large blocks, but I'm going to show you a different method. We're going to work incredibly small and then scale up when we're done painting to begin, I'm going to paint a face. I'm going to create a new image. I'm gonna call it head underscore front. I'm gonna make it eight pixels by eight pixels. I'm gonna zoom that all the way in and I'm gonna fill it with black so I can see the grid. Normally, I would just use my brush tool, but I'm actually gonna click and hold on this and switch to the pencil tool. This lets me have something that has hard edges. Make sure it's set to the smallest size of just one, and then you can see it's this little box. I'm gonna fill it in with a skin color somewhere in there. Then I'll fill the background. Then we'll choose a darker color and paint some hair. Oh, pain semis. Maybe this character can have a mustache. Obviously, you can be as creative as you want to be. Once you've painted one of these images. An interesting way to give it a little bit of texture is to add some noise. If we go up to filter noise, add noise, I'm gonna set it to 2%. And then you can see all the little variations that added in. This makes it look a bit more like some other examples you may have seen. Now I'm going to save. This is a tiff, and now I've got my first texture. Here. You can see I've laid out all the different pieces we need to make and what sizes they are . You can also find this in the resource is section of the project where you can see all the different parts I made, what size they are and what I named them. In each case, I do the same thing. Paint the image, add the noise and then save it as a tiff. Once you finish making all these pieces, you'll be ready for the next section. 3. Building the Rig Part 1: Okay, now we're in after effects. So we're going to start by importing all the images that we've made. Select all and import. I'm gonna put these files into a folder and call it images. Then I'm going to select all the images, drag them over the comp. I common, make sure multiple compositions is selected it. Okay, then I'm going to drag all these cops into a new folder and call it pre cops. Drag that out. What this does is create a conference. Exactly the same size is all of the images. Go ahead and save your comp so that you don't lose your work. So now we're gonna go through and change the size. Even though we created the texture is very tiny. Thes cops need to be bigger, so they're easier to work with. I'm gonna multiply everything by a factor of 100 that will be easy to work with. If I select my first competent hit command or control K, it opens up my composition settings. We can see it set to four by 12 pixels, making sure that locke aspect ratios checked. If I change 1 to 400 the other one gets bigger, proportionally. And now the cops Much bigger. Now we can do the same to the rest of the cops. I'll skip this part so I don't bore you to death. All you have to do is go through each comp and multiply each number by 100. Once you re sized all the compass, we need to go in and fix the images. So I'm gonna open the first comp up. We can see if I zoom out. The image is very tiny in the center since we blew the compost, but not the image. I'm gonna select the image layer and then hit control Ault or command Option F, and that will scale the image to exactly the same size as the comp. Now it looks like a blurry mess because the scale is so far off. If you mouse over this section, this is the anti alias ng for the layer. If you click it twice So you see this little stair step. That means there's no anti alias ing. That's what we want to see. Since it's being blown up proportionally, we get hard edges between our pixels. I'll zoom back to 100% and we can see that very clearly again. I'm going to skip the boring part as we need to go through and do this to each comp. So open all of the cops go inside each one. Select the image layer, control all F or command option f to scale it up to the right size and then click the anti alias ing button twice so that you get the little stair step icon. Now that we've created all the pre calms for the different parts of the character, we need to put them together into a master comp. I'm going to select all of these, drag them into this comp icon, select single composition hit. Okay. And I'm gonna drag this one out, closed the folder, and rename this main whenever you're working in after effects. If you need more space to look at a window if you hit the tilde key, which should be at the top left of your keyboard when you're mouses over a specific window , it'll blow that window up to take up the entire space. Hit Tilda again to go back first, I'm gonna change the settings of this composition. Gonna uncheck lock aspect ratio and change it to 800 by 800 which is the size of the final image I want to create. I'll zoom out. Then I'm going to change the other layers. So they're three D. I'm going to add a new no, which is just a nem FTI placeholder that we can use for parenting things and keeping things organized. I'm going to duplicate the null by hitting Command D or control D. I'll rename the top one by hitting. Enter on, Call it master. They don't rename the bottom one and call it head. We'll grab my head layers and parent them to the head, and then I'll turn the rest off. I'm going to add a camera to this scene just so that I can take a look at different angles . If I goto layer new camera, choose 50 millimeter hit. Okay, I'll drag that up to the top. If I hit C, that'll choose my camera tool. If I left click and drag, it will rotate things around. I'm actually going to scale down the entire rig. I noticed I forgot to make my nose three d. So I'm going to check those two boxes. I need two parent everything to the Master Nall for this to take effect. So grab the head, Nol and the rest of the layers and parent them. They don't open up scale and change it to 20%. When I'm moving things around, I can remember that my scale is 100 times greater than the original. So 100 pixels in this scale is the same as one pixel in my original art. Gonna select all the head objects and hit P for position. I'll start by moving the front forward 400 pixels. That's minus 400 on the Z. Then the hair represents the back, so I'll move that back 400. The base, which will slide down here, needs to move downward 400 pixels. So 400 on why it also needs to rotate. So I'm gonna open rotation and rotate 90 on the X. I'm gonna copy that property. Then I'm going to duplicate the hair Commander control de and then paste. This one should move minus 400 on the why and b zero on the sea side. I'm gonna open the rotation as well. This one needs to rotate 90 on the y axis and then move 400 on the X. We can see that's backwards relative to the way I painted it. So I'll change it to minus 90. They'll move over here to look at my other side, duplicate this. Set the position Tu minus 400 and now we've got the head built. One thing we can see here is these lines that are showing up at the seams for some reason, a little bit of showing through. Because of that, I want the individual scale of each object to be bumped up very slightly. I'm going to change the scale on all the image layers to 101%. Make sure you don't select any of the Knowles by accident. Now you can see the seams or closed. Next, we'll create the body. I'm going to duplicate this heading all. Call it body. Move that down here. Move these up, then a parent Thies, to this null, I'm gonna turn all the head objects off and turn the body ones on gonna open position and rotation for these. Change the order A little bit top is gonna be 90 degrees on the X move up 600 pixels front is going to be forward. 200. I'm gonna duplicate that and then move one of them back to 200. Side needs to rotate 90 on the why then move 400 on the X, duplicate that and change this to minus 400. The base needs to rotate 90 on the X and down 600 on the why and thats the body. Now I'm going to duplicate the body in all moving above the arm. Turn these off, turn these on, grab all three of the arm layers and parent thumb and rename this arm underscore. Right position and rotation. We'll move top up. Armed in the middle, 90 on the X position minus 600 on the why 200 to the back. Duplicate minus 200 to the front. Duplicate zero on the Z 200 on the X 90 on the why duplicate and minus 200 on the X 90 on the X and down 600 on the Why now on the part two 4. Building the Rig Part 2: to finish this rig. We're going to start by duplicating the arm to create the other arm in the lakes. I'll select these layers duplicate, dragged down. I'll rename this toe l for left. Now I'm going to delete these leg layers because I'll be replacing a duplicate in a second . Going to select this arm duplicate. Drag the bottom, rename this knoll to leg underscore par for right now, if I look at my pre camps, I can scroll down where the leg is. If I highlight arm, top and leg top and then hit control. Old question mark or command option Question mark on a Mac, it replaces the layer. Alternatively, I can select this base layer, then select this layer, hold down alter option and drag it on top. Those are two different ways to replace things. Now I'm gonna select all of the arm layers, click leg control to command option question mark and swap them all out. Now I'm going to duplicate all of these. Drag them to the bottom rename this toe l. And now I have all the pieces. This is a lot of layers, and it's kind of hard to look at So I'm going to do some house cleaning just to make this easier to work with. First, I'm going to select all the image layers de select the Noles. I'm going to click this shy icon that will allow me to hide it. And then I'm going to lock all of the layers. That way I won't move any of them by accident. If you click this master shy switch it highs. All the layers that we just toggled you can see from the numbering Those layers air still there. They're just not visible in the timeline, which makes them easier to work with. I'm going to leave the torso where it is and move everything else around it. I'm gonna select everything except the body. Since that staying put and hit p for position, the head needs to move up 1000 pixels. But I need to remember to de select everything. First arm right needs to move over 600 as does arm left. Both of the legs need to move down 1200 pixels and then each moves over 200. We'll zoom out to see the whole thing. I know the displays were did a low resolution, but at least I can see that all the objects are solid. I can actually fix that display problem by changing from auto to full well hit V to switch to my arrow tool. Now I can see the knows that I want to mess with, But clicking on them is a little bit annoying because they're so tiny. I'm gonna go into my solids folder, grab my no, then hit control shift. Why? Or command option? Why? This will let me change the properties of the solid. Make sure effect all layers that use this solid is checked. That would all change. And I'm gonna lock the aspect ratio. I'm just gonna change it to 300 by 300. That makes it a little bit easier to see. Now, the way this rig is going toe work is that we're going to be able to rotate him on his joints based on where these Knowles are. If I hit W to switch to my rotate tool, I can click on this and drag it around or found. Do that. You can just click on individual axes and rotate one at a time. As you've noticed, this is not rotating on his shoulder, which is kind of a problem. We're going to fix that now. If I open this back up, I'm gonna close these old down on hide my layers. I'm going to start by changing the head so it pivots at his neck. Gonna unlock these, select them all and set them to none for their parent. That way, moving this won't change anything. I'm gonna change my view from active camera to front. That way it will be easier to see what I'm doing. The heads 800 pixels tall. So it's gonna need to move down. 400. Now I can grab the head layers and parent them back to their head. No, I locked them again so that I don't change anything else. Now I'm going to change the arms and legs all at the same time. Since they'll have the exact same changes. Unlock them all. Select them all. De select annuls unp Arent Grab all the Noles p for position and each one needs to go 600 pixels higher. I do actually have to change them one at a time, so I don't mess up any of the other values Now we can see that the Knowles air sitting at the shoulders and at the hips like we would want. Now we'll repair in thes lock them. Repeat that for the rest. Parent lock, parent lock. Parent luck that will hit shy again. Change the view back toe active camera. And now we've got a rig. Little work. Better hitting W for rotation again. Can move his arm around the shoulder. Could move his head at the neck, and I can move his legs at the hips up next will pose him for our final export. 5. Pose, Light & Export: first, I'm going to duplicate my main comp to make oppose version. That way I won't lose the original command D or Control D, and I'll rename this pose. I'm going to delete the camera. Since the scene is so simple, I'm gonna lock and turn off the body Knoll, Since I won't need to change it now, my rotate tool selected. I'm going to rotate the master and all a little bit. Then I'm going to turn his head slightly, rotate a little bit on the why and a little bit down on the X. I'll tilt his left leg back a bit and his right leg forward so it looks like he's walking. Move his left arm slightly forward and I'll put his right arm up so he looks more excited right now. The lighting's completely flat, but I think it would look cool. Toe. Add some light, so there was a little bit of extra shading. So if I goto layer, new light can make a new point light, we'll turn. Fall off off, switch to my move, tool gonna move this up and move it out a bit. I'm going to duplicate this late and move it over to a different spot that I'm going to change it from a point light to an ambient light. And they said the intensity to 50 that'll fill in some of the shadows. As a result, my first light is looking a little too bright, so I'm gonna lower the intensity. That looks pretty good. So I'm going to save this, and then I'm going to go to Composition SE frame as file. I'm gonna change it from photo shop to ping sequence, making sure that RGB plus Alfa is selected. Hit. Okay, I'm going to call it pose, save again and render it out. Next. We'll pull that in a photo shop and build our scene. 6. Create the Scene: so I'm going to open up my render. And now I have my character on a transparent background. I'm gonna go ahead and say this is a photo shop file and I'll rename this layer guy. Now I want to paint a background scene similar to the way that I painted the textures in the first place. To do that, I'm gonna start small and then blow it up. I'll make a new image. I'm gonna make this 1 40 by 40. I want to make a scene with clouds and mountains. So first, I'll fill in a background color for the sky. I can use alter, option backspace and control or command backspace to fill a layer with the foreground and background colors. Now I'm going to make a selection and fill it with green for grass. And now I'm gonna paint some clouds. I could use the paint brush tool, or I can even just use the marquee tool in fill in shapes. I'm holding down shift to continue adding to this selection every time I john new box and alter option to subtract now hit control or command backspace to fill with white Gonna hit my eyedropper tool, Pick this blue and then choose a lighter version. Tad, some detail. I'll use my pencil tool to do that. And I will choose a medium grey to do some mountains, little at a little shading. And then I'm gonna drag this whole layer over into this image. I'm gonna hit control or command t to transform, drag each corner to the edges, gonna make sure that the interpellation is set to nearest neighbor. What that means is it's not gonna try to smooth everything out. It's just gonna leave everything on a jagged edge like it looks hit. Enter to apply. Rename that BG for background to the back. I'm actually gonna move him up in the composition slightly. And then one thing I want to add in just to give the impression that this is inside a game engine is to make a fake shadow. So make a new layer above the background. I'll switch to the circle marquee tool and I'll draw an oval down here. It deeded. Set the colors to default, alter option backs face to fill it with black controller command D to de select, and I'm gonna blur it to make it look more like a shadow, so we'll go to filter blur Goshen blur into try something higher. Have you been higher than that? That looks pretty good and actually shift that down slightly. So it lines up with his feet a little bit more just moving around, and I think I'll set the opacity a little bit lower somewhere in there. Pull a shadow just to be organized. And now I've got a low Polly game character seen Now, a lot of the work that we did in this lesson was kind of the boring part where we put this whole thing together. The fun is now that you've got that rig, you can paint as many different textures as you want, so you can change things out. Give characters different expressions. Consider the possibility of doing the art of higher resolutions. You can include more detail, make scenes with multiple characters. Have fun with it. 7. Fun, fun!: I hope you enjoyed that exercise and learn some new things. As you can imagine it. Be easy to create an entire army of characters very quickly by duplicating your rig and changing the textures. Feel free to make a many as you like. I love to see them, so be sure to upload your project when it's finished. Let me know if there's anything I can help you out with, and I'll see you next time.