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  • Taisiia Dobrozorova

3D Art: Definition, Styles, and Examples in Games

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

How to create three-dimensional graphics that will be remembered? What styles of 3D animation exist? These questions bother many digital artists. In fact, all the techniques and great cases of 3D art are half inspired by other creators' works. So, let's learn from the best, including top-rated examples of 3D animation.

3D art
3D art. Source: https://theinspirationgrid.com/

What is 3D art?


3D art is a type of art that includes height, width, and depth, while 2D art is generally limited to a flat surface. 3D stands for "three-dimensional, " meaning we are dealing with three dimensions instead of two.


If we take for example a simple hand-drawn picture, then the 2D image will combine lines and planes, and 3D art will also have the depth at which these planes are located. To some extent, 3D animation is a combination of geometry and design.


2D vs 3D


There are a few things you should know about games with 2D and 3D graphics. For instance, when we talk about 2D art in games we mean so-called “sprites” - 2D animations created for flat planes, as opposed to three-dimensional art or 3D games environments.


3D art, on the contrary, is immediately created in three-dimensional space and drawn in perspective. You can zoom in or out on an object without losing its basic shapes and dimensions. Also, 3D artists add materials and textures to the surface of game objects. This approach helps to form realistic physical properties of bodies, environments, and characters for 3D art.


2,5D art

2,5D art
Horde: Wasteland Defense by HitBerry Games. Camera above - example of 2,5D art

But if we understand the difference between 2D and 3D animation, then what about 2.5D art? Yes, yes, you heard right! This dimension is also real, or, to be 100% honest, virtual, but possible in the gaming world.


Here, artists usually proceed from making a visually beautiful image from 2D or 3D art. If it's a 2D animation, then the creator can use a 3D environment, although the gameplay still works in 2D. Imagine that the camera moves from left to right and shows the picture as if from the side, but the player continues to move in only two dimensions.


A very similar thing happens with modified 3D art. It becomes more like 2.5D art when a well-known technique as "view from above" appears. That is, the camera builds an image in an isometric projection, and we see everything a little flatter.


3D art styles


Now that we have figured out what the definition of three-dimensional art is, let's talk about styles. Artists create hundreds of animations every day. They need to be classified somehow. 3D art also has its own varieties of graphics for different game functionality!


Realism


The most obvious, but not to say the simple style of 3D animations is realism. It blends together virtual and reality. From picturesque landscapes to a small feather on a villain's hat, everything should resemble the real world as much as possible. The main goal of realistic 3D art is to make the players believe that they are not playing a game, but are in a one-and-only reality full of adventures. And if you think that 3D graphics in this style is the easiest one, you are deeply mistaken. All triple-A projects – simulators, strategy games, shooters, and others deal with 3D realism. So, this is almost one of the most difficult styles of three-dimensional art.


Low Poly

Low Poly 3d art
Low Poly 3D art. Source: https://www.gamedeveloper.com/

A fairly new, but already popular style of computer graphics. It is distinguished by its abstractness. Low Poly is a style of 3D art in which everything is drawn using polygons, that is, characters, environments and even the smallest details are a collection of planes.


However, you will say that polygon meshes are often used and do not represent anything special. The main difference between such games and high-poly graphics is the number of polygons in the grid - there are relatively few of them. On the one hand, this makes the object less detailed, but, on the other hand, 3D art in such games requires fewer computing resources to display.


Fantasy realism


This style of 3D art is very popular in the gaming industry. Probably, most games still have a share of fiction, and therefore - fantastic elements. Fantastic realism has extreme colorfulness and unique physics. The characters in fantasy games come in all sorts of shapes and races, as well as travel through fascinating worlds. You have certainly seen 3D art in this style in adventure and RPG games. Also, fantasy 3D animations are often included in AR/VR games, console- and PC games.


Cartoony


This wonderful style is simple and fun. Characters in the Cartoon format cannot be confused with anyone - they are expressive, memorable, and sometimes even caricatured. If you're thinking about making a hyper-casual game, branded game, or an idle game, for example, then this style of 3D art is for you!


Collage


Collage is usually a variation of different visual techniques. Whether it's materials, splashes of paint, bold lines, etc. - everything is designed to make 3D art more expressive and unlike anything else. In fact, this kind of art is very suitable for puzzles, side-scrollers, and indie games. A fact to note: collage graphics can seem more realistic than digital forms that present all objects in the same chromatic and textural scheme.


How to make 3D art?


If you have already dealt with 2D vs 3D and have chosen which side you are on, then the only thing left is to make the necessary graphics. How can you create compelling 3D art? Let's go in order.


1. Knowing your tools


If you already know what game platform you work on, whether you pick Godot or Unity for development, or maybe your choice will fall on the Unreal engine, then it's time to consider the list of graphic editors. They will be the main tools of your project. Most often, to create 3D art, 3D artists use such software as 3Ds Max, SelfCAD, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or others. All 3D rendering tools are effective in skillful hands!


2. Understand 3D art and modeling


Before you start drawing, read a little theory. Understand how shadows, highlights, perspective, composition, and other artistic techniques work. If you already have enough knowledge in the subject of art, then study the settings of your 3D software and watch the tutorials. Very often, changes to objects like moving, rotating, and scaling are difficult to implement.


3. Do research


Your last step before you actually start creating 3D art should be research. Yes, this terrifying scientific word! In art, you need to do research too. What do we mean!? You should try to conduct "reconnaissance". Look for works on a similar topic and compare the 3D animations by professional creators with your ideas. You might be able to borrow something!


3D art best examples


We have also selected some examples of work for you to inspire. You can explore thousands of different 3D animations on Pinterest or popular asset sites like Behance's 3D pictures page. Here are our favorite 3D art options for you!


Electrified Rush. Here is a good example of a racing PC game by HitBerry Games. Simple three-dimensional art, where the main thing is the concept. Simple geometric shapes and bright colors help make your mobile game unforgettable. By the way, we'd love to help you create your best game!

Electrified Rush 3D art
Electrified Rush 3D art by HitBerry Games

Mabo Meditation App. This is the most beautiful application for meditation animated by JooEun Kim. The main character is a usual girl who tries to deal with her emotions, discovering the captivating world around her.

Mabo Meditation App 3D art
Mabo Meditation App 3D art. Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/

Valkyrie Rush. 3D art in the new game by COM2US VRUSH Cinematic is, no doubt, a masterpiece. We can observe this amazing example of fantasy realism and enjoy it every time.

Valkyrie Rush 3D art
Valkyrie Rush 3D art. Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/

3D art is work and creativity, for which there is not always enough time. If you want to create your own 3D or 2D game or some part of the design as an outsourced product, then contact us! You can also calculate the game cost in our price calculator.



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