My Art/Design Workflows for MINDBURNERS

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This is the last week to back my new cyber-occult dungeon runner card game, MINDBURNERS, which is currently 394% FUNDED on Kickstarter! It’s doing really well, but I’m hoping to make a final big push at the end and hit the finish line going strong!

Since a lot of people have commented about how much they dig the art for this game, I figured that might be fun to talk about a bit. Here’s some shop talk:

So…I don’t consider myself much of a “proper” artist, but the art for MINDBURNERS is something I spent a  lot of time on and am very proud of. For fellow creative folks out there, I wanted to share more detail about the workflows and tools I used for creating the game’s art style.

 Inspiration and Ideas

As I’m developing ideas for the look of any game I’m working on, I almost inevitably start a Pinterest board to pin ideas to. Before I started using it more, I thought Pinterest was just for pics of cute puppies, food recipes, etc — but it’s actually an INCREDIBLE tool for getting ideas, inspiration, and reference imagery to help shape the look of a game.

Here’s a screen grab from some of the pins on my MINDBURNERS art reference board. The cool thing about Pinterest is that once you start a board, you can click on images you like and it’ll show your EVEN MORE images related to that. Then, after a while, it’ll start feeding you related images all the time, which makes it easy to very quickly smash together lots of ideas to help inform the look of your project.

Creating the Art: Procreate + Apple Pencil

One of the reasons I used to struggle with art, is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Once I ink something, it feels so permanent, and it bothers me if I make little mistakes and can’t fix them. Getting an iPad, an Apple pencil, and Procreate basically took all of that out of the equation, making it a lot easier for me to tinker and tune and iterate until something feels “just right.”

Procreate has a lot of different pen and pencil tools, and is super flexible for zooming in and out of your image and turning things around to make it easier to get a good angle on what you’re drawing. Working in layers also lets me drop in reference imagery for ideas, do some rough sketches, drop in inks, and then color all on separate layers which I can go back and fine tune if needed.

I started out by making a template that gives me a rough idea of where I need to avoid putting important art elements (to make room for the icons and graphic design that comes later in the process). I draw the art at a MUCH larger scale than it’ll be on the final cards, since having the flexibility to shrink things down and makes it much easier during the layout process.

Since you can erase ink like anything else using Procreate, I settled into starting straight out in drawing with inks for this project. Here’s a look at one of the pieces of card art with just inks:

Once I’ve got the inks done, I’ll start to experiment with color. Interestingly, MINDBURNERS originally started as a digital game I was developing using Game Maker Studio. I incorporate a lot of thematic ideas into this card game version, though it’s a completely different animal. The stark color palette was one of the big things I carried over into this project.

Using a limited color palette was a lot of fun, as it forced me to experiment and color things in ways that might be a bit odd, but I think it worked out fairly well. Here’s that same card art with color:

Graphic Design and Layout (Affinity Designer)

Once a card is all arted up, I’ll export it as a high-resolution PNG file that I can import into my graphic design layout software of choice…Affinity Designer. Its capabilities and workflows are fairly similar to Adobe InDesign, except you only have to buy it once (Gahhhhh! Blasted subscription model garbage!).

Being able to export everything in a very clean digital way saves me TONS of time of having to sketch, draw, ink, scan, and then cleanup art. Going digital has basically sped up every aspect of my art and design process.

I do my basic card layouts using vector art and basic shapes initially, then I’ll drop in icons, text, and other elements before finally adding the art. Once I drop in the final art for the card, I’ll shrink it down and nest it in a layer inside the main card art shape, so that the edges of the art spill out into nothingness but are easily contained in the card itself. Neat and tidy. Here’s what that looks like:

Then once everything is all neat and tidy, I’ll export it out and then I can make additional adjustments as needed when I drop it into the layout guide template for the manufacturer.

So yeah! That’s my art process for most projects, and MINDBURNERS in particular. It’s a fairly intuitive workflow. I was able to bash out about 4-5 cards a day, once I got into a groove. I took me a few weeks of off and on arting to finish all the art, but it all came together fairly quickly.

Thanks again for your support! Please consider backing the game on Kickstarter Today!

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