The Basic of Shape Theory - Diary of an Aspiring Board Game Artist - Part 3

In my ongoing quest to become a board game artist, I've decided that I need to draw in a more modern style. Last week, I looked at the elements that make up a modern style and worked out that I needed to do some more work on shape theory.


I haven't yet delved into the delights of shape theory books - I'll save that treat for a later time - so I've only just scratched the surface by watching some videos. I've distilled what I've learnt into three simple areas so you've got some knowledge to get you started.


Big - Medium - Small




This relates to the golden ratio which is a mathematical construct that produces a visually pleasing effect. In terms of the line above a+b is to a as a is to b. Or if you're a formula lover like me,


a+b = a = 1.6180339887...

a b


Let's just forget the maths and see it in action in the context of a rectangle.



All of those rectangles look very pleasing and it's all down to the golden ratio. So what's this all got to do with big, medium and small? Well, let's colour code the rectangles.




And there you go. Big, medium and small shapes all looking very pleasant together. This doesn't have to just apply to the larger shapes in our images, we can also use it as we get into details.





So if you use big, medium and small shapes, where the areas roughly fit into the golden ratio, everything should look splendid. And funnily enough, you don't have to limit yourself to rectangles.


Straights, C-curves and S-curves


When you are designing your shapes there are only really three types of line that you need to make your shapes look good: straight lines, C-curves and S-curves. Let's do a comparison with some shapes. Which of the images below looks like a more modern design?




The bottom image is entirely made up of the lines below and it looks a lot cleaner.



Readable shapes


This links heavily in with the last section. Let's take the same two sets of images and shrink them down dramatically.




Which shapes are easier to read? The second set of shapes is a little better but let's simplify the shapes even further and try again.





That looks a lot more readable. But can we shrink it further?



And it's still readable. That's the power of simple shapes. Now that's not to say that the edges can't be a tad more interesting but the main shapes work better the more simplified they are.


When you start designing your images, shrink them down and see how readable they still are. That will give you an indication of the quality of your shapes.


I have to thank two YouTube channels for this information: Marco Bucci and Sinix Design. Both of them were able to give me quality, useable information.


Now let's see this in practice.



I decided to use my new-found shape knowledge to create an image that would suit a board game aesthetic. I've used big, medium and small shapes at multiple levels, the whole image is created from straights, c-curves and s-curves, and it readable when it is small. Let's shrink it and see:




Yep, still readable apart from the hand holding the hat. That was a late addition and I wasn't completely happy with it but I was working to a deadline so I went with it.


You may also notice that I've used the knowledge I gained from last week's post where I looked at the elements of a modern style. If you missed that post, click here.


If you're familiar with the rest of this series, I am developing my skills so that I can fulfil my dream of creating art for board games. In the next post, I'm going to look at my main weakness as an artist: figure drawing. To say it's going to take a lot of work is an understatement. See you next time!

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