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From Concept to Screen: The Process of Creating Art for Mobile Games

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Creating art for mobile games is a multifaceted process that involves a harmonious blend of creativity, technical expertise, and teamwork. The path from the initial concept to the final on-screen assets is a journey that requires artists, game designers, programmers, and other team members to work in unison. They are all driven by a common goal: to create a visually engaging game that enhances the player’s experience and breathes life into the game world. In this article, we will explore the intricate process of creating mobile gaming art, from the initial conceptualization to the final screen-ready assets.

1. Conceptualization

Ideation and brainstorming

Before the creation of any art assets can begin, the game development team gathers for an ideation and brainstorming session. This is where the initial vision for the game is discussed and refined. During this stage, the team outlines the game’s objectives, target audience, and genre. They also discuss the themes, storylines, and characters that will inhabit the game world. The ideas generated during brainstorming serve as a foundation for the game’s overall aesthetic and provide direction for the conceptualization phase.

Sketching and mood boards

Once the ideas have been gathered and refined, artists begin translating the vision into concept sketches. These sketches serve as a blueprint for the game’s visual style and help guide artists in their creation of characters, objects, and environments. Artists also create mood boards, which are collections of images, color palettes, and textures that help define the game’s atmosphere and tone. Mood boards are instrumental in conveying the intended visual style to the entire development team and ensuring a consistent and cohesive look throughout the game.

Art direction and visual style

During the conceptualization phase, the art director plays a crucial role in defining the game’s overall visual style. The art director works closely with the artists to review the concept sketches and mood boards, providing feedback and guidance to ensure that the art aligns with the game’s vision. The art direction is instrumental in setting the tone for the game and creating a unique and memorable visual identity. The choice of art style, whether it be cartoonish, realistic, abstract, or something entirely different, has a significant impact on the game’s overall aesthetic and how it resonates with players.

2. Prototyping

Creating prototype assets

Prototyping is a crucial step in the early stages of mobile game development. The team produces a working version of the game with placeholder art, commonly referred to as “greyboxing.” This allows developers to test game mechanics, level design, and player interactions. Artists create simple prototype assets that represent the final art elements, such as characters, enemies, obstacles, and platforms. These assets help in understanding how different elements interact with each other, identify potential problems, and determine if the art direction fits the intended gameplay experience.

Early integration and testing

Once the prototype assets are ready, they are integrated into the game engine for early testing. This helps to validate the gameplay mechanics, evaluate the overall design, and gather feedback on the initial art direction. Testing with prototype assets allows developers and artists to iterate quickly, making adjustments to the game’s design and art based on the feedback received. Early integration and testing help identify and address potential issues before the development of final art assets, saving time and effort in the later stages of the project.

Feedback and iteration

Prototyping is an iterative process. Artists and developers refine the game’s design and art direction based on feedback from playtesters, team members, and stakeholders. The feedback can include suggestions on improving the game’s pacing, refining the visual style, and enhancing the overall player experience. Artists revise the prototype assets accordingly, and the team tests the changes to ensure that the game is moving in the right direction. This iterative process continues until the team is satisfied with the prototype and ready to move on to the creation of final art assets.

3. Creation of 2D Assets

Character design and sprites

The design of the game’s characters is one of the most critical aspects of mobile gaming art. Artists create character concepts that fit the game’s theme, genre, and target audience. Once the character designs are finalized, artists produce sprites – 2D images that represent the characters in various poses and actions. Artists create sprite sheets that include all the necessary frames for character animations, such as running, jumping, attacking, and idle animations. The sprite sheets are then integrated into the game engine, where developers can animate the characters using these frames.

Backgrounds and environments

Backgrounds and environments play a significant role in establishing the game world’s mood, atmosphere, and overall aesthetic. Artists create detailed 2D backgrounds that enhance the game’s visual appeal and immerse players in the game world. Depending on the art style, these backgrounds can be hand-painted, digitally illustrated, or designed using a combination of techniques. Artists also create parallax scrolling backgrounds, which involve multiple layers of images moving at different speeds, creating a sense of depth and perspective in 2D games.

UI Elements and icons

User interface (UI) elements and icons are essential components of mobile gaming art. These elements include menus, buttons, score displays, and health bars, which help players navigate the game and access important information. Artists design UI elements that are visually appealing, intuitive, and consistent with the game’s overall art style. Icons are created for in-game items, power-ups, and achievements, making it easy for players to identify and interact with these elements. The UI and icons must be designed to fit various screen sizes and resolutions, ensuring a seamless gaming experience across different devices.

3. Creation of 3D Assets

For games that require 3D graphics, artists model and texture assets using software like Blender or Maya. They create a digital sculpture of the asset, add features like facial expressions and clothing, and then “paint” it with colors and textures. Once the 3D assets are ready, they are rigged with a digital skeleton to enable animation within the game engine.

4. Animation

Animation is the magic that brings game assets to life. Animators use software like Adobe Animate or Spine to create animations, ranging from simple loops (e.g., a character running) to complex sequences (e.g., a cutscene). These animations are then integrated into the game engine, where programmers trigger them based on player actions or in-game events.

5. UI Design

The user interface (UI) plays a vital role in any mobile game, providing players with essential information and enabling interaction. Artists design UI elements such as buttons, icons, and menus to be visually appealing and intuitive. The UI design must complement the overall art style, creating a seamless and immersive gaming experience.

6. Optimization

Since mobile devices have limited processing power and memory compared to consoles or PCs, optimizing art assets is essential. Artists reduce the file size of the assets, simplify 3D model geometry, and use techniques like sprite atlasing and texture compression. Optimization ensures smooth gameplay across a wide range of devices.

7. Quality Assurance and Testing

Before a game’s release, artists work closely with the QA team to test the visuals and identify any issues. This process includes checking for visual glitches, verifying correct animation playback, and ensuring user-friendly UI elements. Feedback from playtesters may also lead to adjustments that enhance the overall visual experience. The collaboration between artists and the QA team is critical for a mobile game development company, ensuring that the final product is not only visually appealing but also polished and free of technical issues.

8. Updates and Live Operations

After the game’s launch, artists continue creating new assets for updates and live events, including seasonal content, new characters and skins, or entirely new game modes. This ongoing collaboration between artists, game designers, and programmers ensures that new assets integrate seamlessly into the existing game world and offer fresh experiences for players.


The process of creating mobile gaming art is a collaborative and iterative journey that requires a unique blend of creativity and technical expertise. From the initial concept sketches to the final on-screen assets, artists play a pivotal role in shaping the player’s experience and bringing the game world to life. Mobile game development companies are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of mobile gaming art, creating increasingly immersive and visually stunning experiences for players to enjoy.