Sharpen your card art skills
Fantasy card art is all about eye-catching compositions and engaging character designs. Laura Sava reveals how she achieves this every time
Fantasy card art is all about eye-catching compositions and engaging character designs – Laura Sava shows you how it’s done.
Even though I started dabbling into fantasy art as a teen, for a long time I never thought of it as any more than a hobby. The first decisive step on the illustration path was getting a Wacom tablet, and switching to digital eventually proved to be a game changer for me, because it solved both the issue of speed and the high cost of art materials.
I attended an art school, but found that the emphasis was placed on contemporary trends, so I had to learn most of what I know about figurative painting on my own. However, a formal art education gave me a better perspective on technical matters and perhaps created a framework for an efficient learning approach. So the tips in this workshop are an assorted collection of theoretical principles I picked up in school, personal observations and advices I found online.
I’m currently illustrating cards for Applibot’s Legend of the Cryptids, a fantasy game for smartphones, so I’m going to use images I created for the company to show how I apply this information in practice and, hopefully, provide some useful insight for those who are interested in producing similar work.
1 Deciding on the composition
There are basically two types of composition: dynamic and static. The first is characterised by diagonal lines that add movement, while the second features strong verticals and horizontals that either help to create a calm atmosphere if horizontals predominate or suggest harshness if the verticals are emphasised. I prefer static compositions, but they can be a bit dull for fantasy themes. As a compromise, I use softer diagonal shapes as accents in the foreground. For example, placing objects such as flowing fabric here and there helps to break up the monotony and develops a pleasing contrast with the background.
2 When to use symmetry
There’s a time and a place to use bilaterally symmetrical layouts. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that this type of composition should be used sparingly, but it’s certainly effective in appropriate contexts. Its visual impact is high because all lines converge and the eye is drawn towards the centre, so illustrated subject matter such as book covers or film posters can benefit from it. Symmetrical poses can make a character look regal, powerful or heroic. They usually work especially well with characters who have wings and mythological beings in general, because they remind the viewer of iconic representations.
3 Apply the S-curve PRINCIPLE
This goes back to ancient Greek art and is considered ideal for depicting the human figure. The body should be positioned in a way that describes an S-shaped line, so that the shoulders and the hips are angled differently. The most basic pose that uses this principle is contrapposto, where the figure rests all its weight on one leg. In illustration, this formula can be taken even further, and curves and proportions can be exaggerated or stylised according to your own painting method.