Art style

How to choose an art style for a 2D game: practical recommendations from Inkration experts

In modern 2D games, artistic style plays a key role. Choosing the right style can make the game unique and unforgettable.

For 10 years, the developers at Inkration Game Art Studio have been daily creating top-notch 2D graphics for semi-realistic and casual game styles. They have agreed to share their work and give some practical advice that will help you enhance the impression of the game you create, thereby expanding the target audience.

Style in a 2D Game: why it’s needed

The importance of 2D graphics for the dynamism and diversity of the gaming industry is difficult to overstate. Even in the era of 3D dominance, 2D elements find their application in interfaces, background images, and art concepts, making 2D an integral part of game development. Every 3D game begins its journey with 2D drawings. Thanks to technological progress, today designers can use 2D tools to create complex 3D scenes, enriching gameplay.

Main types of art styles in 2D games

The variety of styles allows 2d art studio to express ideas in a unique way and give them a special atmosphere. Let’s look at the main types of art styles that set the tone and mood in the world of 2D games.

Realistic 2D art

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Realistic 2D art blurs the boundaries between 2D and 3D graphics, combining a high degree of detail with the charm of the 2D format. This style proves that even in 2D, incredibly realistic and detailed game worlds can be created! An example of this approach is the game Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, the effect of which is breathtaking.

Realistic 2D graphics are most often used in games with deep storytelling, interactive narratives, object finding, and games that focus on emotional storytelling. This style is also popular in historical games for authentically recreating past events, cities, and eras.

Cartoon style

The cartoon style adds playfulness and exaggeration to the atmosphere of 2D games. With bright colors, large characters, and whimsical scenes, it gives games uniqueness and humor. An example can be Gardenscapes, where this style adds individuality to the game world.

The cartoon style is most often found in family and platform games, casual projects, and comedies. It is also effective in educational games.

Flat art

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Flat art is characterized by minimalism, clarity, and contrast instead of detailed shading. Monochrome, straight lines, and geometric shapes are used to depict characters, objects, and scenes in this style.

Games designed in a flat style focus on simplicity of controls and gameplay, making them ideal for a wide audience, including novice players. This approach helps create expressive interface elements and intuitive design, as seen in Angry Birds, for example.

Due to their versatility, flat graphics are suitable for many genres, from casual games and puzzles to strategies and RPGs. This style is especially popular in mobile games, where it helps the game stand out among other applications.

Pixel art

Pixel art pays homage to retro style, reminiscent of the golden age of arcades and console games. Simple yet expressive, it can convey deep emotions and atmosphere, as demonstrated in games like Undertale, To the Moon, and Fez.

Overall, pixel graphics are very popular in the gaming community. It is great for indie games, RPGs, platformers, and shooters that aim to retain a classic feel.

Vector art

Vector graphics are known for their clean lines and scalability, which provide smooth animation. Thanks to the mathematical approach to animation, it can be easily adapted to any size without losing quality. Examples of this style are Tempest 4000 and Hollow Knight. Vector design is often used in various genres, from runners to arcade games, and helps create a clear user interface for various devices.


Cel-shading simulates the look of hand-drawn animation, giving games a visual style reminiscent of comics or cartoons. The use of bold outline lines and bright color blocks creates a unique and memorable visual experience in games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Borderlands. This style is ideal for creating bright, dynamic game worlds, especially in adventure games and RPGs.

Monochromatic art

Monochromatic graphics, using a limited color range, create an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. Sometimes, a highlighted color is added to accentuate important elements or characters. The game Limbo is a great example of how a monochromatic style can enhance the story through shadows and shades of one color, making the game world unforgettable.

This graphic approach will make your project stand out against the backdrop of bright AAA games. It is ideal for creating a tense atmosphere in horror games, emphasizing tasks in puzzles, or for games with unique themes.

Cut-out art

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Cut-out is a style that recreates the feeling of layered paper cutouts with flat shapes, solid colors, and sharp lines. This unique approach was used in games like Tearaway and Don’t Starve, offering an original visual experience.

The style is suitable for games aiming to mimic handmade work or dioramas, including puzzles, interactive stories, and platformers.

How to choose a style for your 2D game

Here are 6 tips from the game art studio inkration on how to adapt the art style of your 2D game to your genre:

  1. Approach the choice of style thoughtfully: the game world should be shaped not only by your preferences but also by the tastes of the target audience;
  2. Analyze successful projects: studying games with outstanding design will give you an understanding of which style is most effective for your concept;
  3. Test prototypes: experiment with different styles in prototypes to find the perfect combination of visual design and gameplay;
  4. Collect feedback: the reaction of the potential audience to prototypes will help you refine the art style and make the game more appealing;
  5. Match the style with the game mechanics: make sure it complements the gameplay and emphasizes its features;
  6. Stay true to your vision: your creativity should be reflected in the art style, regardless of external trends and preferences.

The development team, including technical directors and designers, should determine which tools and technologies are best suited to implement the chosen style, ensuring smooth and efficient development of your game.

Choosing the right art style is critical to the success of a 2D game. It not only affects the visual perception but also the gameplay and story perception. The right style can emphasize genre features, improve gameplay experience, and make the story more memorable.

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