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Picoworld: How I saved time animating & Why I switched to Krita

From building a real-life terrarium to ingame background graphics - and why I use Krita now to draw assets.

Hello everyone! I'm currently experimenting with finding a fresh art style for my game about terrariums.
This post is meant to share my learnings with fellow artists and game developers - I hope you find this useful!
Here is a looping video of my art experiment in-game:

In this post I will cover:

  • making your own tiny world/terrarium
  • why I recorded a video instead of using photos
  • why I switched to Krita from GIMP
  • how I saved time making the animation for the character

1. BUILDING A TINY, SELF-SUSTAINING WORLD

Photo of a terrarium in nature next to a river

I started by building a real world terrarium - that's a tiny world in a glass jar (I later used it as background for my game, you'll see). I collected rocks, plants, water and snails from a nearby river and pond and put them all in jar to bring it back home. A natural circle established - due the sunlight new algae grew, which the snails then ate. Without the snails the terrarium soon would have been covered in algae!
The waterplants where also really important, as they converted CO2 into breathable O2 for the snails.
With those systems in place, the little "ecosystem" was mostly self-sustaining. I didn't really need to do anything for 1 month, just observe if the balance is still ok (enough O2, not too many algae, etc.). A couple of days go I put the snails back in the river so they can dig themselves in for the winter.


TIP: If you want to make your own tiny indoor pond/ "jarrarium", this tutorial is really good.
And if you don't want to make it underwater and without animals, I've made a video tutorial for moss terrariumssome time ago, which is really easy to follow. Enjoy!

2. WHY I RECORDED VIDEO INSTEAD OF USING A PHOTO 

But before putting them in their habitat again, I recorded some video of the terrarium, which you did see at the beginning of this post.
I recorded a video as it is important to have motion for things to feel alive - a photo simply didn't work in my previous experiments. I then turned my recording into a seamless 5 seconds loop using this tool and imported it into Unity (what my game runs on).
Please note that both video and character are more and less place-holders to use only for this art test. I probably will rebuilt things again!

3. WHY I SWITCHED TO KRITA FROM GIMP

Creating a character concept in Krita instead of GIMP

My little character itself was drawn in the free Krita (after lots of character development on paper and digitally). I just recently switched from the (very limited) GIMP to Krita and I really like it. GIMP was always missing a good brush system to me and Krita has that and so much more! Their color selection and overall tools are really well designed (plus it is 100% free). My only complaint so far is that the function to add text to images is still really basic. Other than that, I can really recommend it!

4. HOW I SAVED TIME & WORK MAKING THE ANIMATION IN SPRITER

Creating a simple animation using Spriter

I then created a really simple animation in Spriter (free tool, 60$ for Pro version), which is a bone-based animation tool. That means I don't need to redraw every frame of the animation, but instead move parts of the model to make things come alive. Which is a great timesaver! The placeholder character animation took about 3 minutes to make as it's one of the simplest animations you can do (simple "squash and stretch"). It also has a community-made Unity integration, which works, but is sometimes a bit buggy judging from the experience I had in a recent project.
There is also the more expensive tool Spine (70$ for Essential, 300$ for Pro version), which basically does the same job, but gives you some more advanced tools and better Unity integration. But for now Spriter is the best "bang for the bucks" and works really nicely for me.

ADDENDUM

Thank you for reading! Please let me know if this was useful to you :)
I want to post more posts from now on that are useful to other artists & developers! If you're interested in that, subscribe to my newsletter: http://www.picoworld.net/

This post originally appeared on www.tinyworlds.org.

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