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10 Applications of Traditional Painting in Mobile Games

Today people appreciate beautiful hand painted graphics in game. In this article, I show you a few samples of how these paintings are used in mobile games, with pictures from famous games.

Junxue Li, Blogger

June 20, 2016

5 Min Read


   “Traditional Painting” refers to the traditional way of executing 2D artworks, for example Gouache and oil painting, artists work with brush and canvas. You can think of Disney and Ghibli’s works.

    In video gaming’s infancy years, due to the limits of memory and display devices, traditional paintings couldn’t be used directly in games, perhaps their only application is on the sticker of cassettes. For example these Amamo’s beautiful illustrations:

    These days, this old art form has a new branch dubbed “digital painting”. For artists paint with stylus on a computer, instead of on papers. In my eyes, it’s only a matter of new tools, this art is unchanged to its essence and appearance. Below are two paintings executed by our art director Claire Liu, one is Gouache on paper and another digital. I won’t tell you which is which, you may guess :) My point is that they are no different.

    Upon entering the mobile gaming era, powerful hardware have removed the graphic limitations, that rich classic style painted graphics find their way into games, and are welcomed by players old and young. As a matter of fact, human desire is insatiable, and game developers tend to feed more and more luxurious artworks into games. Today this type of paintings - either created traditionally or digitally - have infinity number of ways of use in game, here I would only list a few popular ones:



  First of all, all types of games need a poster.



   In old days, the levels of platformers are made up by repetitive tiles. Today thanks to the hardware, we can enjoy the luxury of using free formed-never repetitive paintings. The best example might be the new Rayman series.


Running games

   To the essence, 2D running games is a sub-type of platformers. And this genre is so popular these days that it deserves a specific mentioning. Here we can see the Smurf Epic Run is exceedingly gorgeous and stand out among the crowd of 2D runners. For today way too many people want to make fast money in this genre, coming up with simple style graphics.


Puzzle Game background

   For puzzle games, I mean the type that you solve puzzles in a single screen, and upon winning condition is met that you are moved to the next level. We have Match 3, bubble shooter, solitaire, etc etc in this type. Typically the background of the level screen is a neat painting. While the center part of it is occupied by gaming pieces most of the time, the painting adopts fresh and simple style.


Puzzle Game Maps

We may never underestimate the map screens’ power of creating a sense of world and adventure which is missing in simple puzzle games. So every puzzle game has richly designed maps to make itself more engaging.

You can find in my last article the best map screens in mobile games.


Adventure Games

    We may never forget the thrill of going back and forth across many and many fantastic scenes after a cue, and the excitement of opening new pathway by a key item. For this genre artists never grudge the most luxurious treatments, and for some games they even go to the great length of painting the graphics on paper then scan them into computer.


Trading Card Games

This is a genre welcomed around the world, and artists in the East and West alike produce character designs deeply rooted in their cultures.


Hidden Object Games

   This genre was very popular for some time. The main game play is to find listed objects in beautifully illustrated scenes, and the whole process is story driven. Famous titles including Criminal Case F2P game and Mystery Case Files series.


RPG Environment

    This is a very old genre, and the retro style graphics made of pixels and tiles still have their appeal. However we couldn’t be stopped from asking for beautifully illustrated free-form environments.


Isometric Buildings

    Isometric buildings have wild application in many genres: management, city builder, strategy , etc. Currently in most of these games, buildings are made by 3D pre-render. It’s really difficult to find a game in which the buildings are painted in traditional way. Here is one, Shop Heroes.



    Painting is an art form accompanying mankind from his infancy up to now, I think humans would never tired of its enchantment, and it’s application in games would only evolve with the tide of technology and market. It would never go obsolete.


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I would post regularly--about game and art production.

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