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If I understand correctly, there are two major kinds of artists involved in game development - 2D and 3D.

I think I somewhat understand, that if I want to go 3D, I should learn some 3D modeling package really well and that would be it. Please correct me if I am wrong.

With 2D I am completely lost. There are a lot of tutorials on the web describing so many different topics like general drawing, vector graphics, raster graphics, pixel art and a whole lot of other things.

So what tools and techniques are most commonly used by professional 2D artists and if I wanted to become one, exactly were should I start(like tomorrow) and what should my goals be?

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think I somewhat understand, that if I want to go 3D, I should learn some 3D modeling package really well and that would be it. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I'll correct you, since you are wrong. Let's assume you want to become a writer, a good one. Do you just need to learn to read and write and type fast on keyboard and that would be it? Of course not.

If you want to become an artist SERIOUSLY consider going through real, traditional art lessons. Drawing, figure drawing especially, doodle in your notebook, give yourself tasks etc. Constantly draw and paint whatever you want to make. Parallel to that you can teach yourself some poly modeling program along with detailing program - a combo of maya+zbrush or maya+mudbox or 3dsmax+mudbox or modo+zbrush or whatever.

You see, you need only a few weeks at most to learn any of these programs sufficiently to know pretty much everything you need to know. What then? You are an artist all of a sudden? Just like by learning Word you are a writer? You, hopefully, understand what I'm talking about.

I'd suggest a plan:

  • pick up a program or two and stick with it. I suggest Maya or Max along with Mudbox or Zbrush. You can't go wrong with either. You can do magic with any of them. See which you like more and stick to it.
  • Look at gnomon or digital tutorials or 3dbuzz VMTs (good intro to maya they have) programs and go through basics of program. Doodle with it, play with it. Sing a long with those tutorials
  • Next step is give yourself a task and go from start to finish with it. 'I wan't to make a car' and make it. Try to go after original, your own designs (this is more appreciated). Avoid knitting models over blueprints and sketches that are not your own. Unless you want to be a drone later on.
  • Specialize in something. Maybe you like robots, maybe you like animals... draw them, design them, make them alive - models, textures, lights. Maybe you like designing environments, make them.
  • Work work and work. You WILL suck hard at it first, but you will get better. Ask for criticism around and take it in and work on it more to make it better. Never get criticism as personal insults or any of that, it's not.
  • Take a drawing class and life drawing lessons.
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Very good answer. For Max tutorials I'd recommend 3d-palace.com, lots of free stuff there as well. –  Raoul Jul 15 '10 at 22:09
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"you need only a few weeks at most to learn any of these programs sufficiently to know pretty much everything you need to know" - Oh I guess I must be doing it wrong :( –  Iain Jul 16 '10 at 13:19
    
His statement applies to learning a new 3D tool after you've already mastered a different one, but not to learning 3D modeling in the first place. –  jhocking Apr 21 '11 at 21:19
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As always Tom Sloper has a good article about it: http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson53.htm

For 2D art usually artists start with pixel art for 2D games. The guy who does art for my games uses photoshop. This is industry standard and is widely used. 3D modelers use programs like 3DS Max or Maya. Blender is a good free alternative.

This is a good article on Raster/Vector graphics -> http://www.sketchpad.net/basics1.htm

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The different topics are basically different styles of art. Every game will demand its own style, so your best bet is to look into all of them.

However, some common threads will pervade amongst everything. "General drawing", as you say, will probably be something that will be useful wherever you are.

As for vector vs raster, it really does depend on what developers you work with. Many games on the Flash platform will tend to ask for vector art (moreso than other platforms, in my experience). Even still, vector graphics are an important part of modeling and you might be able to get away with doing everything as vector graphics and exporting it to raster (which is much harder to do the other way around). It'll be cleaner.

But yes, it depends a lot on the specific game or developers you will be working with. Until then, there is nothing wrong with looking into a bit of everything.

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To start, a website displaying your portfolio and what work you have done for clients.

To get your first clients, you could start by donating artwork to places like OpenGameArt, and then when your art is used, you can add that to your resume. Now that you have some sort of background, in that you can point to say that you have made this and this, you could try to offer your services at a number of game development sites. Just keep going like this, getting a larger and more impressive portfolio.

Otherwise, I can't help you much on the "tools" side, but that seems like what you should do to get started as an artist.

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