What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

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hachi-mitsu
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What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#1 Post by hachi-mitsu » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:57 pm

Hello everyone, this is my first post on Lemma Soft, so I hope this is the right topic.

From researching methods and techniques for creating character sprites, I just have a few questions, since I am not sure what method would be best suited for a beginner in VN asset creation. What it looks like to me, there are two ways of crafting character sprites + expression and pose variations;

1. Full sprite:
Where for every expression and pose, there is a separate PNG for each one. The Higurashi remake, and many many other VNs use this technique. I can only assume this is the most common route.

2. Assembled sprite:
Where character sprites have base parts, and sections such as faces and arms are swapped out for cropped PNGs supporting different expressions and poses. I'm afraid I've forgotten their username on here, but I know the creator of Coming Out on Top uses this technique, as well as Team Salvato in DDLC.

So here I ask, what technique do you think is better suited for a beginner. I feel like I should go for the Full sprite method, but I just worry about taking up a lot of file space with my images. I am creating sprites for 9 characters, with 7 characters having 2-3 variations in outfits, and I also plan for an array of expressions and slight changes in poses. How much space does the Assembled sprite technique save in the end, and is it something a beginner should worry about?

If it helps to know, my VN is 720x1080, and my canvas is around double-triple the size. Thank you!

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#2 Post by Per K Grok » Wed Jan 16, 2019 2:11 am

hachi-mitsu wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:57 pm
---
So here I ask, what technique do you think is better suited for a beginner. I feel like I should go for the Full sprite method, but I just worry about taking up a lot of file space with my images.
---
I would recommend the full sprite method. Always a good idea to start out using the simpler method.

Space really is not that much of a problem nowadays.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#3 Post by hachi-mitsu » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:13 pm

Per K Grok wrote:
Wed Jan 16, 2019 2:11 am
I would recommend the full sprite method. Always a good idea to start out using the simpler method.

Space really is not that much of a problem nowadays.
Thank you for your advice! I appreciate it.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#4 Post by ComputerArt.Club » Fri Jan 18, 2019 8:43 pm

I just tried the new layered sprite method last night as outlined here: https://patreon.renpy.org/layeredimage-conversion.html, I am creating my images as vectors in Inkscape, which has its disadvantages for this method. Initially I had created a an early draft of the game using full sprites, but my game has animated speaking and I thought I would try the new layered method out this time to see how it did.

For the character that I did last night, one full body sprite was about 59kb (for a 360x780 sprite), but layered images containing 3 sets of arms, 4 sets of eyes, and 5 sets of mouths comes in at 121 kb. I haven't yet started to code the poses, but I expect a couple of headaches along the way.

I am also not sure demanding this method is in terms of processing power, especially if I am animating speech and other features. I am a bit concerned though as this game is for Android and this probably be my most demanding game so far (does anyone do anything to check the performance requirements of their games?).

I do think that your game sounds like it has a lot of sprites, so it might be advisable to try this method, it is more effort though, time that could be spent elsewhere. Part of the reason I might have made the leap last night was that I might have been procrastinating from fixing story issues. Ha ha.

BTW, the images aren't cropped in the new method, also, keeping your first project simple and working your way up. You will learn from your mistakes and have better more efficient and effective ways of doing things before you start on a large project so it will be less likely to remain unfinished.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#5 Post by ComputerArt.Club » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:55 am

So I have finally finished coding my first layered sprite and I have managed to get it animated so it can talk etc. It was definitely a headache, but part of the difficulty stemmed from unrelated issues (putting it in a scene with zorder features implemented on layers of background and foreground and then wondering why I couldn't see my sprite).

If you go that route you can ask me questions, but it is definitely slower to set up and I do recommend keeping your first projects simple. This was my first complete project: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... n.catsbath
Short, simple, and it served a purpose. My first project was too big and complicated and ultimately remains unfinished.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#6 Post by hachi-mitsu » Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:45 pm

ComputerArt.Club wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:55 am
If you go that route you can ask me questions, but it is definitely slower to set up and I do recommend keeping your first projects simple. This was my first complete project: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... n.catsbath
Short, simple, and it served a purpose. My first project was too big and complicated and ultimately remains unfinished.
Hey, thanks for replying. Sorry, I didn't get a notification for your posts for some reason. Anyway. I'm glad you're getting the hang of it, despite its complicated nature. That was mainly what I feared. My personal project itself is pretty big, but I've still constructed it to be fairly simple; there isn't much out of my current range, it's just hefty in terms of detail and art. I do struggle with X and Y positioning, hence I was apprehensive to use the layered sprite method on my first VN.

Perhaps I could use a mixture of both, using the layered sprites for minor characters who only have changes in expressions, not poses.

Again, thanks a lot for your insight!

EDIT: Thank you for the Ren'Py tutorial link too! That actually really helped me understand the method more, and it doesn't seem as complicated as I previously thought. But I'm still deciding which method I should stick with, haha.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#7 Post by ComputerArt.Club » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:39 am

hachi-mitsu wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:45 pm
ComputerArt.Club wrote:
Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:55 am
If you go that route you can ask me questions, but it is definitely slower to set up and I do recommend keeping your first projects simple. This was my first complete project: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... n.catsbath
Short, simple, and it served a purpose. My first project was too big and complicated and ultimately remains unfinished.
Hey, thanks for replying. Sorry, I didn't get a notification for your posts for some reason. Anyway. I'm glad you're getting the hang of it, despite its complicated nature. That was mainly what I feared. My personal project itself is pretty big, but I've still constructed it to be fairly simple; there isn't much out of my current range, it's just hefty in terms of detail and art. I do struggle with X and Y positioning, hence I was apprehensive to use the layered sprite method on my first VN.

Perhaps I could use a mixture of both, using the layered sprites for minor characters who only have changes in expressions, not poses.

Again, thanks a lot for your insight!

EDIT: Thank you for the Ren'Py tutorial link too! That actually really helped me understand the method more, and it doesn't seem as complicated as I previously thought. But I'm still deciding which method I should stick with, haha.
No problem, also, it turns out that the new method is was really efficient and effective for my project once I got used to it. I am almost finished now :), the game itself is done, just menus and sound to be improved upon. You can take a look here:
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=53624

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#8 Post by PeterKmiecik » Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:51 pm

If You have different outfits, I'd go straight with cutout character parts. We use it most in casual games, also makes it easy to animate it later.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#9 Post by hachi-mitsu » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:08 pm

PeterKmiecik wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:51 pm
If You have different outfits, I'd go straight with cutout character parts. We use it most in casual games, also makes it easy to animate it later.
Alright, thank you for your input. Although I don't plan on having any animation (other than the regular transition from expression to expression), at the same time, it seems like a cleaner method to use. So I've just got to construct my sprites like paper dolls, right?

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#10 Post by PeterKmiecik » Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:56 pm

Sort of. You aren't doing animations, so just cut out parts that You need.
For animating character it depends on what kind of animations do You want. Is it going to be frame animation, blends or skeleton based.
For face I'd go with simple expressions of mouth, eyes etc. as frames.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#11 Post by hachi-mitsu » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:53 pm

PeterKmiecik wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:56 pm
Sort of. You aren't doing animations, so just cut out parts that You need.
For animating character it depends on what kind of animations do You want. Is it going to be frame animation, blends or skeleton based.
For face I'd go with simple expressions of mouth, eyes etc. as frames.
I see, thanks for clarifying. As I said, my sprites are going to be really basic, just your average VN style with no blinking/lipsync/etc. It was just file size I was concerned about. I think the layering style would work best for changing outfits, so thanks for the advice on that.

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#12 Post by ComputerArt.Club » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:24 am

PeterKmiecik wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:56 pm
For animating character it depends on what kind of animations do You want. Is it going to be frame animation, blends or skeleton based.
Wow, I had no idea that you could do skeleton based animation with Renpy, are you referring to the use of around for rotating around a certain point? Or something more complicated whereby you could have an arm or tail with several bones? Are you doing the bone animation inside Renpy with ATL or in some other program like OpenToonz or something not open source?

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#13 Post by PeterKmiecik » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:22 pm

I wasn't referring to RenPy though. I am not sure if it does support bone-mesh deformations of any sort. I was speaking more in terms of games industry especially as I said in casual space. Depending on how open the Renpy is on coding/plugins work You might be able to add some bone thing functionality.. but it will take some serious coding power to do so ;)

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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#14 Post by Draziya » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:06 am

As someone who has used both methods before, the first method, Full Sprites, may seem simpler at first. You have the exact expressions and you can swap between them. The only hassle comes with your art program of choice, hiding and unhiding layers to make sure the expression is what you want it to be.

However, if you later realise you want to make modifications to the base sprite (the parts that don't change), or modifications to say, the eyes only, things get a bit more tedious with the Full Sprite method. If you change the base sprite a bit, you have to remake the files for each and every sprite that that character uses. If you make changes to something like the eyes, you have to remake all sprites that use those eyes. It's not terribly hard to do, it just takes more time than you might wish it did.

Assembled Sprites are now easier than ever in Renpy. With Renpy 7, Layered Images have become a thing and wow they make Assembled Sprites easy. It was a bit hard to wrap my head around at first, but this tutorial helped clarify things. It's basically the Layered Images documentation but as a visual novel. Once I figured everything out, it was just a matter of assembling the automatic layered images code for each character, and export all of the parts that make up the sprites.

Given that your sprites have multiple outfits, I highly recommend using Assembled Sprites/Layered Images. That way you only have to make the expressions once for each character, rather than having to create a new image for every different outfit. It's true the learning curve is a tad steeper than Full Sprites, but you shouldn't regret it further down the line.
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Re: What's the best sprite creation method for a beginner?

#15 Post by hachi-mitsu » Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:27 pm

Draziya wrote:
Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:06 am
As someone who has used both methods before, the first method, Full Sprites, may seem simpler at first. You have the exact expressions and you can swap between them. The only hassle comes with your art program of choice, hiding and unhiding layers to make sure the expression is what you want it to be.

However, if you later realise you want to make modifications to the base sprite (the parts that don't change), or modifications to say, the eyes only, things get a bit more tedious with the Full Sprite method. If you change the base sprite a bit, you have to remake the files for each and every sprite that that character uses. If you make changes to something like the eyes, you have to remake all sprites that use those eyes. It's not terribly hard to do, it just takes more time than you might wish it did.

Assembled Sprites are now easier than ever in Renpy. With Renpy 7, Layered Images have become a thing and wow they make Assembled Sprites easy. It was a bit hard to wrap my head around at first, but this tutorial helped clarify things. It's basically the Layered Images documentation but as a visual novel. Once I figured everything out, it was just a matter of assembling the automatic layered images code for each character, and export all of the parts that make up the sprites.

Given that your sprites have multiple outfits, I highly recommend using Assembled Sprites/Layered Images. That way you only have to make the expressions once for each character, rather than having to create a new image for every different outfit. It's true the learning curve is a tad steeper than Full Sprites, but you shouldn't regret it further down the line.
Wow, your reply is incredible! Thank you so much for that tutorial, I am on my laptop currently but next time I'm on my PC, I'll definitely download it for a proper look! As someone who learns best by doing and seeing things in action, this looks to be a lifesaver.

If it helps, I use Paint Tool SAI (with Photoshop CS6 for any colour correction, etc), so while I don't have a small layer lock per-say, I can see even labelled layers getting confusing with the Full Sprite method.

Ultimately, I asked this question to gauge whether the learning curve was worth the method. So, even if the Assembled Sprite/Layering method results in a steeper learning curve, it seems by yours and others' suggestions, it'll be worth it for sprites that sport multiple outfit changes.

Thank you kindly!

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