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[DE]Syncrasis

Basic Art Guide

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Basic Art Guide

In an effort to provide you with more information on the art end of the spectrum, we've put together a reference guide to help you make style-based decisions in your work.

We have another guide located here, with in-depth explanations for creating different types of accepted pieces. You'll also find the downloadable files there. The purpose of the Basic Art Guide is to address broader style concerns.

 

General list of things to keep in mind before we start:

Warframe has many factions with their own unique design language, so stick with only one at a time (with the exception of infested, which may “infest” another faction). Choose from: Tenno, Grineer, Corpus, and Infested. Please also refer to our style guide here.

Avoid the use of perfect geometry, especially circles, as well as modern materials like carbon fiber; we're in a sci-fi universe. Also consider the player’s line-of-sight when creating Syandanas to ensure that aiming is not blocked by the piece, and ensure that it does not wrap around the Warframe's shoulders or neck to prevent clipping.

Stay away from directly replicating existing characters or items (from Warframe or other sources) as well as Orokin, Syndicate or Sentient designs - any item that is meant to be a creation from one of these factions will not be accepted. On helmets, pay special attention to the front and make sure to avoid placing details in the exact places where you expect to see an eye, nose, mouth, etc. While some of the in-game designs vaguely hint at facial features, the goal is to heavily abstract the “face”.

When creating Tintmasks, try to avoid large untintable areas (for the sake of player customization) and do not create large areas of solid Emissive.

 

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Here is a list of what is currently being accepted:

-Warframe Helmets

  • Material set or
  • Custom model + material set

-Warframe Skins

  • Material set
    *No custom geometry or other changes to the base model will be accepted.

-Syandanas

  • Material set or
  • Custom Model + material set

-Liset skins

  • Material set

-Weapons skins/model swaps for Amprex, Gorgon, Sybaris, Jat Kittag, Skana, Galatine, Kronen, Orthos.

  • Material set or
  • Custom model + material set (melee weapons only)

A material set is comprised of:

  • Diffuse map
  • Normal map
  • Specular or Metalness map (two different workflows... choose one or the other)
  • Roughness map
  • Tintmask

Lowpoly Triangle Limits

  • 7500 for Syandana
  • 5000 for Helmet
  • 3500 for One-handed weapon or single dual-weildable weapon
  • 7500 for Two-handed weapon
  • 1500 for Operator Accessory

Whether you're working on a material set alone or a fully sculpted Syandana, these general art practices will help you decide where to put things. Remember to consider these ideas in every part of the process, from the initial design to where you put your tints. Also keep in mind that these rules are more like guidelines, and can be bent when appropriate.

tumblr_okzaizSEo91r28itgo2_1280.jpg

Layers of Detail and Grouping

Think of your piece as layered chunks of details. Begin with your primary form: A large form that you want to have an interesting overall silhouette. For Warframe skins, this would be the default body shape with no textures or other details on it; a blank canvas. For Syandanas or Helmets, this would be your first block-out sketch with no details. Remember: you're just trying to get a feel for the overall shape of your piece.

Break your primary form up into medium-sized chunks, these will become your secondary details. Think about how they interact with each other to determine an overall flow to your design.

Your final layer of detail is the tertiary detail, very small details in areas you want to draw attention to, like the front or back of a helmet, or areas where pieces join together. Where you want to draw attention is up to you. If you're working on a helmet, make sure to match your design style to the Warframe you're working on. Use the provided textures for reference whenever possible! Also keep in mind that the player sees the back of the character 90% of the time.

Here is a great site that explains primary, secondary, and tertiary forms in more detail: http://www.neilblevins.com/cg_education/primary_secondary_and_tertiary_shapes/primary_secondary_and_tertiary_shapes.htm

Dense vs Sparse

Group your details in focal areas and leave other areas more open for the eye to rest. You can say just as much with an open area as you can with tight details, so resist the urge to add details on every surface. Areas of tight detail will draw the eye to them, and should only be used sparingly so the piece does not become too busy.

tumblr_okzaizSEo91r28itgo1_1280.jpg

Flow

Remember to zoom out from time to time and think about how the divisions of forms move across the whole surface of your piece. An interesting design will lead your eye from detail to detail and support your creation’s theme. For example: For a fiery theme, you might want your flow to blast outward from the center of the body, ending in small, feathery details. It's up to you what you want to do, but the movement in your piece between details will be important for how you present your idea.

Rule of Thirds

A great way to group your details into dense and sparse groups is to consider the Rule of Thirds. In each layer of detail (primary/secondary/tertiary), you want to balance out forms in a 2-to-1 ratio. Try not to divide anything up directly in half and avoid repeating the same spacing on details/forms.

Surface Quality

The final details on your surfaces should be defined at the end of the design process, or you might end up with lumpy surfaces (if you are sculpting). Consider the material each area might be made of. Is it leather? Plastic? Metal?

Surface detail and roughness should be different in each tint area to the next to help give them further contrast when light moves across them. However, keep the diffuse value contrast between tints relatively low, so they can still be tinted in-game well. We look for generally midtone grey values for nonmetal materials. Anything too light will be blown out in-game once it is being lit by our shaders. Dark areas will make tints look muddy.

tumblr_okzaizSEo91r28itgo5_r1_1280.jpg

Volume

Just like when you defined your breakup of shapes using grouping and flow, you will want to consider the way light flows over your piece. In general, plump forms with sharp creases between them light very well and flat shapes or concave shapes don’t light as well.

Avoid long thin shapes, as they will be difficult to see and understand at a glance, especially in the already detailed and fast-paced game that is Warframe. These kinds of shapes also have a tendency to bake poorly. Use with caution!

Edge Treatment

How does each part fit together against the next? Are there overlapping parts? Brackets? We like to think of the Warframes themselves as a fusion of biological and mechanical parts. How would skin-like material grow around a mechanical piece? Try not to leave large areas completely flat; even subtle surface sculpting can make it more interesting (like the sculpting on Ash's chest).

Another thing to keep in mind is that edges where there is a sharp change in direction are rarely left bare. If you have a sharp mechanical corner somewhere, consider adding layers to one side, or a panel line to break up the edge. Remember that you can always find examples in the game for how to define such details!

 

Finally, be mindful of the texture resolution you are working with. Very fine details will look pixelated and unreadable in the game, and likewise, very large and thick lines will look too chunky and overbearing compared to other objects in the game. Make sure to use what's already in the game as reference.

A few quick things to check before you upload to Steam:
-Make sure your default colors on the model you're submitting match those you are showing on your Workshop main images. These colors will be used as the default colors in-game and need to match. 
*NOTE: Any helmet-only submissions will need to be colored with default colors to match the default Warframes on your main portrait images in the Steam Workshop and in your submitted TennoGen files. 
-Double-check that you are not using Orokin colors in your submission. Metallic should not be gold, etc.
-Your lowpoly models should be scaled and positioned to match the default Warframe bodies provided in downloads.
-Double-check that your lowpoly submission is within its triangle budget (it's easy to forget!)
-Make sure you are triangulating your lowpoly mesh (if you are submitting a custom mesh) before baking textures, and also submit a triangulated mesh.
-Any pieces that are intended to have cloth physics added to them should be on a separate, watertight mesh (no holes).
-Helmets need to be watertight IE no hole in the bottom where it connects to the neck.
-Polygons are single-sided (the backsides of the polygons are invisible). When making a thin piece of cloth, it needs a front side mesh and a back side mesh, even if it has 0 thickness.
-Compare the size of your custom helmet to the default helmet included in the downloads file. Make sure it's not significantly larger or smaller.
-For melee weapons: Make sure your model is facing the same way, and is roughly the same size as the reference weapon you are creating your remesh for.
-For any energy-only FX with scrolling textures: These need to be placed on their own mesh with their own UVs and texture sets. You will only need a black and white emissive texture + scrolling texture placed into the alpha channel. Please use the TennoGen tool to test it out and let us know what settings you'd like us to use!
-When adding screenshots, make sure to have at least one image lit in neutral lighting, so we can see all your hard work when we are judging for acceptance. 
-Make sure your Workshop images represent only the latest iteration of your work. Remove any old edits to avoid confusion. Adding clearly marked comparison shots during judging periods is ok, but please remove them after a piece is accepted!
-Textures are downres'd when added to the game. For most textures, 2048 sized textures are your WORKING size, and IN-GAME will be 1024. Make sure your textures are presentable at in-game resolution! The only textures that stay at 2048 are the normal maps on Warframe bodies. 
-Please add a screenshot showing the tint breakdown in Red, Green, Blue, and Magenta to your Steam Workshop page, like this:

Tints.thumb.jpg.69dc7265cb551a069da7832b2f3ff81e.jpg

Have fun creating!

Edited by [DE]Syncrasis
Added info about downres'ing textures when in-game
  • Upvote 19

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Not that I have any intention on making Sentient stuff, by why'd you say avoid making Sentient stuff? DE quite literally accepted an Excalibur skin that was made to look Sentient.

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6 minutes ago, AntoineFlemming said:

Not that I have any intention on making Sentient stuff, by why'd you say avoid making Sentient stuff? DE quite literally accepted an Excalibur skin that was made to look Sentient.

It was Old War themed, actually, if we're thinking of the same thing: Sentient Slayer Skin.

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=557791900

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4 minutes ago, [DE]Taylor said:

It was Old War themed, actually, if we're thinking of the same thing: Sentient Slayer Skin.

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=557791900

But it's design and color are based on the Sentients. I'm just trying to understand what you all mean by Orokin, Syndicate, and Sentient themes. In the context of the Sentients, do you mean that it's ok to make a skin that, in a way, is a mockery of the Sentients, but it's not ok to try to make a Sentient Warframe skin (as in, a Warframe made by the Sentients)?

To use an example, Excalibur Sentient Slayer skin (killed Sentients and painted their blood on my warframe) is ok; Excalibur Pakal skin (Hunhow made my warframe) is not ok.

Is that a correct understanding of what you all mean?

Edited by AntoineFlemming
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7 minutes ago, AntoineFlemming said:

To use an example, Excalibur Sentient Slayer skin (killed Sentients and painted their blood on my warframe) is ok; Excalibur Pakal skin (Hunhow made my warframe) is not ok.

Is that a correct understanding of what you all mean?

Yes, exactly. Don't try to make a Nidus Prime skin or a Sentient-made Syandana. Any "Crafted by the Orokin/Syndicates/Sentients" creations are a big no-no.

EDIT: Thanks for asking for clarification! We've revise that line to be more clear.

Edited by [DE]Taylor
added edit
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36 minutes ago, [DE]Taylor said:

Yes, exactly. Don't try to make a Nidus Prime skin or a Sentient-made Syandana. Any "Crafted by the Orokin/Syndicates/Sentients" creations are a big no-no.

EDIT: Thanks for asking for clarification! We've revise that line to be more clear.

I can understand no Orokin and maybe no syndicate styled frames, but I find no Sentient styled frames rather odd. We already have the Grax skinline to make our frames look as if they'd been made by the Grineer so I can only wonder why no Sentient themed skins or syandanas.

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If I could expand on the discussion or confusion above me, the way I understood is the reason we are discouraged to make Sentient/Syndicate/Orokin based items is because those aesthetics are quire lore-heavy and intertwined with DE's own storytelling and market in their game. We don't want creators making Prime Access-type items, or skewing the story pacing in the game by taking Warframes and making false Primes, or Hunhow/Stalker types, injecting certain lore where none exists (yet or at all).
What if I were to make a skin whose lore specifically explained it was a...Operator rebel Warframe who gained sentience and slew their operator and went rogue/free? That could entirely conflict with the world and intentions set in Warframe, maybe it would go against whatever DE was planning.

In the end, we creators were asked to create quality items that adhere to the Warframe aesthetic and lore.
I do apologize for interjecting myself into the discussion, I wished to share my understanding of these guides/limitations.

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36 minutes ago, TruthArbiter said:

I can understand no Orokin and maybe no syndicate styled frames, but I find no Sentient styled frames rather odd. We already have the Grax skinline to make our frames look as if they'd been made by the Grineer so I can only wonder why no Sentient themed skins or syandanas.

The Sentient faction is:
1- Still very new compared to the other factions and don't have nearly as strong a visual library to pull from, especially for player-made items.
2- A special faction. In terms of lore/gameplay, you can't just "go and get" stuff from them. So far a player can only can acquire Sentient items from the Second Dream quest. This is on purpose.

It doesn't mean it won't change in the future, but please understand that it is a "no" right now.
Thankfully, there is still tons of freedom with the other factions :)

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What about the Hellkite liset skin? the red feather-like design is strongly evocative of the Red Veil (Would check description but workshop is acting up for me).

EDIT: "The Hellkite is a Liset skin based off of several shapes and themes of the Red Veil". Well then. Although I do not see why we cannot make our own syndicate things

On another note, can we get descriptions for the skins in-game other than "a skin for your ____ designed by ____"?

Edited by Cephalon_Esrius
information from Hellkite page

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32 minutes ago, Cephalon_Esrius said:

What about the Hellkite liset skin? the red feather-like design is strongly evocative of the Red Veil (Would check description but workshop is acting up for me).

EDIT: "The Hellkite is a Liset skin based off of several shapes and themes of the Red Veil". Well then. Although I do not see why we cannot make our own syndicate things

On another note, can we get descriptions for the skins in-game other than "a skin for your ____ designed by ____"?

IIRC, Hellkite was originally literally Red Veil themed, and was changed to simply be "inspired by". Definitely a close call. The important thing is to make sure it fits one of the accepted factions and not literally use Syndicate design language. It's safer and more worthwhile to stay away from themes not being accepted, as a general rule.  

Syndicates are a faction from whom the player earns items by doing special tasks to build standing, through gameplay, and can be traded between players. We are not open to adding TennoGen market-purchased items to that pool of content (specifically Syndicates) at this time.

As for descriptions, I don't think we have any plans to change that. Sorry!

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Just now, [DE]Syncrasis said:

IIRC, Hellkite was originally literally Red Veil themed, and was changed to simply be "inspired by". Definitely a close call. The important thing is to make sure it fits one of the accepted factions and not literally use Syndicate design language. It's safer and more worthwhile to stay away from themes not being accepted, as a general rule.  

Syndicates are a faction from whom the player earns items by doing special tasks to build standing, through gameplay, and can be traded between players. We are not open to adding TennoGen market-purchased items to that pool of content (specifically Syndicates) at this time.

As for descriptions, I don't think we have any plans to change that. Sorry!

Thank you for clarification

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This is cool! You have allways had a good eye for sketch > model work flow,  I am glad you are there to offer your advice.

I do have a question.

Themed skins, we allready have a few that is on the verge of crossing the line. Even the Deluxe skins are more high Fantasy than action scifi. 

But how do we descide? It's been very tricky without any feedback from the developers untill it goes into choosing a round at wich point it would be too late if the model needs serious reworks.

Let me take an example. I want to do a skin, possibly more than one, that is Lotus-themed. The idea is to make you think of the Lotus but not be a copy of her.

I do not mean Dex I mean special skins that is like a honor-warframe.

Is this ok based on the guidelines, or is it in the same bag as sentient?  To me it is more like a Grineer or Corpus theme and therefor ok that Tenno artisans have made designs with traits borrowed from enemies or allied groups.

And speaking of that, we do have Syndicate Syandanas allready right?  So a skin do not seem like such a big leap - unless DE will release a Sybdicate-series, that would mean all Tennogen should stay away from that stuff for now.

Can you please clear this up a bit?

- Arch111 -

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thank you so much for the fleshed out guide! I do hope to apply all the lessons here on my future works (and for the reworks too :P) especially the one about breaking the model into primary, secondary and tertiary forms and shapes, I think my last banshee one suffered greatly from not properly balancing the large and small details

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What about the wild/unaffiliated faction such as lanx, kubrow, kavat, and skate? I haven't seen anything about them in any of the tennogen guide posts. Hypothetically could I use their designs to make something like a berserker skin? I'd imagine so long as one of the main factions tenno/grineer/corpus/infested sticks out so it doesn't appear all organic, it would be ok......:thumbup:?

Edited by Postal_pat

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On 7-2-2017 at 1:22 AM, [DE]Syncrasis said:

Stay away from replicating existing characters (from Warframe or other sources) as well as Orokin, Syndicate or Sentient designs - any item that is meant to be a creation from one of these factions will not be accepted.

These rules are pretty harsh all of a sudden, I can understand the Orokin and Syndicate style, because those are real special and they might just replace the primed syandanas and syndicate stuff. But why the sentient style? It is one of the coolest things to work with because of its unnatural organic style. I am also a bit concerned that this rule is going a bit too far when it comes to designer choices. You take away a lot of new things.

Also I was working on a corpus syandana designs which implemented Nef Anyo a bit, but I guess that is also prohibited now, which is a real shame...

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I'm going to shamelessly plug in this post I created awhile ago to even get started in Tennogen, it's been lost in the abyss of forum that will help a lot of people get to this stage. Cheers!

 

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On 2/8/2017 at 4:37 AM, arch111 said:

This is cool! You have allways had a good eye for sketch > model work Flow, I am glad you are there to offer your advice.

I do have a question.

Themed skins, we allready have a few that is on the verge of crossing the line. Even the Deluxe skins are more high Fantasy than action scifi.

But how do we descide? It's been very tricky without any feedback from the developers untill it goes into choosing a round at wich point it would be too late if the model needs serious reworks.

Let me take an example. I want to do a skin, possibly more than one, that is Lotus-themed. The idea is to make you think of the Lotus but not be a copy of her.

I do not mean Dex I mean special skins that is like a honor-warframe.

Is this ok based on the guidelines, or is it in the same bag as sentient? To me it is more like a Grineer or Corpus theme and therefor ok that Tenno artisans have made designs with traits borrowed from enemies or allied groups.

And speaking of that, we do have Syndicate Syandanas allready right? So a skin do not seem like such a big leap - unless DE will release a Sybdicate-series, that would mean all Tennogen should stay away from that stuff for now.

Can you please clear this up a bit?

- Arch111 -

Themed skins/deluxe skins: Deluxe skins are specifically meant to be divergent from the main style of Warframe. TennoGen creators should try to avoid doing that as much as possible. There have been exceptions, but as a general rule, stick with the accepted factions :D

Feedback: Last round, we were able to give out feedback to creators whose pieces were very close to being accepted, privately. We intend to do this going forward as well. 

Lotus theme: From your description, it sounds like a variant of Tenno styling. So long as it doesn't stray too far away from Tenno, it sounds like it would work. Everything that can be described as an edge case needs to be handled case-by-case and I cannot give a blanket answer here. Best thing to do is to stick with acceptable factions. Lots of freedom there!

Syndicate stuff: Remember that the point of Syndicate items is to earn items from standing, or trade for them with players who have earned these items with standing. TennoGen items, as items, fall into an entirely different category: they're purchased, and have nothing to do with gameplay. It's a decision on our part not to mix them. If this ever changes in the future, we will let you know, but right now you can safely assume "no".

Thanks!

Edited by [DE]Syncrasis

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On 2/8/2017 at 1:45 PM, DeadNexus_ said:

These rules are pretty harsh all of a sudden, I can understand the Orokin and Syndicate style, because those are real special and they might just replace the primed syandanas and syndicate stuff. But why the sentient style? It is one of the coolest things to work with because of its unnatural organic style. I am also a bit concerned that this rule is going a bit too far when it comes to designer choices. You take away a lot of new things.

Also I was working on a corpus syandana designs which implemented Nef Anyo a bit, but I guess that is also prohibited now, which is a real shame...

Personally I love the sentient style too! It's possible it will be added in the future, but I can't say for sure. For now, it's a no, for reasons stated earlier in the thread (too new a faction, we want to keep the items acquired from them special, etc). What do you mean by, "You take away a lot of new things" with the exclusion of the Sentient style? As far as I know, there haven't been any Sentient items made for TennoGen.

Oh, what is meant by not copying from in-game characters is specifically trying to make, for example, a Stalker helmet, or a Void key, etc. You can definitely make things inspired by Nef Anyo :) I will clarify in the guide. Thanks!

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41 minutes ago, [DE]Syncrasis said:

Personally I love the sentient style too! It's possible it will be added in the future, but I can't say for sure. For now, it's a no, for reasons stated earlier in the thread (too new a faction, we want to keep the items acquired from them special, etc). What do you mean by, "You take away a lot of new things" with the exclusion of the Sentient style? As far as I know, there haven't been any Sentient items made for TennoGen.

Oh, what is meant by not copying from in-game characters is specifically trying to make, for example, a Stalker helmet, or a Void key, etc. You can definitely make things inspired by Nef Anyo :) I will clarify in the guide. Thanks!

Alrighty, thanks for the information, and I ment by take away a lot of new things simply put that we couldn't use the stuff from already existing characters, but we can when it comes to inspiration material, so all is good here. 

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Hey Sync, again congrats for making it there. Quick question, texture designs resembling the Kuva and Infested look and feel, is that ok, or no-go?

Edited by Ambiroa

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I know we can't edit the meshes for the warframes, but I was always wondering if we're allowed to add smaller meshes to ago along with a skin like how newer primes layer meshes over the warframe mesh. I just want to know if that is a no for now.

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1 hour ago, Novatico said:

I know we can't edit the meshes for the warframes, but I was always wondering if we're allowed to add smaller meshes to ago along with a skin like how newer primes layer meshes over the warframe mesh. I just want to know if that is a no for now.

At the moment, its a no to any type of additions or alterations to the meshes for warframes.

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