Three Quick Reasons Why Cyberpunk Art Is Easier To Make Than You Think

Cyberpunk art is a genre of art that has a reputation for complexity. If you do an internet search for cyberpunk art, you’ll probably see lots of hyper-realistic and hyper-detailed pieces of art that might make you think that you can’t make art in this genre. Well, you can.

As long as you know a few basic art skills, then you can make cyberpunk art. Yes, it might not look like the hyper-realistic art you’ve seen online, but it will still be cyberpunk – like this:

“Backstreets” By C. A. Brown

“Coast Road” By C. A. Brown

So, here are a few things that will reassure you that cyberpunk art is easier to make than you think. I’ve probably mentioned some of these before, but they are worth repeating.

1) Look at computer games, low-budget movies and anime: One way to reassure yourself that cyberpunk art doesn’t have to be hyper-realistic is to look at old science fiction computer games, modern low budget cyberpunk computer games, low budget cyberpunk-influenced movies and pretty much any cyberpunk anime.

Because these things have limited graphics technology and/or money, they have come up with interesting-looking but less “realistic” versions of the cyberpunk genre. They use stylised drawings, more primitive computer graphics or more “basic” set designs. Here are some examples:

This is a screenshot from the most cyberpunk scene in “Trancers” (1984). As you can see, the film-makers created a convincing cyberpunk location by adding a few neon lights, a couple of machines, some modified cars and some fog to an old diner. It isn’t a very large or elaborate set when compared to a film like “Blade Runner”, but it still looks cyberpunk.

This is a screenshot from “Cowboy Bebop” (1998) – Due to the challenges of traditional animation, this classic anime TV show uses less “realistic” artwork but is still wonderfully cyberpunk.

This is a screenshot from “Technobablyon” (2015) – a low budget computer game that still manages to create a compelling cyberpunk world, despite not using the kind of almost photo-realistic graphics that high-budget games from 2015 used.

So, yes, realism isn’t an essential part of cyberpunk art.

2) Lighting: A lot of what makes cyberpunk art “cyberpunk” is the lighting and colours. As long as you know the basics of painting realistic lighting and know a bit about complementary colours, then you can make cyberpunk art.

One of the easiest ways to make any piece of art look cyberpunk is simply to set it in a gloomy area and to make sure that all of the light sources in your painting or drawing are artificial (eg: neon lights, computer monitors, shop windows etc..). You can also make your art look extra cyberpunk by ensure that all of the light sources in your art fit into 1-3 complementary colour pairs:

This is a digitally-edited painting of mine that uses artificial light sources and gloomy lighting to create a cyberpunk atmosphere (“Old Video” By C. A. Brown)

Some good general rules to remember here are that, to get a good cyberpunk “look”, at least 30% of the total surface area of your painting must be covered with black paint (so that the lighting and colours stand out more).

In addition to this, if you don’t know how to paint neon lights or glowing screens – then just make the edges of the area in question darker than the centre. Like this:

As you can see the centre of the computer screen and the centre of each neon light tube is brighter than the edges (Detail from “Disused Sector” by C. A. Brown)

3) Detail: Last but not least, although cyberpunk art doesn’t have to be “realistic”, it is usually a good idea to make it look as detailed as possible. This is mostly because the cyberpunk genre relies on the idea of “information overload”. So, the more background detail you can cram in, the better.

This is probably one of the most detailed, but not the most realistic, paintings I’ve ever made. It’s also a cyberpunk painting too. (“Architecture” By C. A. Brown)

Although it is certainly possible to make undetailed cyberpunk art (and I do this far too often when I’m in a hurry), if you want your artwork to look really cyberpunk – then just cram in as many intriguing, strange and/or futuristic background details as you can.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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