Art Style Guide

Within this blog post you will be able to access our style guide, colour schemes and research process around our selected style for Luminary: Aztec. This blog post has been taken from the artist and developer Samantha Bland’s personal development blog.

With being the artist developer of the team, I’ve taken responsibility of all the art and illustrations for the project. Having said that, I will have to wait for certain text pieces to be created by fellow group partner, Jen Moodie. However, due to external circumstances, I’ve worked around these important pieces of text and completely created all the illustrations for the card game.

Found within this blog, I’ll be going through the whole art style process from the art research, artist inspiration, the process and the final notes around the art styles of the characters and objects. I would like to give credit to Jen Moodie for creating the user interface of the faces which can be found on her development blog. The user interfaces for the cards were designed before external circumstances occurred.

Art Research

Before creating any illustration, I made sure that I did my research around what the Aztec’s created during their every day life and what sort of illustrations and sculptures they were creating in order to inspire a possible art style I’ve never illustrated in as well as a reference guide in how I can go about illustrating images similar to that of an actual Aztec.

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Aztec Illustration of the commercial courts.


With very little illustrations to work with, I’ve found a few around the Aztec courts. This might not be a lot to work with, but it’s something rather than nothing and I’m more than happy to work with even the smallest bit of information, or illustrations in this matter.


When looking at these illustrations, they’re simple yet contain details to create texture and give a three-dimensional look to the image. Alongside that, shading does not seem like a requirement with these images as well as looking at other illustrations the Aztecs created.


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Aztec illustrations of the travelling merchant.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that depending on the status of the person, hair styles and clothing change. However, with a group of people from the same status are not the same. The Aztec artisans have given them identities by creating different patterns on their clothing.


The anatomy of the people within the illustrations seems to lack the artistic foundations created and taught throughout different art classes and courses.

The faces are always illustrated from the side along with the body. The hands and feet are a little different as they do try to follow perspective of how a foot looks like at different angles yet even the perspective on that isn’t correct.

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Aztec illustrations of the courts of law.

The proportions of the body are also off when siting down and however, I believe like any artist who hates drawing that one body part or pose, we will avoid it somehow and in this example, it would not surprise me if they do not want to illustrate people sitting. This is due to many of the images containing people sitting, they’re always covered by their clothing.


The backgrounds within these illustrations are simple and at times are just a plane background, as the background does not play apart of the story. When the background is apart of the story, then the Aztec artisans try to achieve a three-dimensional aesthetic in a way that has been taught to them or that feels natural to their drawing capabilities.

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Aztec Sculpture of the God Mictlāntēcutli.


Alongside creating illustrations, Aztec artisans were more craftsmen, due to their immense collection of sculptures. These sculptures were created for different reasons; some were created for offerings to the Gods and Goddesses above, others were created for decorative elements and art, as well as other reasons.


When creating the different sculptures, Aztec artisans gave the sculptures textures to add further detail to their art pieces. This would be due to the sculpture wearing clothing and so additional detail would be required.

Sculpture Style

The sculpturing style is very similar to that of the illustrations the Aztec artisans have created, yet with sculpturing I believe the Aztec artisans preferred this method of creating art. Their skill is suited to carving sculptures out of different materials as it allows them to create an actual three-dimensional item unlike when trying to create a similar effect with illustrating.

Scanned image of the Art Style page found within my sketchbook.

Final Notes:

  • With our card game including illustrations of different objects, foods and characters found within Aztec society, it’s best that I illustrate these items instead of creating little 3D sculptures which will take an extra amount of time.
  • Having chosen to illustrate different objects, foods and characters, I think it’s best I try and illustrate these different things as if I was an Aztec artisan. This might require a few pages to try and test this style out but I think I can try and adapt my style of illustrating to that of an Aztec artisan.

Artist Inspiration: Gerasimov Sergei

Vector illustration aztec cacao pattern for chocolate package design on brown, red, green, grey, yellow colors in white backdrop.
Illustrations © Gerasimov Sergei.

When discovering different illustrations inspired by the Aztec’s artisans, I came across multiple vector illustrations created by the artist Gerasimov Sergei who had taken the Aztec illustration style and created his own spin on the style.


Gerasimov Sergei’s vector art work really captures the three dimensional aesthetic that Aztec artisans tried to recreated within their illustration work.  However, comparing Gerasimov Sergei’s Aztec style to that of the Aztec artisans shows that Gerasimov Sergei has some correct anatomy due to the limbs and such being of a correct size, whilst Aztec’s artisans doesn’t seem to have a continuous anatomy flow to their drawings as some citizens will be drawn very tall with oversized bodies and small hands.

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Illustrations © Gerasimov Sergei.

Moving on from Gerasimov Sergei’s anatomy, the colour scheme of these different illustrations is different to colours used within illustrations created by the Aztec artisans. This massive difference is due to the time period difference.

Within today’s society, we have the ability to really push art boundaries with different mediums, colours, tools and techniques. Having a choice to use any and all of these different art related items, it has changed the way we showcase our art skills and art. Gerasimov Sergei most likely uses some drawing tablet along with a PC or laptop that can access some drawing program like the Adobe suite, GIMP, Paint Tool SAI or Clip Paint Studio.

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Illustrations © Gerasimov Sergei.

With a range of art software, comes a range of colours and tools that can change their appearance and create different effects. Gerasimov Sergei uses has created two different colour versions of his Aztec art style; with one of them using low captured colours and a dark brown to outline the whole piece whilst the other version is vibrant and has a gradient applied to parts of the illustrations without an outline.

Aztec cacao pattern for chocolate package design Stock Vector - 84177883
Illustrations © Gerasimov Sergei.

The different colour schemes placed onto these different if not the same illustrations is interesting. Part of me is interested in the vibrant colour palette yet the saturated colour palette dedicates itself more to that of the original Aztec illustrations.

Aside from the two different colour palettes, Gerasimov Sergei’s take on the Aztec illustration style is an interesting one at that. His approach to the whole aspect of Aztec art is impressive and interesting with how he’s made something so old and rework it to suit something you would see in today’s art galleries. I think taking some of the techniques Gerasimov Sergei has used with the anatomy will be a massive benefit to illustrating in the Aztec art style.

Art Style Guide & Notes.

Luminary Cards Version 1
Version 1 of the cards with the first edit of the text. Illustrations © Samantha Bland. Text © Jen Moodie. Typography © Katrinelly.

With our game having a variety of card’s, ranging in size, role and play effects, I’ve had work with with no description of each of the characters and objects for both the role and playing cards. I did have a somewhat new list whilst starting my early concepts before more were added during and after the Easter break. Anyway, this section is dedicated to the characters and their illustration process. The objects have their own section as but the process is the exact same.

Characters & Their Illustration Process.

Luminary: Aztec Eagle Warrior & Emperor Illustrations.
Eagle Warrior & Emperor illustrations. Illustrations © Samantha Bland.

With containing three character playing cards and six character roles, I had to come up with a total of six individual character illustrations that would be used for either the role or playing cards with an exception of three cards being used as both. But before I illustrated any of these characters, I did some research into the different roles, what they would wear, their place within Aztec society as well as many more elements for that character to then proceed to illustrating a few different concepts.

The Process Of Creating The Characters:

Commoner Card Sketchbook Pages.
Commoner Card sketchbook pages have been scanned in through the Adobe Scan App on my Apple devices. Illustrations © Samantha Bland.

Phase 01: Before creating any final illustrations, I would collect the reference material, print it out and stick it into the sketchbook before drawing a few different poses alongside the reference images. By using the Commoner sketchbook pages as an example, I would draw out a few small sketches before illustrating bigger ones. None of the quickly illustrated poses are drawn within the Aztec style as they’re just quick poses to see what few would be the best suited for the next process which is applying the Aztec art style to the pose.

With annotating each pose, I would see if the pose is too three dimensional or gives off a more action and lifelike pose which would then be scrapped as I’m looking for an illustration similar to that style of the Egyptians; basically someone that looks like they’ve been flattened by a steamroller.

Phase 02: When I’ve found a pose that looks flat as a pancake, I then move onto a recreating the pose with the actual Aztec art style; a combination of the Aztec artisan art style, a hint of Gerasimov Sergei and my own. With this, I recreate anything from two poses to three poses. After this, I then ask Jen her opinions of which pose would be the best and then take it forward to scanning the


Phase 03: After creating two final illustrations, I scanned the page of the sketchbook with the Adobe Scan app from my iPhone 8 Plus or iPad before taking it into a pre-made A5 canvas with the RGB mode on and creating the digital illustration. After the digital illustration is completed with flat colours, I then exported the file as a PSD through slack and opened the file in Adobe Photoshop CC.

Luminary: Aztec Eagle Warrior & Emperor Illustrations.
Eagle Warrior & Emperor illustrations. Illustrations © Samantha Bland.

Phase 04: Having opened the PDS file of the character, I go over the whole illustration making sure that the line work and colouring are all perfect. I also turn the opacity of the background on and off as well as from white, to grey to black, in order to catch any errors that I didn’t see before hand.

Gaussian Blur Screenshot
Phase 06: Screenshot of the Gaussian Blur found within Adobe Photoshop CC.

Phase 05: After making sure the illustration is 100% perfect, I then move onto duplicating the layers (all merged together), selecting the “lock” icon (small check board found within the layers tab) and filling the whole duplicated layer with the colour #1f0d17. I then duplicate this layer and turn the “lock” off on both layers.

Phase 06: With one of the #1f0d17 layers, I’ll be applying the Gaussian Blur at 7.4% and the other layer at a 3.3%. To access the Gaussian Blur, you can find it in the top tool bar’s “Filter” section, where you must then select the “Blur” option before finding it in the next pop up tab. Another tab will appear that will allow you to change the percentage of the blur which is where I place my different blur percentages.

Phase 07: After blurring both layers with a different percentage on both, I’ll merge the layers together and then change the layer from being “Normal” to “Multiply“.

After this, I would normally move the illustration into the already set up file of the Role or Playing card PSD file. To see this process, you can find it after the Background Design section.

The Art Style Guide of Characters.

Art Style Guide Character Notes PNG
This is one of the many notes I’ve created for the Art Style Guide to insure that other artists understand the style, colours and other choices, to recreate the art style itself. Illustration and Art Style Guide of Luminary: Aztec © Samantha Bland.

The above illustration is of the Merchant Role which is one of the many outcomes of our game. I’m using this illustration as all hands, feet and limbs are shown as I’ll be informing you of how I’ve illustrated the human anatomy within an Aztec art style.


Colours & Colour Palettes:

When deciding on the colours, I chose to keep everything saturated and made sure that the skin colour I chose was used throughout the characters.

The colour palette used beside or above this text is what was used for the Commoner, Slave and Merchant. However, the Merchant was the only one to have used the yellow and red colours shown within the palette to add extra detail to the characters clothing and rug, along with a brown shade for the rope to tie the run together and to use it to transport the rug from one place to another.

The skin colour used is #ba7361. Taking inspiration from the skin colour used within the old Aztec illustrations of courts and at times, daily lives, I tried to find a match but when you scan an image in, you’ll find you’ll be picking out so many colours. I tried my best to gain a few colours from the old Aztec illustrations as well as photographs of those relating to the Aztec’s within today’s society and found this colour.

Moving on from the skin colour, I found that a lot of the illustrations and clothing information, that the main cloth colour depicted is white. However, I didn’t want an exact white as fabrics aren’t truly white. I played around with different white values; some being more blue tones whilst others were more yellow toned. I finally decided to pick #fbe1d4. The shade is more orange toned but it compliments the skin, hair and other elements nicely.

Further Notes: All the characters and objects have a colour palette created for themselves. The colour palette used above is of three characters using the same colours however an added another three colours for the Merchant. 


Having a similar process to that of the characters, I’ll be focusing on how I illustrated two different objects; one of them being a flat colour with little to no detail whilst the other has more detail due to the object in question.


Taking two examples, the Cocao / Cocoa Bean and the Ox Heart playing cards, both are found within the same playing deck yet both have different amounts of detail. With certain objects requiring an additional detail to them in order for the player to recognise them, I had to make the decision on adding extra detail for the following cards:

  • Animal Skin (Jaguar)
  • Human Heart
  • Ox Heart

Those three objects required extra details due to the objects in question having that amount of detail on them. The following objects are more simple:

  • Tropical Bird Feather
  • Gold
  • Beads
  • Cocao / Cocoa Beans
  • Greenstone
  • Gemstones

With the objects above, a flat colour with minor details is required to allow the player to identify them just by looking at them.

Background Designs

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With the background design taking inspiration from actual Aztec patterns from sculptures and clothing, to then applying these designs onto the background of our different card designs, packages, banners and anything else that requires a background.

From this image beside this paragraph, artists have taken inspiration from Aztec patterns and have recreated the patterns into a more modern look. By Googling such a pattern, more modern illustrations will pop up as the fashion industry  has taken inspiration and placed it onto different objects.

Playing Card Background Pattern Illustration.
Playing card background pattern illustration in CMYK mode. Illustrations © Samantha Bland.

Having done my research into patterns, I’ve taken inspiration from Aztec patterns of old and new, and placed my own spin on the design to create something a little more new and interesting to catch the eye of a possible customer.

Web Resources

Aside from the pattern, a colour scheme was a difficult one to pick yet we went with a red, purple, orange and yellow colour palette. I did look into other colour palettes however, this one worked very well and by choosing a mainly red colour palette, the orange and yellow just compliments and stands out against the background.

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Red Colour Meaning found on

Another reason why I used mainly red colours was to gain people’s attention, encourage people being on the attack side of things when playing against other players instead of being on the offensive and to encourage excitement when looking at these designs and playing the game. However, when creating a brand that’s taken their inspiration and research from cults, using a red colour is probably not a surprise to many people but from the feedback I’ve received, the colour palette chosen has been a good choice.


Having chosen this powerful colour scheme to grab attention, I’ve settled to use it throughout the rest of the cards and even the packaging. This is mainly due to the game having different editions and so with that in mind, a cohesive colour palette throughout this edition of Luminary, would be best to keep it continuous.

The Process Of Illustrating The Background:

This section of the blog is around the process of how I’ve illustrated the background of the playing deck card. The other backgrounds follow the same process but the PSD file from MPC and background illustration will be different due to the designs being assigned to a certain deck.

This photograph was taken on the iPhone 8 Plus and edited from within the Instagram App before being posted.

Phase 01: Taking inspiration from all the different Aztec patterns, I originally created seven before taking a few designs Jen and I liked and developed them further to creating another seven. All fourteen designs were illustrated on plain playing cards with sharpies, black and white pens before being stuck onto the correct sketchbook pages and annotated.

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Adobe scan photograph belongs to Adobe. This image illustrates how Adobe scan is used.

Phase 02: After deciding on the final designs for each of the decks as well as other promotional elements, I then scan the designs with the Adobe Scan App individually and send the files through Slack and download them, placing them into the correct folders.

American Poker Size MPC
MPC American Poker Size MPC Template.

Phase 03: Before digitally designing the card, I’ve downloaded the free template of the American Poker Card from MPC or Make Playing Cards. You can download this specific playing card size we’ve chosen here. I’ve chosen the PDF file as all the requirements of printing will be set up already for me. If not, then I can easily change the canvas colour mode from RGB to CMYK which is a must for printing!

Web Resources

Phase 04: Using this colour palette seen above or beside phase 04, I then used my Cintiq 24inch and Adobe Photoshop CC to create the different card backgrounds with the Hard Round Pressure Brush which is a default brush, to create the different designs.


American Poker Card UI (without gold trim).
Playing card deck half completed UI design. User Interface © Jen Moodie. Illustration © Samantha Bland.

Phase 05: After completing the background design, I then move onto creating the outline of the user interface, that’s been designed by Jen, on another layer. For this I use the Rectangular Marquee tool to create the boxes, and fill the boxes with the colour #2b130f. After this I then change the layers opacity to 70% to allow the background to be seen.

American Poker Card UI (half gold trim).
Playing card deck half completed UI design. User Interface © Jen Moodie. Illustration © Samantha Bland.

Phase 06: After creating the box outline, I then move onto developing the gold lining around the three boxes. To do this, I use the same brush for designing the background (Hard Round Pressure brush) and hold shift to create the straight lines. I’ve used the size 9PX to create the lines. When illustrating the corners I take my time and freehand the curves. For the original colour of illustrating the lines I use the colour #ffc40c for the time being.

Linear Gradient Settings on Adobe Photoshop CC.
Linear Gradient Settings on Adobe Photoshop CC.

Phase 07: For the next detail in the gold lining is creating the gradient that will give it a gold shimmer look. I’ll be sectioning off all three gold sections, locking the transparent pixels and individually applying the gradient tool with the settings seen above. For the gradient I’m using two colours, #ffc40c and #a9572c.

American Poker Card UI (gold trim).
Playing card deck completed UI design. User Interface © Jen Moodie. Illustration © Samantha Bland.

Phase 08: Moving on from creating the gradient, I’ll now be adding the extra lighting effects to the gold trim on the cards. I create a separate layer above the gold trim before turning the newly created layer into a clipping mask (CTRl + Shift + G). After this I then use the colour #ffc40c and the Hard Round Pressure brush to create the highlighted lines on the gold trim. With these lines now completed, I then focus on changing the layer from “Normal” to an “Overlay“. The newly created light lines now standout a little bit more with the gradient allowing it to really pop against the red, pink and purple hues of the background.