Space Ships - starting with the design

Let's get started with the requested tutorial on space and space ships. I have to admit it took me a little longer than expected and half way through writing this tutorial I decided to change the approach as I found myself getting lost in details. 

Rather than putting the focus on the shading, material structure and detailed look of body parts for the space ships, let's start by defining a good shape first. One way to do that is by sticking to the silhouette and just working with black shapes.

This approach is frequently used for all sorts of concept designs from creatures to buildings and even animation poses. A good silhouette makes for a more intersting and recognizable design. 

For the ship design I start out with simple shapes, mainly rectangles that get deformed by moving some of the nodes. 

Usually you would try and build a design that is unique for special group of ships [e.g. a race or fraction] not just a single one. There would be different ships in a fleet which should be identifiable through their design.
Keep certain characteristics e.g. rounded shapes or long wings, extended tails or huge propulsion systems on one side of the ships.

I will take the ship design and add colour, shape and detail in the next tutorial.


I kept the images in a larger size for a change. It might take a little longer to load but you get more detail.

Chris Hildenbrand

2D game artist, pixelpusher, vector bender, face turner for over thirty years. I worked on more games than I can remember... The most recent release is "Super Crossbar Challenge" for iOS (Android coming soon) with Shattered Box, Fredbear Games and PlayPlayFun.


  1. another great tutorial !
    the last vehicle reminds me of the mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind :)

  2. Thanks for this tutorial. Which program do you use?

    1. My bad, just opened my eyes... Inkscape and Gimp correct?

    2. Yes... Most of the tutorials are written for inkscape. If the use gimp or any other tool I usually mention it.
      The iconbar on the left matches the tool.

  3. Great! I've been waiting for a tutorial like this for so long!
    I've got a pretty addictive simple space game waiting for some nice sprites!

    I like the "first shapes" approach! It makes a lot of sense :)
    Keep your great work!

  4. I'm new at InkScape, and I was wondering what tool you used to pinch the rectangles in a pointy shape?

    Thanks for the tutorial by the way!

    1. It's the node modifier - 2nd tool from the top in the menu.

      I try to use coloured references most of the time - on the tool image on the left of the tutorial and in the text - to make it easier to see what tool I used.