Thursday, January 29, 2009


Greebles are small details used to break up a large form, usually to give a sense of scale or to make an invented object more believable.

Greebling is a design philosophy used by visual development artists. In this greebled cube, the abstract forms suggest a profusion of buildings or pseudo-functional working parts.

Model builders for the original Star Wars movie coined the term to describe the way the Death Star and the Imperial Star Destroyer were festooned with small styrene pieces and parts kit-bashed from plastic model kits. Greebles have also been called “nurnies,” “wiggets,” “flidgets,” and “guts-on-the-outside.”

Traditional painters and digital artists develop their own instincts for greebling. In this close-up of a dinosaur-based vehicle from Dinotopia: First Flight, greebles appear between the smoother outer forms of the neck sections.

Greebled cube courtesy Wikipedia/ Greeble.
More at
Related term on GJ: “Confetti”


Jonathan Woodward said...

Very cool and so, so effective!

Is there no limit to your artistic encyclopedic knowledge - I learn something new from you every post.


Patrick Dizon said...

So that's what you call them! Those small details have the power of suggestion.

Andrew said...

I always loved greebles on models...especially on scratchbuilt models, since you always spot something like a tasting spoon or a thimble, or remnants of some model car engine serving a completely different purpose now.

JK said...

I've heard of another term, tchotchky tech. But that may only apply to Sci-Fi.

Robb said...

I <3 J.G. 4L

Unknown said...

You are becoming one of my favorite writing gurus.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Jay! I think artists would be interested in Jay's writing blog, where he talks about "telling details," which he defines as "a small but very significant element that unpacks fractally into information and assumptions about a character, setting and/or plot." I'm glad you mentioned fractals, because I think that's what makes greebles seem logical and not just pasted on junk.

Jonathan, there are HUGE gaps to my art-knowledge! That's why I do this blog, to clear up the fog in my head.

Unknown said...

Hey James,

I was just introduced to your blog. Amazing work, and thank you for putting the information out there for the rest of us! I hope to cross paths with you some day.



James Gurney said...

Thanks, Sterling. You can check out Sterling's impressive illustration work at