How to become a pixel artist

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How to become a pixel artist

In order to become a pixel artist, you must have reasonable expectations about what this type of art entails and its potential for professional advancement. Usually, a pixel artist must have other sources of income, and many artists of this type are graphic designers who know how to work in a variety of different styles. To become a pixel artist, you must often be prepared to constrain your art to certain stylistic limitations, including a small number of colors and relatively large pixels. Many artists of this type embrace these limitations out of nostalgia and draw attention to the form itself.

Most people with access to the Internet, a graphics editing program, or even just graph paper have the basic tools needed to become a pixel artist. Artists of this type strategically arrange blocks of color, called pixels, to form complex images. This means that it is possible to practice this art on graph paper or with specially designed toy blocks that link together to form pictures. Moving onto the computer usually requires no different skills, but may require editing programs that allow a person to edit a picture on the pixel level.

When trying to become a pixel artist, the problem is usually not the production of the graphics themselves, as it is easy to get started making basic pixel art. The problem is that demand for this type of art is fairly small, and it becomes smaller as fewer applications actually require pixel art. Many pixel artists pride themselves, not on designing icons for cell-phones, but on creating breathtaking works for games and for pure artistic enjoyment. Monetizing this type of art can be very difficult, which is why many pixel artists choose to work in a number of different styles.

In order to become a pixel artist and achieve recognition for your art, it is usually important to create works that are striking in some way. This may be because they are extremely detailed, complex, or otherwise technically impressive, or it may be because the idea behind the design is compelling. Either way, making a number of works and displaying them publicly in a portfolio is a great way to introduce potential clients to your work.

There are many different types and styles of pixel art, but it is important to be able to please potential clients For this reason, understanding a variety of computer terms, file types, and color restrictions on this art form is important. Certain displays can only handle certain styles. In many cases, the capabilities of technology change over time, so staying informed about current standards is also important.

The art style of Final Fantasy and Super Mario World inspired a new generation to create retro digital art. Pixel artists draw on the past to create new visions and even make their own games.

How to become a pixel artist

Getting started with pixel art.

The visual style of the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis and early computer graphics influenced — and continue to influence — millions of creative minds. Pixel art draws on that influence and nostalgia. Modern graphical resolution is better than anything earlier gaming systems offered, but the particular aesthetics and emotional association of the pixelated style still have appeal.

What is pixel art?

Pixel art isn’t just art made of pixels; it’s art that evokes the look of early computer and video game imagery. That includes everything from Pong to Sonic the Hedgehog.

Early video games were lower resolution — it was impossible to hide the tiny rectangles that created the worlds of Space Invaders and Donkey Kong — so pixel art arose out of necessity. The artists making video games in the 1970s and 1980s had to innovate and boil images down to their essence. A few red pixels would have to suggest Mario’s hat and one or two pixels would have to be understood as his hands or face.

In the 16-bit era of the 1990s, pixel art became more detailed but the spirit remained the same. Artists had a bigger canvas to work with, but they were still working with individual pixels — each of which played an important role in creating the overall image.

How to become a pixel artist

Start drawing with pixels.

Pixel art calls for a high degree of attention. Unlike a painter who can literally use broad strokes, a pixel artist must focus on the placement of every single unit in their image. A good pixel artist is able to capture the fundamental form of a subject while still simplifying it.

Get started on pixel art by studying the pixelated characters you already admire from the work of past artists. “References from real life don’t apply as nicely in pixel art as they do in other digital art disciplines,” says pixel artist Emi Monserrate. “You have to learn ways of simplifying complex shapes such as hands or facial expressions.”

Recreating classic pixel art can be a painstaking process, but following the pixel path of another artist can be enlightening. Of course, you should never pass off something you’ve copied as your own — when working with pre-existing art, credit the creators appropriately.

How to become a pixel artist

How to become a pixel artist

How to become a pixel artist

Image by Gerardo Quiroz

Tools to help you to create pixel art.

Anything that lets you place squares on a grid is a potential pixel editor. Adobe Photoshop, for instance, has all of the basic functions you need to make pixel images and Adobe Illustrator lets you align your work on a pixel grid to get the granular control you need for good-looking retro images.

Regardless of the programme you use, you’ll spend a lot of time with the Pencil and Line tools. Pixel artists do use Fill and Brush tools in their craft, but deliberately and sparingly — a single pixel can make all the difference. Being able to move those deliberately and easily is key when it comes to your software choice.

Make sure to avoid saving your pixel art as a JPG. PNG or GIF files are best. It’s a common file type and often a default, but the compression that JPG applies can compromise the quality of pixel art and disrupt the pixel-by-pixel work of the artist.

Making a career as a pixel artist.

Pixel art has a thriving online community. Communities like Behance allow artists to share their work and portfolios to get their work in front of potential employers. Drawing classics like Kirby, Pokémon or Pac Man is always fun, but social media accounts like Pixel Dailies encourage artists to create work based on a theme, like breakfast, epic hero, zombie outbreak or relaxation. A little inspiration can be just what you need to start making pixel art.

There is a demand for pixel art, but it tends to be fairly niche. Most of it comes from the video game industry. Plenty of modern video games like Shovel Knight and Enter the Gungeon emulate NES-style graphics, despite being designed for modern consoles and PCs.

Agartha, Kranes Conquest

Arkonviox | TBD

Agartha is an action/adventure fantasy game about a bottlenosed dolphin named Kuros who has to save the world from creatures called the Moirae, whom have invaded Agartha, the last inhabitable place on Earth. For 500 years Agartha was protected by a powerful shield constructed by an ancient civilization called Lemuria. The game involves using your sonar to communicate with dolphins and orcas throughout the game, there will be puzzles to solve and objects to find along the way. The current version has a completable single level and a boss at the end, if you manage to beat the game you’ll obtain a bonus item you can use if you wait through the Epilogue and attempt to play the game over. The game was inspired from Sega’s Ecco the Dolphin series, however this game is completely unique, because you get to use special items and weapons.

It’s hard being a programmer and not having any art talent. To have the skills needed to make a game but not the look to market your skills is frustrating. This is dedicated to those of us who read pixel art tutorials and felt overwhelmed by the samples.

Posted by Arkonviox on Oct 16th, 2010 – Basic Concept Art

I don’t claim to be a pixel art expert, nor would I try to push my knowledge on anyone, what I am trying to present here is what worked for me (a non artist). When I started my game Agartha, I never imagined in my life I’d be doing pixel art. My brother Mario, who does the music for Agartha, is a great artist but when it comes to doing pixel art, he never came through for me. I had the coding skills but I have absolutely no art talent, even now with Agartha, I feel I tapped into something that happens to work but it was out of mere luck that I would find something I’m satisfied with.

So what do I recommend to those who want to become pixel artists but stink when it comes to making any attempt? Start small, most games are made up of a small screen resolution. Super Mario for example is 160×120 maybe even smaller, but the player never notices this, it gets stretched by their television. A common size used by the Sega Genesis appears to be 320×240, this seems to be an ideal size for any 2D game screen. Next is determining the size of the sprites and tiles, sprites can be anywhere from 24×24 to 48 by 48, at least thats what I use for Agartha. The sprites I use commonly for Agartha are 48×48 while the smaller sprites are 24×24 and the tiles (that make up the level) tend to be 24×24. A question you may ask is, why such small sprites and tiles? The reason is the smaller the object you’re working with, the easier it is come up with something your satisfied with. When designing a sprite you’re going to use at least 4 different colors at the minimum. Super Mario for the NES only uses 4 colors (at least thats what I counted). Besides general colors for the sprite I’d also recommend a shadow and highlight.

How to become a pixel artist

A good way to get started with doing pixel art is to draw a small sphere with a solid color. Add a shadow to the lower right using a darker tone of the same color and a highlight (the part of where your light source reflects from) to the upper left, using a lighter tone of the base color. While drawing this sphere you should get familiar with Dithering. Dithering is creating a pattern from two colors, an example of this would be drawing a row consisting of a black pixel, then a white pixel, then a black pixel and so on. Dithering is a great way to make your sprite look like it has more colors then it actually has. The old Macintosh computers only had two colors; black and white, but to the untrained eye there appeared to be a grey. The grey was made from an illusion created by the black and white pixels, this can be applied to other colors as well.

My first sprites were based on the style I observed from Super Mario for NES, that seemed easy enough to do. The only problem was the sprites looked like something out of an Atari 2600 console, it seemed the Super Mario style was more difficult then I had originally thought.

Not only did Super Mario’s style of pixel art not work but I felt I could do a little better. I began looking at 8-bit RPG’s but I didn’t find inspiration until I observed the character sprites from Final Fantasy 6. The Final Fantasy 6 sprites were similar to my sprites, being that they only used small dimensions and a small number of colors, but what made them different was the dark outlines. Dark outlines? you may ask, dark outlines consist of using a dark color to outline your sprite and it’s features. After making this modification to my sprites I found a style I was satisfied with.

Now that I got sprite making out of the way I had another problem: making tiles. In a video game a level is made up of a pattern of tiles, even complex games like Ecco the Dolphin have levels made up of tiles. In Ecco the Dolphin the tiles range in size from 128×128, to as small as 32×32. Because the tiles are so large there is plenty of room for detail. Being I wasn’t a pixel artist I had to go with something dramatically smaller; 24×24. My first attempt was with drawing rocks, I made a few pebbles and boulders but they looked awful. I grew frustrated with level design and I didn’t find an edge until I walked away from the computer and returned to it with an idea that would change everything. I took my pebbles and boulders and jammed them together in their own 24×24 tile. The result was a great looking tile that I could use over and over for a level. I used this technique, using the same boulders and pebbles to make different patterns, I’d even flip the patterns in different directions to create even more patterns – I now had the tools needed to make a level.

The best technique to learning anything new is to mimic what you see and improve upon it. I observed many old school video games and I noticed some had graphics that I could do. You will need a good program for creating sprites, if I had one recommendation it would be GIMP. GIMP is great because it is free, it works under all operating systems and has many tools that could make any piece of crap look good. I don’t recommend Photoshop, it’s expensive, it’s not worth pirating and it’s slower.

If there is any advice I can give to those beginning pixel art it is; develop a style and make sure your level reflects that style! This means don’t try to use images from other sources or artists, unless it matches up with what you have done. It’s all about consistency and this is something new video game developers fail to observe. Also if your new to pixel art, start off with sprites that use small dimensions and observe examples from other video games. If you aren’t too good at art, look at 8-bit video games and try to adapt their style, you’ll find most of those games are extremely easy to out-gun.

Learn ALL about pixel art in an always growing course! Get access to basic and pro techniques with daily feedbacks!

What you’ll learn

  • Learn how to create both SIMPLE and COMPLEX pixel art! Objects, characters, environment, animations – ALL of it!
  • Build your own game art with prototypes!
  • Where to find clients, how to talk to them and how much to charge for your work!
  • You will learn to design and animate pixel art for all game genres (e.g. RPG, Platformer, Top-down)
  • Get access to Discord server where you can work on REAL projects (that earn money)

Requirements

  • You need a working PC, preferably with a mouse and a keyboard.

Description

This course teaches everything about pixel art for video games. From the very basics to the advanced techniques. Students will learn about lines, shapes, colour theory and harmony, creating a colour palette, designing characters, backgrounds, items, making animation and even how to start freelancing. You will also learn a lot about game design principles.

If you are new to art or pixel art and want to create better art for your indie games then this course is for you.

This course is always growing with new lessons (you can check the future planned lessons in a document available on the Discord server). If there is a topic that you would like me to cover, you can message me and I will make it. I am on Udemy and Discord server every day so you can easily get into contact with me.

Discord (1000+ members) also provides certain benefits once you reach a certain role on the server such as getting access to exclusive channels. The wonderful community there also provides a place for you to share your work, get feedback or even just hang out and chill with people of similar interest!
Connect
and work with other people on game jams (if you want). Yes, even if you want to find game coders and music compositors (or if you’re one who’s looking for an artist)! There are also indie devs who code and do the art themselves.

This course will strengthen your foundations in art and pixel art. It will build your confidence in your art and give you the information you need to continue improving your pixel art and start making money.

By the time you finish the course, you will already have a portfolio for different game genres with practical game design.

This course has 3 big parts: beginner [B], intermediate [I] and advanced [A]. Each section is marked with a letter inside square brackets at the end of it’s title with corresponding difficulty.

I am available on Udemy and Discord every day – to give you feedback, to help you overcome your limits, to help you become a better artist in fun and relaxing way. I’m here for you every step of the way if you need me.Who this course is for:

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How to Make Pixel Art

If you follow retro style art channels on Instagram or Facebook you most likely have seen some of the incredible pixel art created by pixel artists from all around the world. Everything from vehicles, buildings and trees to knights, castles and mystical creatures are created and shared everyday to millions of different people everyday.

So how do you make pixel art? The good news is making pixel art is very easy to learn and quite fun to pick up. Of course some of the more detailed pixel sprites you see will take more time and usually require more advanced techniques and software. But to go and make something great using pixels is definitely attainable even for beginners.

Basic Steps to Making Pixel Art

  1. Choose a Pixel Art Software like Photoshop or Aseprite to create your pixel art
  2. Learn how to add, delete, select and paint pixels using different tools and brushes inside the editor software
  3. Export your pixel art as a sprite or sprite sheet for your project

Choose a Pixel Art Software

The first step to becoming a professional pixel artist is to choose a pixel art software also called an editor. Now even though an editor is a type of software program that runs on your computer, think of it as a toolbox for creating pixel art sprites. Just like a painter has their own set of paint brushes, paints and canvases, you as a pixel artist will have your own set of tools for making artwork.

What is a Pixel Art Editor?

Which Pixel Art Editor should I use?

Learn How to Create Pixel Art Sprites

So if you made it here you most likely have chosen a pixel editor. Before you jump into any tutorials I want to shed a little light on making pixel art. When working with pixel sprites its like working with tiles in real life. Basically imagine you have an empty floor in a house. Just like you would lay out tiles to cover the floor, pixels work exactly the same way. You lay out different colored pixels on a blank canvas to create an image. The only difference is that you will be using the tools inside of the pixel art editor to align these tiles together.

If you visit our Pixel Art Tutorials page, you can find tutorials on just about every aspect of pixel art that we talked about. Let us know if you need any help!

The art style of Final Fantasy and Super Mario World inspired a new generation to create retro digital art. Pixel artists draw on the past to create new visions and even make their own games.

How to become a pixel artist

Getting started with pixel art.

The visual style of the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and early computer graphics influenced — and continue to influence — millions of creative minds. Pixel art draws on that influence and nostalgia. Modern graphical resolution is better than anything earlier gaming systems offered, but the particular aesthetics and emotional association of the pixelated style still have appeal.

What is pixel art?

Pixel art isn’t just art made of pixels; it’s art that evokes the look of early computer and video game imagery. That includes everything from Pong to Sonic the Hedgehog.

Early video games were lower resolution — it was impossible to hide the tiny rectangles that created the worlds of Space Invaders and Donkey Kong — so pixel art arose out of necessity. The artists making video games in the 1970s and 1980s had to innovate and boil images down to their essence. A few red pixels would have to suggest Mario’s hat, and one or two pixels would have to be understood as his hands or face.

In the 16-bit era of the 1990s, pixel art became more detailed but the spirit remained the same. Artists had a bigger canvas to work with, but they were still working with individual pixels — each of which played an important role in creating the overall image.

How to become a pixel artist

Start drawing with pixels.

Pixel art calls for a high degree of attention. Unlike a painter who can literally use broad strokes, a pixel artist must focus on the placement of every single unit in their image. A good pixel artist is able to capture the fundamental form of a subject while still simplifying it.

Get started on pixel art by studying the pixelated characters you already admire from the work of past artists. “References from real life don’t apply as nicely in pixel art as they do in other digital art disciplines,” says pixel artist Emi Monserrate. “You have to learn ways of simplifying complex shapes such as hands or facial expressions.”

Recreating classic pixel art can be a painstaking process, but following the pixel path of another artist can be enlightening. Of course, you should never pass off something you’ve copied as your own — when working with pre-existing art, credit the creators appropriately.

How to become a pixel artist

How to become a pixel artist

How to become a pixel artist

Image by Gerardo Quiroz

Tools to help you create pixel art.

Anything that lets you place squares on a grid is a potential pixel editor. Adobe Photoshop, for instance, has all of the basic functions you need to make pixel images, and Adobe Illustrator lets you align your work on a pixel grid to get the granular control you need for good-looking retro images.

Regardless of the program you use, you’ll spend a lot of time with the Pencil and Line tools. Pixel artists do use Fill and Brush tools in their craft, but deliberately and sparingly — a single pixel can make all the difference. Being able to move those deliberately and easily is key when it comes to your software choice.

Make sure to avoid saving your pixel art as a JPG. PNG or GIF files are best. It’s a common file type and often a default, but the compression that JPG applies can compromise the quality of pixel art and disrupt the pixel-by-pixel work of the artist.

Making a career as a pixel artist.

Pixel art has a thriving online community. Communities like Behance allow artists to share their work and portfolios to get their work in front of potential employers. Drawing classics like Kirby, Pokémon, or Pac Man is always fun, but social media accounts like Pixel Dailies encourage artists to create work based on a theme, like breakfast, epic hero, zombie outbreak, or relaxation. A little inspiration can be just what you need to start making pixel art.

There is a demand for pixel art, but it tends to be fairly niche. Most of it comes from the video game industry. Plenty of modern video games like Shovel Knight and Enter the Gungeon emulate NES-style graphics, despite being designed for modern consoles and PCs.

Learn ALL about pixel art in an always growing course! Get access to basic and pro techniques with daily feedbacks!

What you’ll learn

  • Learn how to create both SIMPLE and COMPLEX pixel art! Objects, characters, environment, animations – ALL of it!
  • Build your own game art with prototypes!
  • Where to find clients, how to talk to them and how much to charge for your work!
  • You will learn to design and animate pixel art for all game genres (e.g. RPG, Platformer, Top-down)
  • Get access to Discord server where you can work on REAL projects (that earn money)

Requirements

  • You need a working PC, preferably with a mouse and a keyboard.

Description

This course teaches everything about pixel art for video games. From the very basics to the advanced techniques. Students will learn about lines, shapes, colour theory and harmony, creating a colour palette, designing characters, backgrounds, items, making animation and even how to start freelancing. You will also learn a lot about game design principles.

If you are new to art or pixel art and want to create better art for your indie games then this course is for you.

This course is always growing with new lessons (you can check the future planned lessons in a document available on the Discord server). If there is a topic that you would like me to cover, you can message me and I will make it. I am on Udemy and Discord server every day so you can easily get into contact with me.

Discord (1000+ members) also provides certain benefits once you reach a certain role on the server such as getting access to exclusive channels. The wonderful community there also provides a place for you to share your work, get feedback or even just hang out and chill with people of similar interest!
Connect
and work with other people on game jams (if you want). Yes, even if you want to find game coders and music compositors (or if you’re one who’s looking for an artist)! There are also indie devs who code and do the art themselves.

This course will strengthen your foundations in art and pixel art. It will build your confidence in your art and give you the information you need to continue improving your pixel art and start making money.

By the time you finish the course, you will already have a portfolio for different game genres with practical game design.

This course has 3 big parts: beginner [B], intermediate [I] and advanced [A]. Each section is marked with a letter inside square brackets at the end of it’s title with corresponding difficulty.

I am available on Udemy and Discord every day – to give you feedback, to help you overcome your limits, to help you become a better artist in fun and relaxing way. I’m here for you every step of the way if you need me.Who this course is for:

Learn ALL about pixel art in an always growing course! Get access to basic and pro techniques with daily feedbacks!

What you’ll learn

  • Learn how to create both SIMPLE and COMPLEX pixel art! Objects, characters, environment, animations – ALL of it!
  • Build your own game art with prototypes!
  • Where to find clients, how to talk to them and how much to charge for your work!
  • You will learn to design and animate pixel art for all game genres (e.g. RPG, Platformer, Top-down)
  • Get access to Discord server where you can work on REAL projects (that earn money)

Requirements

  • You need a working PC, preferably with a mouse and a keyboard.

Description

This course teaches everything about pixel art for video games. From the very basics to the advanced techniques. Students will learn about lines, shapes, colour theory and harmony, creating a colour palette, designing characters, backgrounds, items, making animation and even how to start freelancing. You will also learn a lot about game design principles.

If you are new to art or pixel art and want to create better art for your indie games then this course is for you.

This course is always growing with new lessons (you can check the future planned lessons in a document available on the Discord server). If there is a topic that you would like me to cover, you can message me and I will make it. I am on Udemy and Discord server every day so you can easily get into contact with me.

Discord (1000+ members) also provides certain benefits once you reach a certain role on the server such as getting access to exclusive channels. The wonderful community there also provides a place for you to share your work, get feedback or even just hang out and chill with people of similar interest!
Connect
and work with other people on game jams (if you want). Yes, even if you want to find game coders and music compositors (or if you’re one who’s looking for an artist)! There are also indie devs who code and do the art themselves.

This course will strengthen your foundations in art and pixel art. It will build your confidence in your art and give you the information you need to continue improving your pixel art and start making money.

By the time you finish the course, you will already have a portfolio for different game genres with practical game design.

This course has 3 big parts: beginner [B], intermediate [I] and advanced [A]. Each section is marked with a letter inside square brackets at the end of it’s title with corresponding difficulty.

I am available on Udemy and Discord every day – to give you feedback, to help you overcome your limits, to help you become a better artist in fun and relaxing way. I’m here for you every step of the way if you need me.Who this course is for:

  • Game developer that wants to learn simple pixel art for games
  • Beginner pixel artist that wants to become an expert
  • Experienced pixel artist that wants to expand existing knowledge and learn new skills
  • Game artist that wants to learn new field of art
  • Anyone that wants to learn how to communicate in game industry and how to earn money
  • If you want to join exclusive pixel art community

Created by Mislav Majdandžić
Last updated 8/2020
English
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