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Anyone have any tips for pixel art?


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Are there any games that have a style similar to the one you want to create? I ask because there is a wide variety of pixel art styles, with some being more complex than others. Some styles of pixel art even use brushes, so even though it appears a bit pixelated, it actually has a smoother look. Some of the basic assets for RPG Maker are an example of this. And, to add to that, some games (like: To the Moon) mix digital art backgrounds with the pixel style.

As far as tips go, It really depends on the style you're going for. With something like Undertale's style, it's important to be very particular about where every pixel ends up, because the simplicity of it and small color palette requires that the characters draw the eye of the player to them with the shapes themselves. For something like the Witch's House rpg, picking the right colors (to complement surrounding objects and to shade each item) is extremely important, because that's what gives the art the bright, colorful glow.

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Honestly, successfully imitating RPG Maker's style will be very difficult, because you're just starting out. I think the best way to get into pixel art is to copy the style of easier types of pixel art and move on to a higher difficulty each time you get the hang of it. 

I found these Pokemon sprites that were made by user bensabeans on DA. Maybe something like this would be the place to start? Pixeling Pokemon characters is an easier task than creating something from scratch, because you know how they are supposed to look, which will help you see any flaws in the images. Also, speaking about these sprites specifically, they each only have one shade color for their main colors and they also have messy lines, so you can complete them quicker. I included an image I found on google that compares cleaned up pixel lines and the faster, blocky style some people use. If you try doing some Pokemon characters in this style, I can give you tips on how to improve them.

As far as your pixel piece goes, I'll just be straight with you. I'm kind of having difficulty seeing what it's supposed to be. I think it is some kind of flag in the ground. Your color choices on the red are not doing you favors. I don't mean this to be insulting, but that is something to work on. If you're serious about getting better with pixel art and it's not just a fleeting interest, try out a Pokemon sprite like I suggested, and I'll help you out.



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This sounds like a wonderful starting path! Thanks for your wonderful critique. The banner was a horrible attempt. It was done on my phone in the car very quickly.

I will definitely give some pokemon a few attempts, and reply back with the results.

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Thank you for doing a Pokemon I actually like, because I wouldn't have wanted to spend so much time on one I don't like looking at, haha.

Unown is a bit of a tough choice, because the Pokemon itself is dark which limits the options with shading.

I decided to make an Unown sprite the same size as yours, so I can talk you through the steps I took and give you some pointers about your image.

Step 1: The sketch creation stage. Some people use a brush tool to sketch and then draw over the sketch with the pencil tool to get the pixelated lines, but I just draw my sketch with the pencil tool on MS Paint when making pixel art. I get a general idea where I want everything to be on the canvas and move on. If you're working on a specific canvas size, you want the image to fill as much of the empty space as possible.

Step 2: The line art stage. This is probably the most time consuming stage for me. I make sure every pixel is exactly where I want it to be (otherwise I'll have to change it later, and that will be more time consuming when I have multiple colors in the image).

You say this is a "quick attempt", but I'll critique you as if it wasn't. Because the Unown character is dark, your line art is somewhat hidden. But in removing the color, I can see that your lines are messy, and if your character was done in lighter colors this would show up and lessen the quality of the final product.

From the actual-size image, you can see that there are areas in the line art that are dark groupings of pixels where there shouldn't be (on the feet, on the right side of the round "head" and eye, and around the hole of the A). There are ways to get the shape you want in pixel art without having the image appear so jagged. If you even just cleaned up the pixels that connect that shouldn't, that would be an improvement already. I included an image of the comparison of your lines and an edit. I did not change your lines in any way (I only removed pixels), and as you can see it already looks more polished. So I would recommend working on that in the future as well as making an attempt to lose some of the roughness in your shapes.

In order to improve that, you need to add in more of a transition between some lines. For example, if you have a line of 10 pixels in length and then you place one pixel beside that, you're going to end up with a shape that doesn't translate well on a smaller size. Typically, pixel art requires "steps". So you can go from a 5-pixel-long line to a 3-pixel-long line to a 1-pixel dot and create a diagonal line. But if you go from a 7-pixel-long line to a 1-pixel dot to a 2-pixel-long line and go back to the 1-pixel dot, it won't create the smoothness that you're probably looking for your shape to have. There are also times when you can use an alternating pattern to get the angle you need. If you look at my line art on my Unown notice that its legs are done by using an alternation of 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1. Going with all 2-pixel long lines or by 1's would not result in the angle I wanted for the line.

Step 3: Flat colors. I like the colors you chose, though if you did want to add shading, I would suggest using a lighter color for the base. My image is pretty self-explanatory. I want a blue-ish gray for my base and a gray with a light blue hue.

Step 4: Shading. Your image slightly confuses me, because the eye has a highlight coming from the upper region, yet the section we recognize to have depth on the Unown (the edges of the A and the circle head) are done in a purple, gray color. We know this part of the Unown's body is not naturally the color purple, so instead it makes this area look lit up. This could function as a backlight (or light coming from below from a second light source), but I think if you want to accomplish that appearance there need to be comparable (brighter) highlights hitting the opposite side that's actually being hit by the light (according to your Unown's eye).

On mine, I did a shade around the letter and the right edge of the head. I also did a shade on the eye, because the eyeball protrudes which means a small portion of it will be hidden from my upper left light source. There is also a very tiny width of shade I added on the left side of the eye ball on the Unown's base. This is to make the Unown's shape appear to have depth around the pupil.

Step 5: Adding highlights. I think highlights are important in sprites, because at such a small size you need something to make the image pop, and you also will find highlights useful when you want to show depth. I added a highlight to the left portion of the base and the eyeball. I also added some clusters of pixels on my Unown's eyeball with my highlight color to show where the light may be hitting it.

Step 6: Blending the highlight. I added a second color (darker than the highlight but lighter than the base) to put between the two as a transition of sorts. You can see that extending this lighter portion of my base starts to give my Unown a more three-dimensional appearance.

Step 7: Finalizing the image. I put a lot of little details into this last step. So I'll just lay them out:

-The eyeball was shaded. I used three different shade colors. The lightest and darkest shades have dithering applied to them (pixeling that resembles a checkerboard and helps blend two colors). I don't usually dither, but it worked fine for this piece.

-I increased the size of the pupil and used blues and purples around the iris to blend it into the black and make it less blocky.

-I added even lighter touches of highlight spaced out on my existing highlight. And I added a backlight on the thickest dark shaded parts. This is just a lighter color on the edges. Both of these things help give more of a glow and an eye-catching appearance to my Unown.

-Lastly, I changed the colors of my line art. Pure black was too harsh, especially around the pupil. I used three different colors: the darkest around the shaded portion of my base, the second-darkest around the highlights and left side of the eye, and my lightest around the right side of the eye.


In conclusion, I think your pixel work could benefit from cleaner line art and distinctive line art (as it is now, your image does not have line art that is visible to the average eye). Shading and highlights will give your image more depth and help it pop.

I added a picture that includes both our Unowns at an increased size, so you can see how they look zoomed in. I also put a comparison of what colors we used and how many for each area of the image.


I hope some part of this helps you out!

Sorry, have to link images, because the quality reduction when uploading makes it hard to see details.

Step-By-Step Image

Clean Line Comparison

Unown Comparison Large



Edited by SingSong
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