Pixel Art Training

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Blakkid489, Sep 16, 2016.

  1. The Reverend

    The Reverend Member

    Sep 8, 2016
    You did quite some progress I see :)

    @Mazzy :
    I learned alot with a payed tutorial by Marco Vale and can only recommend his tutorial. It's really really great:

    This course is on sale for 1 or 2 more days. Just 12$ atm. (udemy has sales all the time though - usually no long wait until the next sale:)
  2. Rayek

    Rayek Member

    Jun 27, 2017
    We all have to start somewhere. By sheer coincidence I happened upon an old backup of mine this morning - containing old Amiga IFF files I created for various game projects.

    I present to you my first ever Amiga animated game sprite, which I made in 1986(!) for a 320x256 game (max 32 colours!) in Deluxe Paint on the Amiga:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Wow. Over 30 years ago! I must have been 16 at the time.

    Anyway, this was not an original design - I based it off an obscure Italian comic I had purchased that summer while on holidays there. The author must have been inspired by by the Flintstones (check out Fred's clothing this character is wearing :) )

    (the game never panned out, btw. I have more art lying around of this guy)

    The secret to good pixel art is that there is no real secret. I always found comics to be a great inspiration, and the basic principles for good art (understand lighting, colours, shapes, proportions, etc.) hold up just as much for pixel art as for any other art style.

    The main difference is: limitations. At the time (1986) screen resolutions and the number of simultaneously displayed colours on a screen were actual physical limitations that we worked with - to me, the very fact that I could use THAT MANY colours at THAT HIGH a resolution was so inspiring, that my first tip for good pixel art would be to emulate similar limitations. Decide beforehand that you will limit your pixel art to a colour scheme of no more than 4,8,16,32,64, 128, or 256 colours. Less is more.

    Also decide on a resolution limit. And pixels don't necessarily have to be square: the old C64 multi-colour mode was 160x200 pixels, resulting in brick-like pixels. Same for the Amstrad CPC machines of old.

    As was already mentioned, learn by observing the best of the best. Try out various styles. Back then, I worshiped the work of Jim Sachs (http://amiga.lychesis.net/artist/JimSachs.html), and I tried to really understand his techniques by copying them (or at least, attempting to ;) ).

    Finally, (and others may disagree with my suggestion here): get yourself a decent INDEXED COLOUR capable pixel editor.

    Photoshop is terrible for pixel art!
    There, I said it. It's my opinion, of course. Indexed colour mode in Photoshop stinks (no layer support), but there are other reasons why it, and other photo image editors, blows for pixel art work: the basic drawing tools aren't specifically created with non-aliased work in mind, and it shows. A simple low-resolution circle is problematic oftentimes. A single-pixel stroke is impossible, and needs cleanup all.. the... friggin... time.
    Many other reasons that I won't go into. I consider myself reasonably well-versed in Photoshop (I teach the damn stuff, so I ought to be, and I've been working with the program since version 3 / 4, or something), but I won't touch it with a ten-feet pole when it comes to creating pixel art.

    (The only exception being this: http://danfessler.com/blog/hd-index-painting-in-photoshop)

    Instead, work in a pixel editor that is specifically created with pixel art creation in mind, and supports proper indexed colour palettes. My favourite is Pro Motion NG, which is sort-of considered the "industry standard" for pixel artists in the game industry. "Sort-of" is key word here. I understand why many pixel artists are quite happy using regular image editors, but once you've worked and gotten used to an app like Pro Motion NG: there's just no comparison.

    Asesprite is pretty nice too, but I can't deal with that low resolution pixel GUI - I mean, what's up with that?
    ...Ahum. Stopping myself right there.

    Last but not least, if you intend to do animated sprites: get yourself some good books on animation. I advice The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard WIlliams and Preston Blair's animation book.
    Coincidentally, the last author's original book can be downloaded for free.

    Read this, breathe this, practice the information, and apply the same principles. I noticed that many (if not all) of the really good pixel artists start by laying out the basic construction of a character or drawing, and that is exactly what Preston Blair explains. I practice the same workflow myself in all my work. Do not underestimate the skills demonstrated in that book - that man's skill level was (and is) effin' god-like, and most professional animators nowadays can't hold a candle to it. Most can't even do proper basic construction nowadays. Don't be like them.

    In a nutshell:
    - get good information and avoid reinventing the wheel (books, tutorials)
    - study the sprite sheets and assets from old games (and new awesome pixel art games!)
    - study classic art and look at how they hint at details and use colours (Gary Lucken tip)
    - join pixeljoint.com Tutorials: http://pixeljoint.com/pixels/tutorials.asp
    - use an indexed colour palette.
    - set limits beforehand (# of colours, resolution). If necessary expand on these, but only if you really must.
    - Try awkward non-square pixel art. Amstrad, C64.
    - Invest in a good professional pixel art editor that supports you in setting said limits, and supports a true indexed colour palette.
    - Get acquainted with the principles of good animation theory. Animation = life in your pixel art.
    - learn proper construction. Read Preston Blair, and practice these things in your pixel art.
    - start simple with a small canvas and minimal palette (Benjamin Porter tip)
    - Do what you like in a way that feels fun. It will make you a master at your own style and it won't feel like work at all (Aarne Hunziker tip)
    - show your work and receive precious feedback. No feedback equates to much slower progress.
    - and finally, practice, practice, practice. :)

    And have fun. Don't forget to enjoy the process. If you're not having fun, you ought not be doing it.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
  3. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

    Jun 20, 2016
    @Rayek: Does Pro Motion make it easy to animate repeating tiles? I've looked at the program, but not too much.
  4. Rayek

    Rayek Member

    Jun 27, 2017
    @RichHopelessComposer Currently that's a weak spot. Tile maps do support animation frames, and it is possible to create sub-tile maps that are loaded up in the master tile map's tile library, which are then used to animate tiles. But it is a tad cumbersome, and regular animbrushes aren't supported, it seems.

    The developer is aware of these shortcomings, and is working on improvements. It is the next big thing on his roadmap (he started work in December).
    RichHopefulComposer likes this.
  5. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

    Jun 20, 2016
    Have a 16x16 grid, draw a bunch of important base shapes (like the shiny side of a mountain, and a few leaf patterns for trees), then copy and paste the base shapes to fill up the empty cells. Feel free to draw stuff if you realize the base shapes weren't enough, the grid stuff is mostly there as a guide.

    (Most retro games used tile maps for backgrounds, which is why those backgrounds are so griddy - they literally are on a grid. So using a grid as a guide when drawing a retro background will make it much more realistic)
  6. Kris Kruse

    Kris Kruse Member

    Aug 8, 2019
    Very nice and helpful thread :), Inspired me to try making my own sprites for a small game project I'm slowly working on.

    Used the base that Blakkid made with some of the improvements that Ranger made, then turned him into more of a lumberjack type with his own little axe.

    Thought I would share and give a thank you for the inspiration, even though the thread is a bit old it is still pretty useful
    Lumberjack.png little small but had to fit him in tightly :p

    Feedback is appreciated if you have any

    @Blakkid489 @RangerX
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  7. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

    Jun 20, 2016
    How about now? =D
    Cpaz likes this.

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