The Pixeling Compendium
A Pixel Art Tutorial by Justincrdibl
Note: After reading this tutorial, please post any questions, comments, or concerns dealing either with this tutorial specifically or just pixel art in general. I am trying to make this guide as helpful as possible, so I'd really appreciate any feedback. Thanks!
Hey all you eager pixelers! This is a pixel art tutorial that deals with the individual steps necessary to make a pixel. Of course, there are infinite ways to go about making pixel art, so feel free to skip around the sections to fit your likings. I hope you find this tutorial easy to use and hopefully by the end, you will be more learned in the not-so-ancient art of pixel art. So let's jump right into it...
The first step is sketching your idea. You can do so either by drawing it in your art program with either the pencil or paintbrush tools, or by sketching it out on paper then scanning it into your computer. I won't go into detail on how to sketch, or anatomy or anything like that (if you are attempting pixel art, you should have at least adequate knowledge of sketching and drawing).
Since it's just a sketch, you don't have to be very exact with it, but it should still be neat enough to give you a decent idea of the shape so that you have a much easier time outlining. I drew a mad scientist!
Eww! A creepy old cyborg dude!
This step is where we will define the shape of your pixel by giving it an outline. Create a new layer (if your program supports layers), take the pencil tool and place pixels one at a time over the sketch you just drew. You should be outlining in a different color than the sketch (usually black).
TIP: Remember, you can always go back and make
adjustments to your outline. NOTHING is permanent.
3. Cleaning up your outline
Now that we have an outline, you can get rid of the sketch. If you are working in a program with layers, simply hide the sketch layer. If you are working in Microsoft Paint, you can replace the sketch color with the background color (guide). With the sketch gone, we can see any mistakes made in the outlining process and thus we can fix them much easier than if the sketch was still cluttering the image.
While looking over your outline, make sure all of the lines are 1-pixel thick and don't contain any unnecessarily sharp corners. If your lines are wider than 1-pixel, simply erase one of the pixels that makes it too thick. If you didn't understand that, hopefully this picture will clarify:
This stage is the one that most beginners have a hard time with, especially those who don't do art frequently. When shading, make sure that your light source is always defined by the shades you apply to the image. If you shade your image without always thinking of where the light is coming from, it will completely throw off your image and make it look a lot worse than it could look. There is a term for shading without a defined light source and that term is "Pillow-Shading". NEVER, EVER PILLOW-SHADE! If you do, you'll be kicked out of school/ work and be forced to make a living by eating dirt for the entertainment of obese children!
Here is a comparison of a sphere that is pillow-shaded and one that is shaded properly:
Obviously, the sphere that has been shaded correctly looks a lot more realistic than the other (which hardly even looks like a sphere at all).
TIP: When shading, consider the material that you
are shading. For instance glass and metal will be much shinier than skin.
Dithering is a defining feature of pixel art that is used to give an image texture and, more commonly, to transition from one shade to another. There are numerous different ways to dither, but they all basically fall into two groups that I call Organized Dithering (OD) and Sloppy Dithering (SD). Organized dithering involves placing colors in patterns where the colors alternate in specific amounts. The results from organized dithering are usually more appealing than those of sloppy dithering. This is because sloppy dithering is where colors are essentially scribbled over one another which results in a very.... well... sloppy looking image, because it's obvious that you didn't spend much time on it. But enough talking about it; here's another comparison:
The image on the left shows organized dithering while the one on the right shows sloppy dithering. As you can see, the one on the left looks a lot neater and (in my opinion) better. Using OD may take longer, but the results are really worth it if you're trying to make an impressive piece of pixel art.
Dithering is very difficult to master. Just keep practicing and don't give up.
6. Details & Finishing up
At this point, you may one to add some last minute touches and minor details. For instance, I added some gross old-man liverspots on our mad scientist's head. Just add whatever you think will improve your image and...Congratulations! You're finished!
...Or are you?...
You may be fine with the black outlines you made in Step 2, but some people prefer to give their lines a bit more color. The trick is to make the outline a darker color than the color inside the outline. At some places, it is better to just leave the outline black (mostly near the shadows). There isn't a whole lot to say on this subject, but one piece of advice is don't go overboard with this. Keep zooming in and out to check if you are going in the right direction.
- I know just how cheesy and old this sounds but HAVE FUN! Never put yourself in a position where you feel you are forcing yourself to do pixel art. If you don't have any ideas for a pixel, go do something else and maybe you'll get inspiration.
- Feel free to disregard parts of this tutorial and form your own way of doing things. However, there is a big difference between your own "style" and just being plain old lazy. For instance, when you use sloppy dithering and try to pass it off as your unique way of pixeling, it's clear to any experienced pixel artist that you're just don't feel like taking the time to dither properly.
- Learn more about pixel art from websites like Pixel Joint, Pixelation, or DeviantART. Study other people's pixels, read more tutorials, do whatever you can to learn more about this great form of art!
Fixing the Outline
Edited by Justincrdibl, 03 January 2010 - 12:32 PM.