Some pixel art thoughts...
So I’ve been receiving messages and asks here and on my other blog (the Wishgranter) from some artists trying their hand at pixel art for the first time. BIG DISCLAIMER : I’m by no means an expert in the medium but I’ve been studying and working on pixel art for some time and I thought I would share some things I’ve learnt for other beginners. I will be using the following image (with permission) as an example to give tips - done by @yatagansaber and sent to me for feedback.
First of all, for me what defines an image as pixel art is not it’s small resolution or the fact that you can see individual pixels, but it’s the way that it’s made. The art of ‘pixel pushing’ differs from other digital mediums by the fact that each pixel - or at least most pixels - in the image are hand placed by the artist and have a purpose.
What I mean is that regardless of the size of the canvas, the artist probably went in at some point with the 1px brush and hand placed most individual pixels. For me, I usually start with a larger brush to define forms but then I switch to 1px brush very early in the process all the way to the end.
Point no. 1: Canvas size
So for this case, the canvas here is pretty large and the artist is going for an armor clad character which means the canvas was probably going to get larger. So here I would strongly suggest going for a much smaller canvas especially since the artist is just starting out with pixelart and it is much easier to grasp the concept on a smaller canvas. I usually start with a 60x60 canvas and then adjust as I go, but I very rarely go over 100x100. In pixelart you will not be blending with giant brushes, so for the big flat areas you will either end up with a single flat color or do a lot of dithering which might take away from the final image.
Point no 2: Defining curves
Define your curves better. When working with pixelart, curves need to be defined properly or it will end up looking very jaggy in the end. Referencing the image, The neck area of the armor for example could be defined better to have a more presentable effect. Focus on having the lines gradually decreasing in pixel width alone the curve of the object you’re drawing.
Point no 3: Coherent Light sources
More of a general art tip. The image doesn’t seem to have a coherent light source. On the shoulder pad to the left it seems to indicate a top left art source while the neck area completely ignores that light source and indicates one to the top right. Another light source is indicated to the bottom right in the torso area. Although having multiple light sources is totally acceptable it needs to be done coherently. Artists usually stick to one main light source and maybe some back lighting for effect.
Point no 4: Light and Forms
Also a general art tip. Make sure you use lighting to define your forms. The lighting on the shoulder pad seems to suggest a flat, sharp surface while the general form seems to suggest a cylindrical object. This very important as it will help the viewer understand what they are seeing. To help with this, try to find references and see how the lighting hits specific objects.
Point no 5: Contrast
When drawing metal objects such as armor you must think about it as a very reflective surface. The light source should be much brighter and stronger then the rest of the palette to create a good contrast. Again, this isn’t exclusive to pixel art, but to art in general. The best way to get used to these things is to watch a lot of real life references and other artist’s work.
Point no 6: Color Palettes
Choose a more interesting color palette. When drawing pixelart you’re not going for realism, and even in real life, it’s very rare to see something being completely one color. Don’t simply stick to one color and increasing/decreasing brightness. Try messing around with hue variation and saturation as well to create a much more pleasant image. For this case I didn’t have time to create a new color palette so I simply added some hints of color to the shades. Ideally before starting a new piece you decide on a color ramp with different hues and stick with it till the end.
So after applying those points (except the canvas size point) to the armor piece I ended up with the result below:
It’s obviously nowhere close to being perfect since I do not have the time to keep pushing it to a good finish but it should give a good idea of how those several little points can help make your pixelart look better.
That’s all I got for now. I hope this can help someone out there with their art! All feedback appreciated and feel free to ask me anything.