Makin' Pixel Art

Ayla Myers

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What is pixel art?

Shortest definition ever:
A grid of colored pixels where each pixel is important

How did pixel art come about?

Back in the day, computers weren't as good and pixel art
was our best option for displaying graphics

Now we have other options,
but pixel art survives as an art form

Why is pixel art great?

My dad really loves haikus

The goal is to use
very few syllables to
paint beautiful scenes

Why is pixel art great?

I really love pixel art

The goal is to use very few colors and very
limited space to paint beautiful scenes

How do I get started?

The best way to learn is to make some yourself, so...
remember Space Invaders?

Activity 1: Create a Space Invader

  • White on black
  • 8px tall; 8px to 16px wide
  • Has "eyes" and maybe "fangs"
  • Symmetrical
  • All one shape (no stray pixels)
  • 10 minutes

Making it move

A frame is a still image

By displaying frames in quick succession we create the illusion of movement

Activity 2: Animate your Space Invader

  • Duplicate the first frame of your invader
  • Modify the second frame to make it wiggle
  • Set framerate to 4 FPS
  • 10 minutes

Creating an outline

Let's try making a more complex sprite

We'll start with just the outline
and the basic blocks of color

Creating an outline

Two strategies to get a basic outline:

1. Fiddle with some lines, then fill them in

2. Sculpt some color blobs, then outline them

Jaggies bad!

When drawing lines, avoid jaggies!

Use loosely-connected groups of pixels instead

Activity 3: Create an outline

  • Create an outline with color blocks
  • Try to stay within 24px by 24px
  • No jaggies (unless it makes sense)
  • 20 minutes

Coloring a sprite

Once we have the basic shape and colors, we want to add highlights and shadows to make our sprite appear 3D

Coloring a sprite

Choose a direction for your light source

Usually the light is coming from above,
to the side, and slightly in front

Coloring a sprite

The decision of how many colors to use is up to you!

But in general, only add a color if it will
meaningfully contribute to your piece

Color ramps

The colors you choose for highlights/shadows can be arranged from dark to light to form a color ramp

Color ramps

A complete palette is just a bunch of color ramps

By finding colors that can be used in multiple color ramps, you lower your color count and create visual consistency

Activity 4: Color your sprite

  • Add shadows and highlights
  • Try to use 5 to 9 colors
  • Organize your colors into color ramps
  • Add any final details
  • 20 minutes

Thank you!!

Y'all are beautiful pixel artists now!