by Nolan Keefe
Pixel art is so cool and awesome in my FACTUAL opinion. If you aren’t convinced, think about all the cats you can draw. SO. MANY. Or, you can make other things that you enjoy or like. Pixel art is a pretty accessible medium in a few regards. Precision isn’t as required, compared to things like traditional art, due to how it is a digital form, so you can always undo things and make adjustments. It also focuses more on precise pixel placement than straight linework.
To begin, you will need a program to even create the art upon. While you could make it using a grid or something similar with traditional art supplies, it is much easier to make it on a digital medium, and as you are reading this likely on such a piece of technology, you should be able to find a program for it. I know that for PC there are a few options like Photoshop (for the spoiled) and Paint (if you wanna be inconvenient)/paint.net (if you wanna be annoying) that can be used as well as most art programs on the market. For mobile devices, you can search the App Store and find one likely just by typing in pixel art. I know that there is Pixel Studio and a few other solid options. Personally, I make pixel art on PC using Paint.net as it is a free option that has a lot of capabilities like brushes for dithering and general tools like layers and similar. For you students of Rustin, I will let you know that Paint and paint.net are available on the software center and Photoshop should be available if you are enrolled in a class that uses Adobe products.
Once you’ve downloaded the software and gotten used to its capabilities, make a canvas. This canvas can technically be any size, but generally to start it is smart to make a smaller-sized canvas like an 8x8, 16x16, 32x32, or 64x64. You may have noticed I kept the scale on a consistent x2 on the previous basis. Sprite art in pixel art commonly follows such a pattern, so it's just a solid baseline to work from when making it. This does not mean that you can't do more abnormal sizings, though! Especially if you are just trying to make an art piece. In such a case maybe a more abnormal canvas works better for your needs.
Now that we have our canvas, make sure Anti-Aliasing is OFF!!!!!!! I cannot repeat how much of a deal it is to have it turned off. Pixel art just can’t be what it is without the sharp edges of pixels keeping things clean-cut and collected.
Once you have disabled the Devil from accessing your magnificent blank slate of a canvas, click on the brush or pencil or whatever the drawing tool for your selected program may be called and choose a starting color. If you have any color palettes you’d like to use, make sure to have them downloaded and ready. I find that they really help, especially if you are a beginner who doesn’t comprehend the evil demonic arts that is color theory. Remember kids: no one owns colors, especially when referring to digital art!!!! Steal the color palettes and make some good stuff :). Oh yeah, back to the whole drawing an outline. Your brush size for this doesn't matter all that much, so long as you make it something you’d be willing to outline the art if it came down to it. A super thick outline doesn’t really fit, especially since it messes with proportions. You can always make shapes for it and then work off of them like traditional art. Make sure to remove Jaggies btw! We do not want the moves like Jagger in this pixel art; it makes it look harsh.
Now that we have the outline we can get to some detailing. Add color. Like, just choose colors. Sorry, I’m not here to help with color theory. That stuff is like dark evil magic. As I recommended earlier, use a pallet if you're getting started.
Now for shading, to loosen the transition between colors, you can use a fancy silly little tool called “Dithering” (you can ooh and aah now) Dithering is this awesome technique where you alternate between colors to try and make a clean in between shadow and light or just colors in general. I didn’t really use it much in this piece, so I can’t give a strong clear example but in the final bit, you will see.
That’s kinda all the basics for it :P. Most of doing pixel art is getting really cool and awesome ideas.