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Submitted on
February 17, 2012


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How to get started with Pixel Art

Journal Entry: Fri Feb 17, 2012, 2:47 AM
Lately I have frequently been asked what programs I use for pixeling and/or animating and also in general how I go about it. Now I currently don't have the time to create a tutorial of my own but I figured until I will be able to do so I could at least give you some helpful tips and link you to some tutorials made by others. :)

:bulletwhite: About the programs I use :bulletwhite:

I do pretty much all the pixeling itself in Photoshop Elements 8.0 which sadly enough isn't free. But don't worry, in general photshop is even a little overpowered for pixel art, I simply use it because I am most used to it.
Technically you can even use Microsoft Paint for pixeling, after all the only two things you really need to be able to create pixel art is a pen tool and the ability to zoom in far enough. The only real disadvantage about Paint is the lack of transparency support so you can only create pixels with an opaque background.

However I can offer you a really great third option - Gimp - which is not only freeware, it is besides being an excellent general art program also capable of animation. It is the program I myself use for animation as well.
Now you could ask why I don't pixel AND animate in Gimp. Well it's a simple matter of habit. I just like the interface of Photoshop a little better and have been working with it for so long that I might have gotten too used to it. :D

You can download gimp here:

Download Gimp 2.6.11

[Edit: someone let me know that apparently there's a way to make pixels from Paint transparent with Irfanview (which is freeware as well). I haven't looked into how exactly it works but I'll try to add it once I figured it out.
Edit 2: I can't believe I didn't even think of it before but paint.NET is also a good freeware option for pixeling and this one does allow transparency. ]

white divider by ToxiceStea

:bulletwhite: Other tools :bulletwhite:

One of the great things about pixel art is the fact that it doesn't require a graphic tablet. It does usually go a lot faster with a tablet but only if you want to create a really big sized work of pixel art you will find that a mouse might not be sufficient anymore. Unless you have a lot of patience of course. ;)

white divider by ToxiceStea

:bulletwhite: How to get started :bulletwhite:

Before I will give you any concrete tips I should let you know that it's not absolutely necessary but pixel art becomes a LOT easier if you have some basic drawing skills. In general a lot of the same rules apply to pixel art that apply to any other form of performing art.

That said the very first thing you need to do is get familiar with the basics. The one thing I recommend to everybody who is completely new to pixel art is to start out by thoroughly reading this tutorial:

Pixel Joint: The Pixel Art Tutorial

After you have done this, try to create some simple 50x50 icons. Start out with simple objects, simple shapes, get familiar with the interface and probably very unaccustomed zoom factor.
There's enough time to start with bigger sizes later on. As small as it may seem, you can squeeze a lot into a 50x50 sized file.

Always save your file as a gif and most of all NEVER as a jpg since its compression algorithm will result in blurring your picture.
Another option would be png but once you go into animation you will need to save as gif anyway so you might as well get used to the format right away. Furthermore pixel works with transparent background saved as png will result in DA displaying its logo behind your work which will ruin half the effect. So bottom line: It's safest to save your files as gif.

white divider by ToxiceStea

:bulletwhite: Starting with animation :bulletwhite:

Like I mentioned above, you don't need any fancy animation program to actually animate. All you need is gimp and a little bit of basic knowledge.
Basically the animation works via your layers. Each layer will become one frame in your animation and by naming each frame accordingly you can set its speed.
But the best thing is to check out this tutorial:

Simple Animation Tutorial for Gimp

white divider by ToxiceStea

:bulletwhite: Additional list of useful tutorials :bulletwhite:

Colour Theory for Pixel Art

Basic Spriting Tutorial

Basic Dithering

"Pixeling Over"

A Selection of Textures

Animated Sparkles

Tree Tutorial

Hair Tutorial

If you can't find what you need in here then just take a stroll through deviantart yourself, there are a ton of other great pixel art tutorials on this site.

white divider by ToxiceStea

:bulletwhite: Final Words :bulletwhite:

Even though there are - just like in other areas of art - certain rules to follow in pixel art you should remember that it's always most important to have fun with what you're doing. Don't get too lost in following every single rule to the utmost and get frustrated while doing so. No one will kill you for breaking one of the rules here and there. ;)

Purple CSS

Images & Code by CrimsonReach
  • Listening to: The Morningside
Add a Comment:
gamergirl11111 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2014  New member Student General Artist
Thanks!  I have and I can't get it on pixel mode or paint with pixels on it right now!Boogie! 
cysir Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2014  New member Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Nice journal entry! Lots of helpful links. Thanks!
ValaSedai Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
My pleasure. :)
maymay500 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
if u do paint net, how do u animate?
ValaSedai Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You'd have to switch to another program, such as gimp, for the animation part. :)
maymay500 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ok thx ill look into it
ScarletteRoseDEzZean Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
wow. This really help me well ! :) Thank you for the link to the freeware ! :D
ValaSedai Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
np :)
daoofpow Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2013
Graphics gale is good too
oppuy Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
What about paint net?
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