The latest creative trends nowadays are seeing a digital revival in which low-res digital drawings are coming back into fashion. Pixel Art, beyond being used in loads of indie or amateur video games (principally due to how easy it is to create), also appears frequently in things like ads or decorative items with a retro aesthetic. Here we give a crash-course on how to get started in the world of Pixel Art and what tools to use to get good results.

What’s needed to create Pixel Art

Let’s get one thing clear: you don’t need much artistic aptitude to create pixel drawings. As the sections are done point by point and usually not by hand (at least in the beginning), there’s a lot of room for maneuver to correct and perfect your sprites on the fly. The key to getting the hang of Pixel Art is getting the image to a place, within a fine margin of detail, where you can specifically define its shapes, or in other words: learn to imagine the undefined.

With regards to the tools to use, you can turn to practically any bitmap image-editing program, and in fact many Pixel Artists confirm that Microsoft Paint works swimmingly. In any case, you can still turn to a more specific software that lets you work with color palettes and zoom images more comfortably. PAINT.NET (which has nothing to do with the Microsoft program) is a free editor that takes up a bit more than 6MB and offers everything needed for your purposes. In our recent blog tutorial on how to create figures out of Hama Beads, we give a detailed explanation of how to use it.

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There are other tools that can work equally well. IcoFX is an icon editor that, precisely because it’s focused on editing small images, turns out to be quite efficient for creating pixel drawings. Although the latest version is paid and only allows you to try it for free for 30 days, its version 1.6.4 is freeware. Cases like this are exactly why we store previous versions on Uptodown!

Where and how to learn to create Pixel Art?

As in other artistic fields, practice and observation is what will perfect your skills. There are loads of web pages the compile sprites ripped from classic games – like the Spriters Resource and Sprite Database, to name a couple. Not to mention the DeviantArt-style social networks focused specifically on Pixel Art, like PixelJoint.

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There are no rigid rules when it comes to developing your own drawing methods, and in fact these will depend largely on your specific purposes: it’s not the same to create minimalist animations for the sprite in your own neo-retro game as it is a photorealist canvas to print on a T-shirt. There are loads of web tutorials (and more!) to get started, whether you need to learn the geometric ins and outs of overhead perspective or master the shading method for the sprites from the 2D Capcom games.

Header image created by Yuriy Gusev.

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