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Tools of the TRade

Part 1 of 9

A beginners guide to Pixel art

By Danielle Woods (Woodspixl)

recommended programs

Like any artist, you need your paint brush and a surface to create what you want, however, unlike traditional art. You will need a program to be your brush and surface and picking the right one for you is going to be tough as there are MANY to choose from.

Below is a list of the most common programs available to the public for creating pixel art and the highly recommended few by myself and other artists.

Highly recommended

Middle range recommendations

Not so popular recommendations recommendations

I included Photoshop in the Mid and Low recommendations and this is because Photoshop is OK to create pixel art within due to the fact Photoshop has very little support/tools. The programs semi redeeming factor is that it is readily accessible without actually paying for the software (I do not support this) so I wouldn’t recommend it personally but I do understand how common it is among artists.

At the end of the day, The program you chose is up to you but from this point on, I will continue to explain further but in the perspective of using Aseprite and the benefits of using Aseprite.

Now you know what programs are available, let's take a look at some basic tutorials to help you get started and I will provide links to each video and their creator so feel free to check out more of their content.

Basic tutorials for Aesprite

What Program to use for Pixel Art?

Brandon James Greer : A great introduction to a huge selection of tools available online ready to use and create pixel art within, states the pros and cons for many programs so a wonderful insight into each program.

Aseprite Guide for Beginners

MortMort : An in depth tutorial guide to the program Aseprite, explaining the simple brush/line/bucket tools, keyboard shortcuts, and project management within Aseprite.

How to Pixel Art In 10 Minutes

Reece Geofroy : The overall premise of this video is a short introduction to the medium along with a overall guide on programs, where to start and canvas sizes and I agree with Reece in this video because he recommends that new pixel artists start small and then work their way bigger and bigger which is what I recommend as well.

An Aseprite Crash Course In 30 Minutes

AdamCYounis : Similar to Reece’s Video above, Adam gives a 20 minute longer one on one guide with the program Aseprite’s workspace, workflow, tools and much more in depth. Even a short introduction to tiles which I will touch upon further in the document.

The Ultimate Pixel Art Tutorial

Saultoons : Quick and to the point introduction to what you will need, what tools you can choose and overall basic pixel art process. As well as a nice explanation on how one might approach pixel art in different ways. And on that note let’s explain each method a little further.

Different ways to approach Pixel Art

In the video above (The Ultimate pixel art tutorial), Saultoons gives three general ways you can start your pixel art starting off with Silhouette, Construction and Rough. All of these can be applied when working both small or large and even when working on environment pieces.

Silhouette

A method that I personally love to work with is the silhouette approach, where you do not necessarily work with lines and details from the get go. Figuring out the shapes and form will help with the overall size as well since personally when I use this method for designing characters, I can clearly tell if a leg or arm is too short because there isn’t a bunch of detail hiding the fact or the problem. Overall great starting point and easy to master!

PROS

⭐ Stylised characters/objects

⭐ Great form from the start

Siluette

CONS

⚠️ Hard to work from

Construction.png

Construction

Construction is the second method of approach and is used also by a lot of digital artists, but this method can be used to start your piece off in pixel art as well. This approach is all about the construction of a character or an object by using lines into then blocking out and refining over time similar to the previous but with more steps

PROS

⭐ Proportionate characters

⭐ Build upon and idea slowly

CONS

⚠️ A lot more steps to refine

⚠️ Can be difficult to understand your sketch

⚠️ Proportions might be difficult to get right

Rough to refined

The rough approach is a method not a lot of pixel artists use from my experience as it can be very difficult to break the rules of making all of your pixels perfect and clean-. But in this situation it’s all about using colours to work out your composition and depth. I find this method really comforting and relaxing when creating nature in particular as nature is all about shapes and form over lines and structure. I would recommend trying it out from time to time.

PROS

⭐ Proportionate characters

⭐ Build upon and idea slowly

CONS

⚠️ A lot more steps to refine

⚠️ Can be difficult to understand your sketch

⚠️  Proportions might be difficult to get right

⚠️ Difficult to achieve with a mouse

rough.png
refined.png