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Pixel Art: Where to Start

Sam Keddy 8 5

This is the ultimate beginners guide to creating pixel art, a pre-introduction if you will. If you know absolutely nothing, then you're in the right place. We aren't going to teach you any specifics, but rather point you in the right direction and guide you through getting started and how to improve.

What Is Pixel Art

In the early days of computers, if you wanted to display graphics, pixel art was your only option. As technology improved and allowed images with more colors and higher resolutions, pixel art became, but it was so loved by gamers and artists, that it found a (pretty big) niche that still thrives today.

Pixel Art through the ages
Pixel Art through the ages

It's recognizable by it's limited colors and blocky shapes, but there's more to it than that. Other tutorials will go more in depth, but here's a general definition:

pix•el art (/ˈpiksəl ärt/) n.A digital art where pieces are created through a unique process of manipulating the individual pixels of an image document using minimal size and number of colors.

In other words, it's about having control over every pixel on your canvas, none of the pixels are generated by a computer. Once you start pixelling and come to understand the process, you'll see it's that process that makes pixel art unique, and is not simply just small images with few colors.

Introductory Tutorial

The best place to start is an introductory tutorial to familiarize yourself with the process, and basic terms/techniques. Below are a few we reccomend, or you can browse more here. You don't need to take notes, just familiarize yourself with the concepts and process.

After you understand the basics of the process, you could keep reading tutorials and visualizing, but I reccomend you take the leap and just start pixelling.

Start Pixelling

You can try creating pixel art for yourself right here right now!

Choose a pixel editor

When you're ready to start creating pixel art for real, you'll have to choose a program to use. Our Pixel Art Software List page gives you a quick comparison of the most popular pixel art creation programs, or you can pixel online now with the Lospec Pixel Editor.

There are lots of pixel art creation tools.
There are lots of pixel art creation tools.

Once you've got your editor up and running, just start creating. Pixel whatever your heart desires. Need an idea?

Pixel Idea

If you have trouble choosing colors and don't want to focus on them, many artists use premade palettes from old computer systems or designed by other artists. Check out our pixel art palette list which lets you download any palette into your program of choice.

Improving

Now that you're officially a newbie pixel artist, there's nowhere to go but up. Improving is simply a matter of repeating the steps below.

  1. Practice

    This is of course the most important step in improving any skill. Just keep pixelling, the more you do it, the faster you'll improve. If you're short on ideas, Pixel Dailies on twitter posts an idea for a theme every day that you can pixel.

  2. Learn

    Reading tutorials is great way to learn things you might not have thought of. Our Pixel Art Tutorals page has hundreds of tutorials which you can filter by subject or artist. The more knowledge you absorb, the more options and ideas you'll have at your disposal.

  3. Get Critique

    Sometimes the most valuable advice you can get is another artist examining your work and pointing out it's flaws. They'll be able to tell you what areas you are weakest in, which will help you to know what exactly you should practice in order to improve. Upload your art to reddit's /r/pixelart asking for CC and try out some of the suggestions you receive.

  4. Study

    The biggest untapped resource for learning is simply studying other's art. Find some pixel art you find particularly well done and open in up in your pixel editor. See if you can figure out how the artist acheived certain aspects. Play around with their palette, take apart their sprites by removing colors one at a time. Try to recreate something in their style or make modifications.

Communities

You can do it alone, but there's a lot of benefit to participating in the a community! Luckily there's many pixel art communities on the net still thriving.

And that's not even all of them! Check out our communities page to learn about all the different places to find pixel art on the net!

Taking it further

You may eventually find yourself hitting some walls in your art in more general art principles. It can be very beneficial to pixel art to learn other at forms. Drawing is a good way to more easily learn form, anatomy, and perspective. Digital painting is a good way to practice composition, colors and shading.

Various art tutorials
Various art tutorials

Below are some free online tutorials of varied subjects that you might find useful.

Drawing

Digital painting

Animation

Thanks for reading, and welcome to the world of pixel art! Tell us your thoughts below, and share any advice you have for other new pixel artists!

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