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Pixel Art Mastery - for Video games - PART 1 (Beginner)

Pixel Art Mastery - for Video games - PART 1 (Beginner)

This course teaches everything about pixel art for video games. From the very basics to the advanced techniques. You will learn about lines, shapes, ...

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Pixel art has long been a beloved art form in the realm of video games, cherished for its simplicity, charm, and the nostalgia it evokes. This art style, characterized by its use of tiny, square pixels to create images, is both a technical and creative challenge. For beginners eager to delve into pixel art, understanding the fundamentals is crucial. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the basics of pixel art for video games.

Understanding Pixel Art

Pixel art is a form of digital art where images are created at the pixel level. Each pixel acts like a small building block, and when combined, they form a complete image. This technique became popular in the early days of video games when hardware limitations required artists to work with low resolutions and limited color palettes.

Why Pixel Art?

  1. Nostalgia: Pixel art harks back to the early days of video gaming, invoking a sense of nostalgia for classic games.
  2. Simplicity: Its inherent simplicity makes it accessible to beginners while still allowing for complex and beautiful designs.
  3. Creative Constraints: Working with limited pixels and colors challenges artists to be creative within constraints, often leading to unique and innovative designs.

Getting Started with Pixel Art

Tools of the Trade

To start creating pixel art, you’ll need some basic tools. Here are a few popular options:

  1. Aseprite: A pixel art editor tailored specifically for creating pixel art and animations. It's user-friendly and packed with features.
  2. Photoshop: While more complex, Photoshop is powerful and widely used by professionals for various types of digital art, including pixel art.
  3. GraphicsGale: Another dedicated pixel art tool that's especially good for animation.
  4. Procreate: Primarily for iPad users, it has become a favorite for many digital artists, including those who do pixel art.

The Canvas

Pixel art is often created on a small canvas, sometimes as tiny as 16x16 pixels or up to 64x64 pixels for more detailed work. Starting small helps you focus on mastering the basics without getting overwhelmed.


Choosing the right resolution is essential. For beginners, it's good to start with smaller canvases, like 16x16 or 32x32, to practice and gradually move to larger sizes as you become more comfortable.

Basic Techniques

Pixel Placement

Pixel placement is the foundation of pixel art. Here are some tips:

  1. Single Pixel Placement: Place pixels one at a time to create precise shapes and lines.
  2. Dithering: A technique used to create gradients or texture by alternating colors in a checkerboard pattern.
  3. Anti-aliasing: Smoothing the edges of shapes by adding intermediate color pixels to reduce the jagged appearance.

Lines and Curves

Creating smooth lines and curves in pixel art can be challenging. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Straight Lines: Use consistent, evenly spaced pixels.
  2. Diagonal Lines: Alternate between single and double pixels to create a smooth line.
  3. Curves: Gradually change the spacing and position of pixels to form smooth curves.

Shading and Lighting

Shading and lighting give your pixel art depth and dimension. Start with a light source in mind:

  1. Highlights: Add lighter pixels where the light hits the object directly.
  2. Midtones: Use the base color of your object for areas that aren't in direct light or shadow.
  3. Shadows: Use darker pixels to represent areas where light is obstructed.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is crucial in pixel art:

  1. Palette Selection: Start with a limited palette. Classic pixel art often uses 16 or 32 colors.
  2. Hue, Saturation, and Brightness: Play with these aspects to create visually appealing color schemes.
  3. Contrast: High contrast between light and dark colors can make your art more readable and vibrant.

Creating Your First Pixel Art

Step 1: Sketching

Start with a simple sketch. This can be a rough outline of your character, object, or scene. Focus on the basic shape and proportions.

Step 2: Outlining

Using a single color (often black), create the outline of your sketch. Keep the lines simple and clean.

Step 3: Filling

Fill in your outline with the base colors. Don’t worry about shading or details at this stage.

Step 4: Shading

Add shading and highlights based on your chosen light source. Use dithering if necessary to create smooth transitions between colors.

Step 5: Details

Add small details to bring your artwork to life. This can include texture, facial features, or small accessories.

Practice Makes Perfect

As with any art form, practice is crucial in pixel art. Here are some exercises to improve your skills:

  1. Daily Sketches: Create a small piece of pixel art every day. This builds muscle memory and improves your technique.
  2. Study Classic Games: Analyze pixel art from classic games to understand how professionals handle shading, color, and detail.
  3. Join Communities: Engage with other pixel artists in online communities. Share your work, seek feedback, and learn from others.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Overcomplicating the Design

Beginners often try to include too much detail in a small space. Start simple and gradually add complexity as you become more comfortable.

Ignoring Color Theory

Poor color choices can make your pixel art look flat or unappealing. Spend time understanding and experimenting with color theory.

Inconsistent Pixel Placement

Inconsistent placement can make lines and shapes look jagged or uneven. Practice creating smooth lines and curves with consistent pixel placement.


Pixel art is a rewarding and accessible art form for video games. By mastering the basics of pixel placement, shading, and color theory, you can create compelling and visually appealing artwork. Remember, the key to improvement is practice, patience, and a willingness to learn from both your own work and the work of others. In the next part of this series, we'll dive deeper into more advanced techniques and explore the process of creating animations and larger scenes. Happy pixelating!

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