This is a repost from my old, closed weblog. I will probably repost some more great old content, one by one. Of course the posts are updated with new information and links too!
The exact definition is discussable, but in this article I would like to give a nice explanation to those who do not know yet. If you already know what pixel art is but do not agree with my statements, please comment!
Pixel art in short
Pixel art is the creation of digital art, pixel by pixel. A pixel is a digital screen element in shape of a square, and creating pixel art means that you make bitmap illustrations, placing every pixel by hand.
In modern digital art a lot is often generated by computers. Computers automatically add new colors, smoothing things out or even generate whole image parts. In pixel art, you have full control, and thereby it is possible to deliver digital works of higher quality. However, it is a lot more time consuming, in that way that it is hardly ever worth it. Therefor pixel art is mostly made by hobbyists nowadays.
Pixel art generally uses under 256 colors, while modern screens can display up to 4.2 billion distinct colors.
The origins of pixel art
Years ago, video cards were not as powerful as they are now. People designing graphics for digital use had to work with a lot of restrictions, for example like how much or which colors could be used. The video game market grew fast, and those games needed graphics, like tiles and sprites. The people in charge of making those sprites had to stand out artistically, but also technically because of the difficult restrictions they had to work with.
An example is the ZX spectrum, which could only display 8 colors. The screen was divided into a grid of 8×8 pixel regions, and in such a region only 2 different colors could be used.
The video cards developed further and further. At some point everyone could create images with 256 colors. Tools were made for speeding up the work, such as gradient generators. The artists that worked with this came into demoscene subculture. When people figured out it would be more of a challenge to quit working with that many colors, the modern pixel art was born.
People now make their own restrictions, set their own rules, and some do it more like it was done in the early days than others. Some pay a lot of attention to their color counts, some do not. Some people like to practise with those old restrictions, some people like not to.
Pixel art also got a new role in commercial art, some companies figured ways to sell pixel art. They make use of the iconic effect you can achieve with pixel art, using large visible squares. Also a lot of work is done in isometric projection, a projection that works great with pixel art. Two examples of that are the famous habbohotel and of course the company Eboy.
How to make pixel art
Windows users already have one of the easiest pixel creation softwares installed on their computer: MSPaint. This program can be found under the name “Paint” in the accessories .
Take the pencil tool, the tool with the simplest function. It should create just a single pixel only when you click. With this you can draw your whole picture.
Try to stay away from the other drawing tools. Of course you can use the bucket fill now and then to speed up some work, but thats about it.
Reuse as many colors as possible, use the eyedropper to select a color that you have already used.
And that is it! With this knowledge, you know the basics of any work of pixel art!
When you are done, save your work as PNG, proper GIF (never save as gif in MSPaint as it ruins your colors) or BMP. With these filesystems you will never loose any image quality. However, you will if you will use filetypes such as JPG.
Never resize pixel art
Never use gradients
When not needed, do not use transparant layers (it is only needed really in games, or to save time in commercial work, but this lessens the quality)
Never use automatic anti alliasing
Never use any automatically generated effect
Never have your work color reduced automatically
And never ever save pixel art as JPG, unless you are really afraid of it getting stolen.
Use preset palettes
Use preset restrictions
Set yourself a maximum number of colors used
Work on small scale
Use ^2 numbers for number of colors and canvas size (2,4,8,16,32 etc)
Show your work to the world and ask for feedback on PJ and WotP
Now that you know what the definition of pixel art is, start making some!
Holliday in the Sun by Exocet
Bard by BigBrother