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Practicing Pixel Art For A New Generation

From L-R : Original 250 x 250 pixel art work next to enlarged version 350 x 350 (5x5 inches)
From Left to Right : Original 250 x 250 pixel art work next to enlarged version 350 x 350 (5×5 inches)

I love video games, and I’ve always wanted to try capturing that retro nostalgia look of pixel sprite artwork. It was the style normal during the late 70s – early 90s, old gaming and PC consoles. It was the early games on Atari, Nintendo (NES) and Sega Master System that pushed the 8-bit block characters. Eventually the next wave of 16-bit sprites seen in SNES and Sega Genesis, became literally the status quo. If you’re lucky enough to see some of SNK Neo-Geo arcade games those really pushed the sprite art scene, with the capability to do smoother animation.

Lately the art style has found its way back in mobile games as well in indie game development for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U. It could be because it’s a lost art form finding it’s way back, versus the now industry standard of 3D polygon AAA production value of games. The other reason could be about resources. For sprite art I used Photoshop CC, but you can literally use any pixel base art program. I’ve seen some tutorials for Adobe Illustrator. That looks like a great way to scale artwork for other usages for say print products like posters, tshirts, etc. Some of the best sprite based games I’ve seen lately are the Hotline Miami series from Dennaton Games, and Shovel Knight by Yacht Club Games

For practice I used one of my favourite Street Fighter characters I used in the arcades, Blanka. The key to sprite art is to have good contrast of colour for your shading. It’s important to know you’re using a limited colour palette, when you’re filling in the pixels. I plan to practice some more in the coming weeks. Preferably not already established 16-bit characters. Maybe I’ll make some of my own.

-JD