Game Career Guide is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Get the latest Education e-news
  • Pushing Pixels!

    - Gary J. Lucken
  •  In this tutorial, I will walk you through the creation of a cute animated character, which should give you the basic skills to create pixel art for games.

    Kaoani comes from the Japanese kao (face) and ani (animation). It's a word used to describe those cute little animated characters that adorn many a chat window or blog. These little animated mascots are perfect practice for pixel art creation as they are small in file size, colorful, and fun to look at.

    At my Army of Trolls web site, I have expanded the idea a little to include an adoption agency for these cute little critters. Those who adopt are rewarded with a return link from my web site. I have created hundreds of pixel art animations, and with this tutorial, I will pass on some of my knowledge, which should help you learn all the skills you'll need to create your own little kaoani. The theory behind creating these creatures is similar to making graphics for 2D video games, so with some practice, you could be making your own game graphics in no time.

    We'll be using Adobe Photoshop, so make sure you have the program before you begin. This tutorial has 32 steps, and I've outlined how each should look with an accompanying image. Every build of Photoshop has a different look, so don't worry if yours doesn't match the screens you see in this article exactly. >>>

    The Secret Art Of Pixels

    If you are attempting this tutorial without having created any pixel art before, then this is for you. The first and most important rule of pixel art is "Anti-Aliasing is the spawn of Satan." Photoshop needs to be set up correctly before you even attempt to put pixels together. Turn off all anti-aliasing, make sure you are working on a 72dpi (screen resolution) document, and select the smallest 1-pixel pencil.

    With pixel art, you are working within a limited palette of 256 colors. Don't worry though, 256 is more than enough, and a lot of small pixel work will come in at under 32 colors. Make blocks of color on your document for easy selection.

    Pixel art is often very small, so you will mostly be working in a very zoomed in document. It's helpful to see your image at 100% though, so you'll probably be zooming out a lot to see the full picture.

    1. Getting Started

    First we need to create our little pixel art character. Open Photoshop and create a new document that is 32 x 32 pixels. Using the pencil tool with anti-aliasing turned off, draw a shape like the one in the image accompanying. It's roughly 23 pixels on each side.

    2. Arms And Legs

    Now let's add some little arms and legs to our character. On each side, draw 3 pixels going diagonally downward, then do the same for the bottom edge where you think the legs should go. Using the Eraser tool, with anti-aliasing turned off, delete a few pixels where the arms and legs join the body.

    3. Ears To Hear

    Our troll is going to be a cute little fox creature, so he'll need some ears. From the top left edge of the body, draw 2 pixels upwards, move 1 to the right, then draw 2 more up. Do this 4 times, then come back down in a similar fashion until the ears join the body.

    4. Eyes So He Can See

    Now we have the basic outline of our troll. Add two 3x3 blocks of pixels next to each other where you feel his eyes should go. If you mess up, just delete some pixels using the eraser and start again.

    5. Big Mouth

    We now have arms, legs, ears, and two eyes. We still need a nose and a nice big mouth that we will animate later. For the nose, I have drawn a 5x3 rectangle, and underneath, a great big mouth that almost fills the entire width of the body.

    6. Pearly Whites

    With the outline of our character, he's really starting to take shape. Before we color him, to make seeing easier I've taken the fill tool and filled in all the blank pixels within the outline of our character with a white color, and added some teeth.

    7. Color, Color, Color

    He's looking a little ill, so let's give him some color. Feel free to choose your own colors. I have chosen an orange from the color palette, and used this to fill the main body section, with white for the eyes and pink for the nose. Notice I have left the ears and belly patch white.

    8. In The Shade

    Having blocked out the basic color, it's time to shade him. Notice how I shy away from using grey to shade the white sections. This kind of artwork is so small that too many greys can sometimes spoil the image, making the pixels look muddy. Although, I will say that there is some very cool black and white pixel art out there.


comments powered by Disqus