Advanced Pixelart Tips And Tricks: Level Up Your Artistry

Pixel art has come a long way since its origins in the 1970s and 80s. Early pixel art was constrained by the limited capabilities of computers and gaming consoles at the time, which could only display simple 8-bit and 16-bit graphics. But over time, advances in technology allowed artists to work with more colors, higher resolutions, and larger canvases. Now pixel art is an artform in its own right, with its own styles, techniques, and aesthetics.

In this guide, we’ll cover some of the more advanced pixel art skills and concepts that can help take your artistry to the next level. You’ll learn professional techniques for choosing canvas sizes, mastering color palettes, creating seamless tiles, converting photos to pixel art, and more. We’ll also explore different genres of pixel art like isometric and fighting sprites. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to create more complex, refined, and professional pixel art.

Choosing Your Canvas Resolution

The resolution of your pixel art canvas is an important consideration that will impact the level of detail you can achieve. According to a Reddit discussion What resolution is appropriate for a modern pixel-art game?, higher resolutions like 1920 x 1080 allow for more detailed sprites around 24 x 24 pixels while lower resolutions like 320 x 180 are best for retro-style games.

Higher resolution canvases allow you to pack in more fine details and gradients at the cost of potentially more work and larger file sizes. As noted on the GameMaker forum Graphics – Sizes for Pixel Art Games, a good balance for modern pixel art games is around 1280 x 720 resolution. This provides enough pixels for detailed sprites while being manageable for indie developers.

Lower resolution canvases like 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 are great for intentionally limiting detail to get a retro, blocky look. However, this restricts how much nuance you can achieve in shading and shaping. It’s wise to pick a resolution appropriate for your game’s visual style and scope.

Mastering Color Palettes

Choosing an effective, cohesive color palette is one of the most important aspects of pixel art. The colors you select will determine the overall mood and aesthetic of your piece. When selecting colors, it’s important to understand color theory principles like hue, saturation, and value. Focusing on a limited palette, usually 10 colors or less, helps create a unified look.

using online tools like adobe's color wheel can help build a color palette with harmony and contrast for your pixel art.

Adobe’s color wheel tool is an excellent resource for building custom palettes from scratch ( You can choose complementary, triadic, or analogous colors based on color harmony rules. For organic themes like landscapes, use more desaturated, earthy tones. Vibrant, saturated colors work well for fantasy creatures or mechanical objects. Don’t forget to include shades and highlights.

Once you’ve built a palette, observe how the colors interact before finalizing. Tweak hues and values as needed. Save your best palettes for later projects. With practice, you’ll develop an intuition for choosing colors that work well together to convey lighting, texture and form. Master pixel artists view limitations as an opportunity for creativity.

Lighting and Shading Methods

Lighting is a crucial part of creating depth and form in pixel art. There are various techniques pixel artists use to shade their work and make it come alive with lighting effects.

Some common shading methods include:
Dithering – using a pattern of dots to create gradients or textures. Dithering helps blend colors smoothly and can suggest lighting changes.
Cross-hatching – drawing intersecting lines to build up shading. The closer the lines, the darker the area will be.
Contour shading – defining the volumes and contours of a form using changes in value and darker lines.

Cel shading – using flat colors with sharp transitions to imitate a cartoon or comic book style.

When deciding on lighting, you can opt for a more realistic approach with a defined light source, shadows, and highlights. Pay attention to how light hits rounded surfaces and casts shadows in relation to the light direction. For a more stylistic look, you can use colors instead of values to show shading or have light coming from multiple directions.

Experiment with different shading techniques to find your preferred style. Remember to zoom out periodically to ensure your lighting reads well at smaller resolutions. With practice, you’ll gain an intuition for depicting light and form in your pixel art (source).

Drawing Fighting Sprites

Creating smooth, fluid fighting animations in pixel art requires following some key principles for motion. The most important is establishing strong key poses that clearly communicate the action. These poses serve as the foundation to build your animation around. For a punch, the key poses would be the fighter with their fist chambered, the moment of impact, and the follow through pose.

To animate between the key poses, you need to plan out the transitions. Use short in-between frames to indicate quick motion, like the actual punch. Slower actions like winding up or recovering use more in-between frames. The spacing gives a sense of weight and timing. Generally, keep your frames around the impact very short to increase the sense of force.

Besides timing, secondary motion is crucial for realistic animated fighting sprites. Elements like clothes, hair, and expressions should all react to the main action. For example, show clothing wrinkling and hair blowing as a character turns. This supporting motion makes the animation more dynamic and natural.

When drawing the frames, consistency is vital. Use guidelines to keep proportions and angles the same across frames. Plan perspectives carefully to allow fluid transitions. And remember that strong silhouettes and readable shapes make for the best animated sprites.

For references on pixel art fighting animations, check out these examples: Pixel Art Fighting Assets on

With practice and observing motion closely, you can create jaw-dropping pixel art fighting animations that impress.

Creating Seamless Pixel Tilesets

When creating tilesets for game environments, it’s crucial that the individual tiles seamlessly connect together. This helps maintain immersion by preventing obvious visual seams between tiles.

First, ensure your tile dimensions are consistent, such as 16×16, 32×32, etc. Use grid guides when drawing to keep sizes accurate. For organic environments like grass or dungeons, create “edge” and “inner” tile variants that blend together seamlessly. For man-made environments like cities, create modular pieces like wall segments, windows, and doors that interconnect logically.

Avoid hard edges on tiles meant to connect. Use anti-aliasing, lighting, and shading techniques to soften seams. Test your tiles in-engine to ensure no obvious visual artifacts occur at boundaries. For advanced techniques, explore specialized tilemap editors like Tiled that aid seamless mapping.

With careful planning and edge-matching techniques, you can create dense environmental tilesets that gamers can get lost in, forgetting they ever consisted of repeating tiles.

Isometric Pixel Art

Isometric pixel art utilizes a specific perspective to create a sense of depth and dimension. Unlike traditional pixel art which uses a side-on perspective, isometric pixel art uses a three-quarters view perspective, making it appear slightly tilted or angled.

To understand the fundamentals of isometric perspective, you first need to conceptualize the three main isometric axes – x, y and z (width, height and depth). Each axis is at 120 degrees from the other two axes. This creates the signature diamond-shaped grid that isometric pixel art is built upon.

When constructing objects in isometric perspective, it’s important to map out the major shapes and forms first before adding smaller details. Start with simple cubes and boxes to lay down the framework. Then you can extrude, add on shapes, and refine details to turn them into more complex forms like buildings, trees, vehicles etc. This tutorial provides a great step-by-step guide on constructing isometric pixel art.

Lighting and shading can be used to enhance the dimensionality of isometric scenes. Pay attention to light direction and how surfaces are illuminated to create convincing highlights and shadows.

With some practice, you can create immersive pixel environments and intricate structures in isometric perspective. The angled view provides a refreshing take compared to traditional side-scrolling pixel art.

Converting Photos to Pixel Art

Converting a photo into pixel art can be a fun way to create a sprite, avatar, or artwork based on a real image. The key steps are:

  1. Start with a high-quality photo that has good contrast and lighting. The more detail in the original, the better.

  2. Import the photo into Photoshop or a pixel art program like Aseprite. Resize and crop to your desired dimensions.

  3. Reduce the number of colors to create a limited palette. Aim for around 16 colors or less. The Posterize filter in Photoshop is great for this.

  4. Use the Pixelate > Mosaic filter in Photoshop to convert the image into tileable blocks. Adjust the pixel size to your desired resolution.

  5. Clean up the image by smoothing out colors and sharpening edges. The Pixel It online tool also works well.

  6. Add any extra details or touches to complete the pixel art. Stay true to the original photo as much as possible.

The key is reducing the amount of colors and details just enough to get a clear pixel look, while still retaining the most important shapes, features, and shading of the original photo. With some practice and experimenting with filters, you can turn any photo into great pixel art!

Refining Your Style

As a pixel artist, developing a consistent and distinctive style is key to creating compelling artwork. There are several techniques you can experiment with to refine your pixel art style:

Dithering involves using patterns of dots to simulate shading and textures. Different dithering patterns like random, diffused, or checkerboard can create different visual effects.

Anti-aliasing smooths jagged edges in pixel art by blending colors. You can anti-alias selectively or apply it broadly depending on the desired style.

Color palettes also greatly impact style. Limiting your palette helps unify a piece, while an expanded palette allows more variety. Palettes with high contrast cause pixels to stand out.

The number of colors, level of detail, and size of pixels all affect the look. Lower resolution with fewer colors creates a more retro style.

When refining your style, develop stylistic rules to apply consistently across pieces, like color palettes, level of detail, dithering technique, etc. This cohesion gives your artwork a distinctive pixel art flair.

Sharing and Promoting Your Art

Sharing your pixel art online is crucial for building an audience and getting your work seen. There are many great platforms and communities for pixel artists to connect with each other and promote their art.

Some of the best platforms for sharing pixel art include:

  • Reddit – Post your art on subreddits like r/PixelArt, r/gamedev, r/IndieDev, etc. Be sure to follow each subreddit’s rules for posting.
  • Twitter – Use relevant hashtags like #pixelart, #indiegame, #gamedev, etc. Follow and engage with other pixel artists.
  • Instagram – Use the same hashtags as Twitter. Instagram is very visual so pixel art thrives there.
  • Discord – Join Discord servers for pixel art communities and share your work in gallery channels.
  • Pixilart – Post your art in the Pixilart community and enter contests.
  • DeviantArt – Long-standing art community where you can upload galleries of your work.

Building an engaged following requires consistently sharing new work, providing feedback on others’ art, participating in collaborations and game jams, networking in Discord servers and subreddits, and more. The pixel art community thrives when artists support each other!