Igniting Creativity: Pixelart Trends And Inspirational Ideas

Pixel art refers to digital art created using raster graphic software, where images are edited on the pixel level. It emerged in the 1980s with early home computers and gaming consoles that had limited processing power. These constraints meant pixel art was often used for graphics and visuals in retro video games from that era.

As summarized in this history of pixel art, pixel art began with early home computers and gaming consoles like the Commodore 64, Atari 800, ZX Spectrum, Game Boy, and Super NES [1]. The limited processing power meant graphics had low resolutions and pixelated visuals. Pixel art evolved as a distinctive retro gaming art style, using the pixel as the fundamental element for creating imagery.

In recent years, pixel art has seen a resurgence in popularity. Modern tools make it easier to create detailed pixel art efficiently. Pixel art continues to be appreciated for its nostalgic retro gaming aesthetics. The constraints drive creativity and imagination within the artform. Pixel art remains popular for modern indie games wanting a stylized retro look.

Popular Genres of Pixel Art

Pixel art encompasses a wide range of genres and styles. Some of the most popular genres include:

Pixel Art Landscapes: These showcase expansive scenery like forests, mountains, and cities. Landscapes allow artists to convey a sense of atmosphere and environment. They often utilize limited color palettes and shading techniques to create depth and lighting effects. Famous examples include the background art in games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy VI.

Pixel Art Characters: Pixel artists create stylized avatars, sprites, and portraits showcasing fictional characters, people, and animals. Character art explores shape, color, and visual personality. Artists take into account attributes like facial expressions, poses, clothing, and accessories. Iconic game characters like Mario, Mega Man, and Link exemplify the charm of pixel art characters.

Pixel Art Animations: Movement is conveyed through sequences of pixel art frames. Animations bring video games, digital artwork, and pixel films to life. The nostalgic charm of pixel art animation continues to inspire new generations of indie developers.

Other popular genres include isometric pixel art emphasizing depth, pixel art icons and logos with a retro flair, and abstract or experimental styles pushing the boundaries of the medium.

Tools and Programs for Creating Pixel Art

There are several software tools commonly used by pixel artists to create their work. Some of the most popular options include:


Aseprite (https://www.aseprite.org/) is a dedicated pixel art program created specifically for sprite animation. It has a range of great features for pixel art creation including layers, tiled editing, palette support, and onion skinning for animation. The pro version is paid software but there is also a more limited free version available.


Piskel (https://www.piskelapp.com/) is a free online editor made for sprite and pixel art. It’s simple and intuitive to use with basic tools for drawing, erasing, moving pixels, and creating animations. As it runs in the browser, it allows easy sharing and collaboration.


GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source raster graphics editor. While not designed just for pixel art, it is a popular choice as it is free, versatile, and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It takes more setup compared to specialized pixel art tools but allows extensive editing options.

Some key factors when choosing pixel art software are the features available, price, platform support, and how intuitive the interface is. Testing different options can help find the right fit for your creative workflow and style.

Beginner Tips

Pixel art may seem intimidating at first, but getting started is easier than you think with just a few basic techniques. Here are some tips for beginners who are just starting out on their pixel art journey:

Start simple – don’t try to create a masterpiece right away. Focus on simple shapes, low resolutions, limited colors, and small canvases. This will help you learn the fundamentals without getting overwhelmed.

Use references – Look at pixel art you admire and try recreating it yourself. Seeing how other artists use pixels can teach you composition, color palettes, shading, and more.

Limit your palette – Stick to just a few colors in the beginning. This will help you focus on values, shading, and form.

Learn dithering – Dithering tricks the eye into seeing gradients and textures. It’s an essential beginner technique for shading.

Focus on shapes and silhouettes – Well-defined, readable shapes create compelling pixel art. Practice creating iconic, recognizable silhouettes.

Be patient and persistent – Pixel art takes time and dedication. Don’t get frustrated if your first attempts don’t turn out how you envisioned. Keep practicing new techniques.

Watch tutorials – There are many helpful pixel art tutorials on YouTube and sites like Reddit explaining beginner concepts step-by-step.

Have fun! Pixel art should be enjoyable. Don’t worry about creating perfect art – just enjoy the creative process.

Intermediate Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of pixel art, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques that can take your art to the next level. Dithering and palette selection are two key skills that intermediate pixel artists should focus on developing.

Dithering involves using patterns of pixels to create the illusion of shading or additional colors. By carefully placing light and dark pixels next to each other, you can simulate gradients and smooth transitions. This technique adds significant depth and realism to pixel art. There are many different dithering patterns to experiment with such as the classic Bayer matrix.

Choosing the right palette or limited selection of colors for your piece is another important consideration. The colors you use can completely change the mood and style of your pixel art. Study color theory to understand which hues work well together. Often a more limited palette leads to a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing result.

Those with some pixel art experience should also try their hand at animation. Creating moving pixel art requires planning out transitions and studying the basics of animation principles. Start simple with just a few frames or a repetitive walk cycle for a game character. The more you animate, the more natural your pixel animations will become.

Lighting and Shading

Proper lighting and shading can take pixel art to the next level by adding depth and dimension. Here are some techniques to use:

  • Add shadows on the side of objects opposite from the light source. Use darker shades of color for these shadows.
  • Use highlights and lighter shades on the parts of objects facing towards the light. This creates a highlighted area.
  • Use ambient lighting with dull shades to show light filling in the scene overall.
  • Try using a light source directly above objects to create top-down lighting.
  • Use diffused, soft lighting for a gentle effect instead of harsh contrasts.
  • Experiment with different shading patterns like dithering to fill in shapes.
  • Use cool tones like blues and purples for shadows to suggest natural lighting.
  • Reference real life objects to see how light hits them to mimic effects.

With practice and experimentation, lighting and shading can make pixel art pop off the screen. Pay attention to light sources and using shades strategically to add that extra polish.

As Yuri Shwedoff explains, “Highlights and shadows are very important for showing the shapes in pixel art. They add a lot of dimension”. Strategic shading separates good pixel art from great.

Artistic Inspiration

Some of the top pixel artists to follow for artistic inspiration include:
Ray Larabie – Known for his pixel art style logos and typefaces. His portfolio at The Masters of Pixel Art showcases his talent for capturing retro pixel aesthetics.
Paul Robertson – Famous for his contributions to indie games like Mercenary Kings and Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Robertson’s game animation pixel art offers stylized inspiration.

Jennifer Dawe – A versatile pixel artist creating fan art pieces for games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. Her portfolio includes charming 8-bit landscapes.

Pixel Art Trends

Pixel art has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Some key trends that have emerged include:

Retro and nostalgic themes – Many pixel artists create artworks that evoke nostalgia for old school video games and pop culture from the 80s and 90s. This ties into the origins of pixel art being used in early gaming.

Landscapes – Natural scenery like forests, mountains, and oceans lend themselves well to the pixel approach. The limited palette creates striking impressionistic scenes.

Animals and creatures – Pixel art styled animals, monsters, and other creatures are prevalent, both as still images and animated sprites. The simplified look gives them a cute, quirky appeal.

Abstractions and geometrics – Pixel art’s grid-based nature allows for abstract and geometric designs like mandalas, tessellations, and fractal shapes.

Isometric – Depth and dimension are created in isometric pixel art using parallel projections at a sharp angle.

Dithering – Blending colors through dithering is a specialty technique gaining traction. It smoothes gradients despite the limited palette.

More complex palettes – While classic pixel art uses fewer colors, more palette options are being embraced for nuance.

Detailed portraits – With sufficient resolution, pixel art portraitures with refined details and shading are possible.

The pixel art community continues to innovate and push boundaries. While paying homage to its roots, the medium allows for immense creativity and style.

Tips for Better Creativity

When it comes to boosting creativity for pixel art, there are many techniques artists can try. Brainstorming and mind mapping can help generate new ideas. Look at art from other mediums, or try experimenting with new styles outside your comfort zone. Collect inspiration from nature, movies, books, or music. Take breaks to recharge. Set daily creation goals to stay motivated. Switch up tools and techniques periodically to stimulate creativity. Try collaborating and bouncing ideas off others. Stay open-minded and don’t judge initial ideas too quickly. Allow mistakes and accept imperfection during the creative process. Above all, keep practicing regularly to flex your creative muscles.

techniques like brainstorming and experimenting with new styles to boost creativity

Pixel art has seen a major revival in recent years across many creative spheres. With its crisp aesthetic and limitations that ignite creativity, it’s no wonder pixel art has made a comeback. In this piece, we covered the most popular genres of pixel art, essential tools and programs, tips for beginners and intermediate artists, creative inspiration sources, and current trends.

The limited resolution of pixel art pushes artists to do more with less. Having constraints in color palette, dimensions, and detail can encourage resourcefulness. While pixel art started out of necessity with low-resolution displays, artists now intentionally limit themselves to spark innovation. The return to retro pixel styles shows how sometimes less complexity allows more freedom.

Reviving pixel art is about tapping into nostalgia and imagination. By reminiscing about childhood video games and exploring new frontiers with pixels, artists have reignited a special art form. Pixel art will likely continue gaining interest as people aim to channel creativity and simplicity in an increasingly complex digital world.