Pixelart Animation For Web Design: Examples

Pixel art animation refers to the practice of using pixel art techniques to create animated graphics and imagery. Pixel art uses raster graphics software to create digital artwork by editing pixels directly, usually in a limited resolution. This gives pixel art its distinctive rasterized, blocky aesthetic.

The origins of pixel art can be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s when graphics technology was limited and game developers and graphic artists made the most of low screen resolutions and limited color palettes. Early computer games like Space Invaders (1978) and Pac-Man (1980) relied on simple pixel art to render their graphics and sprites. Over time, pixel art evolved from a technological limitation into an aesthetic choice.

Pixel art became especially popular among indie game developers in the 2000s and 2010s, with hit titles like Terraria, Stardew Valley and Undertale using a retro pixel art style. The constrained nature of pixel art presents unique challenges for animation, requiring meticulous planning and effort to achieve fluid movement and vivid expression.

Benefits of Using Pixel Art Animation

Pixel art offers several key benefits that make it a compelling choice for web animation. First, pixel art files tend to be much more lightweight than traditional 2D or 3D animation. By limiting the color palette and detail, pixel art enables smaller file sizes that load faster on the web (source). The retro pixel aesthetic also brings a nostalgic charm, taking inspiration from classic video games and other media. Many designers appreciate pixel art for evoking this retro style. Additionally, pixel art can be easier and faster to create than detailed vector or 3D artwork since it involves simpler shapes and limited colors. With some practice, one can quickly animate pixel art sprites and characters. Overall, the lightweight files, retro aesthetic appeal, and easier creation process make pixel art uniquely well-suited for web animation.

Examples in Games

Pixel art animation is commonly used in popular indie games to evoke a retro aesthetic. Some of the most well-known examples include:

Minecraft – This 3D sandbox game uses pixelated textures and animations for the character skins, mobs, and environment elements. The simplistic pixel art style is integral to Minecraft’s identifiable look and feel.

Terraria – Similar to Minecraft, this 2D sandbox game relies heavily on pixel art for all in-game assets. The animations for characters, enemies, weapons, and more utilize a charming retro pixel aesthetic.

Stardew Valley – From farming to combat, this farming simulation role-playing game features extensive pixel art animations to bring the world and characters to life. The nostalgic pixel art style plays a key role in Stardew Valley’s atmosphere.

Shovel Knight – This classic 2D platformer mimics the visual style and animations of 8-bit games from the late 80s. The meticulously crafted pixel art animations are full of personality and references to retro gaming.

Undertale – The highly acclaimed roleplaying game Undertale combines beautiful pixel artwork with emotional depth. The fluid animations help convey charm, humor, and mystery through minimalist means.

Examples in Web Design

Pixel art animation is commonly used on websites and web apps for elements such as loading animations, menu transitions, icon animations, and decorative flourishes. The retro pixel aesthetic lends itself well to web design, hearkening back to early web graphics while remaining crisp and lightweight. Some websites incorporate pixel art animation on key pages or interactions to add personality without compromising site performance.

pixel art animations with retro aesthetic appeal can evoke nostalgia while remaining lightweight for web

For example, the project management app ClickUp uses pixel animated illustrations on its marketing site. The pixel figures bring visual interest while conveying the playful brand identity. On the homepage, pixel art characters type and organize tasks to represent ClickUp’s features in action.

The website design tool Webflow features pixel animated menus and transitions between pages. As users navigate the site, elements pop in and out with pixel art flair. This adds a level of dynamism and energy to reinforce Webflow’s friendly, animated branding.

Other websites like Slite and Transistor incorporate pixel loaders and icon animations to indicate activity. These lightweight animations provide visual cues without heavy graphics or media. Pixel art animation can add character without compromising performance for an optimal user experience.

Tools and Software

Some of the most popular software programs used for pixel art animation include:

Aseprite is dedicated pixel art software that offers animation timeline tools and is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Aseprite is popular for its customizable interface and robust functionality optimized for creating and editing animated sprites.

Piskel is a free online editor for making pixel art and animations. It provides an intuitive workflow with layers, palettes, and onion skinning. Piskel is lightweight and easy to get started with for beginners.

Adobe Photoshop is a versatile graphic design software used by many pixel artists and animators. While not specialized for pixel art, Photoshop provides brushes, layers, and animation timeline features to create pixel art animations.

These programs provide user-friendly tools tailored for animating pixel art sprites and characters. Their specialized features like palettes, onion skinning, and timeline playback streamline the animation process.

Animation Techniques

There are several key animation techniques commonly used in pixel art animation:

Frame-by-Frame Animation

This involves drawing out each frame individually to create the illusion of movement and action. It allows for total control over each frame but can be very time consuming. This technique is often used for complex movements or character animation.


Tweening involves creating keyframes at the start and end of an animation sequence, and then generating the in-between frames automatically. This speeds up the animation process but offers less control. Tweening works well for simple motions like moving objects across a scene.

Onion Skinning

Onion skinning displays a faint overlay of previous and next frames so you can see the sequence of movement. This helps guide the animation and spacing of frames. Onion skinning is useful for maintaining consistency and flow in the animation.

There are many pixel art animation tutorials that demonstrate these techniques step-by-step, such as this comprehensive video guide: Pixel Art Animation Techniques – YouTube.

Creating a Pixel Art Sprite

Creating animated pixel art characters starts with designing the sprite sheet. A sprite sheet is a collection of frames or poses that make up an animation sequence. Here are some key steps for designing and animating a sprite sheet character:

First, start with rough sketches to map out the basic shapes and silhouette, as recommended by the GameMaker blog (https://gamemaker.io/en/blog/make-pixel-art-2d-games). This helps establish the overall look and proportions before getting into details.

Next, refine the silhouette by erasing inside areas and cleaning up lines, adding basic interior features. According to Derek Yu’s pixel art tutorial, it’s helpful to work as you would with pen and paper at this stage (https://www.derekyu.com/makegames/pixelart.html).

Add colors, shading, and highlights to bring out the forms. Stick to a limited palette for cohesion. Define the major joints that will animate, like neck, arms, hips.

Draw a range of motion poses for your character’s movements, such as walking, jumping, attacking. These will become the frames of the animation sequence.

Refine and polish the poses. Pay attention to line consistency and clean pixels. Use antialiasing to smooth edges.

Once your frames are complete, import them into a sprite sheet. Determine the timing and order of each frame. Test the animation in your game engine or web design prototype.

With careful planning and practice, you can create lively original pixel art animations to enhance your 2D games or web designs.

Animating for Web

When creating pixel art animations for the web, it’s important to optimize your animations to ensure fast loading times and smooth performance. Some best practices include:

Use web-friendly file formats like GIF, APNG, or SVG. These compress well and allow for small file sizes compared to PNG or MP4. GIFs work well for short, looping animations. APNGs are good for longer or non-looping animations. SVGs allow for animations with smooth scaling and responsiveness.

Aim for the smallest file size possible. Use as few colors as possible, limit animation frames, and compress files. Image optimization tools like TinyPNG can help reduce file sizes further.

Implement animations with CSS or JavaScript rather than animated GIFs when possible. This allows for greater control, responsiveness, and performance. Popular options are CSS animation, Sprite sheets, or libraries like Greensock.

Use tools that optimize animations for the web, like Animate CC, Piskel and Aseprite which allow easy export to web formats.

Test animations on low-powered mobile devices. Optimize as needed so animations run at 60fps on most devices.

Allow time for animation files to load before animating. Use preloaders if needed.

Compress and resize animations as needed to find the optimal balance of size and quality.

Following web animation best practices allows for the best experience across devices while minimizing file size.

Case Study Examples

Pixel art animation can elevate and enhance the user experience for a website when implemented thoughtfully. Let’s look at some stellar case studies that showcase outstanding examples of pixel art animation in web design.

One excellent example is the website for Dust & Grooves, an online vinyl library documenting vinyl collectors and their collections. The homepage features a looped pixel art animation of a vinyl record spinning, instantly setting the retro, nostalgic tone. Pixel art characters also dance and move throughout the site, adding visual interest and interactivity.

Another great case study is the website for MOMIJI Studio, a motion design studio. The background of the homepage features subtly animated pixel art rain that immediately captures attention. Scrolling reveals more animated pixel art elements that reinforce the studio’s creative style.

Overall, these examples demonstrate how even small touches of pixel art animation can bring energy and personality to a website while supporting the overall brand aesthetic. When thoughtfully executed, pixel art animation elevates the user experience and creates an engaging, memorable website.


In summary, pixel art animation can be a fun, nostalgic, and effective technique to incorporate into web design. The low resolution sprite-based graphics have a retro, 8-bit era charm while still looking crisp and clear on modern displays. Pixel art is often faster and easier to create than high definition 3D animation, making it more feasible for small teams and indie developers. The simplified and expressive style also has advantages for conveying emotions and telling stories through limited animation.

For web design, pixel art can add lightweight motion to interface elements, headers, logos, and more to increase visual interest. Subtle animated effects like blinking cursors, flags fluttering, or simple character movements help bring a site to life. Pixel art backgrounds can also turn an ordinary homepage into an immersive environment. With the right stylistic choices, pixel art animation can fit well with both vintage and modern aesthetics.

While pixel art has some technical considerations, like avoiding large file sizes and incompatible color palettes, the available tools continue to improve. There are now many user-friendly software options for creating and editing sprite sheets and applying web animations. For designers looking for a change from minimalist flat graphics, implementing pixel art can be an engaging new approach.

Overall, with its retro appeal and lightweight animation potential, pixel art remains a compelling option for adding flair to web designs.