Pixelart Blending Tips: Seamlessly Blending Colors

Pixel art is a unique digital art form that utilizes a limited color palette and resolution to create detailed images and animations. Unlike paintings or photographs, pixel art relies on placing individual pixels of color perfectly to convey forms, textures, lighting, and motion.

One of the biggest challenges in pixel art is blending colors smoothly to avoid unwanted artifacts or banding. With such a restricted palette, blending colors that flow naturally into each other is crucial for creating a cohesive, polished look. The painterly techniques used in other media don’t always translate directly.

That’s why pixel artists employ specialized techniques to seamlessly transition between colors. Approaches like dithering, using color temperature, and blending edges allow artists to combine colors harmoniously. With practice and an understanding of color theory, anyone can master blending pixels for professional-looking game sprites, characters, environments, and animations.

Choosing Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. Using complementary colors helps create visual contrast and vibrancy in a pixel art piece. When placed next to each other, complementary colors intensify one another, making each seem brighter and more pronounced. According to color theory, some examples of complementary color pairs are:

  • Red and green
  • Blue and orange
  • Yellow and purple

To find the complement of any color, look at the color wheel and find the color directly across. For example, the complement of blue is orange. When choosing a complementary color scheme, opt for hues of the same brightness and saturation to maintain balance. Avoid pairing a light tint with a dark shade. Using true complements at full saturation also risks being too overwhelming on the eyes. Softening saturation can make the combination more pleasing.

When blending complementary colors in pixel art, placing them next to each other can help visually blend them into a cohesive scene. You can also use dithering techniques to mix tiny dots of each together. As an example, check out this pixel art landscape that combines grassy greens, sunset oranges, purples, and blues: https://www.pinterest.fr/pin/40250990403764528/

Avoiding Jarring Contrasts

When creating pixel art, it’s important to avoid using colors with high contrast in value and saturation next to each other. Putting a very light color next to a very dark color, or a highly saturated color next to a desaturated color can create a jarring, visually unappealing effect.

For example, placing a bright neon green right next to a dark gray can hurt the viewer’s eyes. The high contrast draws too much attention and looks garish. Instead, aim for lower contrast transitions by choosing hues closer in value and saturation. For instance, blend a forest green into an olive green instead of straight into black.

As one Reddit user noted, “I found a recipe to suppress some of the color combinations and transient small details that are jarring. The banding is not a problem but some of the color contrasts need to be toned down” (source).

So remember, when selecting your palette, pay attention to the relationships between color value and saturation. Smooth, gradual transitions will give your pixel art a more natural, cohesive look.

Using Dithering

Dithering is a technique used to blend two colors together by alternating pixels between the two colors at random to create the optical illusion of a third color in-between. This allows artists to expand their limited color palette and create smoother color transitions. When done well, dithering creates interesting patterns and textures that seamlessly blend colors.

a pixelated image showing dithering techniques for blending colors in pixel art

One of the most common dithering patterns is the checkerboard pattern, which alternates single pixels in a checkerboard layout. This pattern works well for blending colors that are close in value. Artists can also use more randomized dithering patterns to create a noisier, grainier effect that works for blending colors with greater contrast.

Different dithering patterns lend themselves to different styles. A more structured crosshatch or checkerboard pattern creates a clean, orderly look, while completely random dithering results in a grittier, more textured effect. The size of the alternating pixels also impacts the blending. Smaller pixels blend more seamlessly while larger pixels create more of a stylistic, pixelated look.

Dithering adds visual interest to areas of flat color by introducing patterns and textures. Used thoughtfully, it allows artists to get the most out of a limited palette. By blending colors pixel by pixel, dithering makes it possible to create the illusion of shades and tones that don’t actually exist in the palette. This unlocks greater realism and depth within the constraints of pixel art.

Understanding Color Temperature

In pixel art, color temperature refers to how warm or cool a color appears. This is an important concept when blending colors to create a cohesive palette. Warm colors like reds, oranges and yellows evoke energy and excitement. Cool colors like blues, greens and purples feel more calming and relaxed.

Using too many warm colors together can make an image feel visually noisy and chaotic. Too many cool colors can seem dull or depressing. A balance of warm and cool colors creates visual harmony.

When blending colors, pay attention to the temperature. Combining very warm and very cool colors often looks jarring. Try blending warm with warm and cool with cool for seamless results. Or use colors next to each other on the color wheel, which naturally blend well. For example, blue and purple are both cool colors that combine nicely (https://www.reddit.com/r/PixelArt/comments/1330r1u/color_temperature_tutorial/).

Also consider temperature when shading. Adding a darker and slightly cooler version of a color for shadows creates naturalistic depth. Just be sure to keep it in the same general temperature family.

Creating Harmonious Palettes

When creating palettes for pixel art, it helps to understand color harmony and how to combine colors in harmonious ways. Three common approaches are monochromatic, analogous, and triadic palettes.

A monochromatic palette consists of different shades, tones, and tints of a single hue. This creates a cohesive, minimalist look. For example, using different shades of blue can create a cool, tranquil mood (https://lospec.com/palette-list/tranquil-breeze).

An analogous palette uses hues next to each other on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-violet, and violet. This creates a rich, vibrant look. Using tones and shades of analogous colors produces subtle gradations (https://lospec.com/palette-list/reminiscent).

A triadic palette uses hues evenly spaced around the color wheel, like red, yellow, and blue. This contrasting combination is bold and energetic. Mixing triadic colors requires more care to avoid clashing, but can yield dazzling results (https://lospec.com/palette-list/fairground).

Understanding these harmonious relationships allows artists to create unified, appealing palettes for their pixel art.

Blending with Light and Shadow

Light and shadow are key for blending colors seamlessly in pixel art. Using shading, highlights, and shadows helps create the illusion of form and brings your pixel art to life.

When placing your light source, consider the directionality and intensity. Is it a strong light source like direct sunlight or a softer ambient light? Where are the shadows being cast? Highlights will occur where the light source directly hits the form.

Shading is used to show planes and contours of an object receding into space. Generally shadows will use cooler, darker colors while highlights use warmer, lighter colors. Blend your shadows gradually to create soft edges rather than hard contrasts.

Don’t forget to use cast shadows to ground elements into the scene. Examples include shadows cast on the ground from a character or object. This helps tie together foreground and background elements.

For pixel art inspiration on expert lighting and shading techniques, check out this blog post.

Using Gradient Maps

Gradient maps are a useful tool for seamlessly blending colors in pixel art. They allow you to map one set of colors to another using a color ramp or gradient. This lets you quickly modify colors while maintaining a cohesive palette.

When using gradient maps, you can create color ramps that transition smoothly from one tone to another. For example, you may map a red-orange gradient to a blue-purple one. This will shift all the warm tones in your piece to cool tones in one step. Adjusting the gradient slope allows fine control over the blend.

Gradients are also great for creating lighting effects. You can use them to easily cast shadows or create highlights. Start with a neutral dark-to-light gradient, then adjust the ramp colors to mimic diffused lighting conditions. This creates an ambient lighting effect with softly blended colors.

Overall, gradient maps provide a fast way to recolor pixel art while maintaining clean gradients. Adjusting the ramp slope and colors enables subtle color tweaks or drastic shifts. When used creatively, they are a versatile Pixel art blending technique. As this Clip Studio guide notes, combining gradient maps with blend modes expands your blending potential even further.

Blending Edges

When creating pixel art, having hard edges between colors can sometimes look too jagged or pixelated. Blending and softening the edges helps make the colors fade into each other more smoothly and naturally.

A technique called antialiasing can be used to blend colors and soften edges in pixel art. As described in an article on Medium (How to start making pixel art #5), antialiasing involves using intermediate pixels along the edges between two colors to create a smooth transition. For example, if a red object borders a blue background, the edge pixels could be blended to purple to soften the edge.

On Reddit (How do I enlarge pixel art in Photoshop without it looking pixelated?), users recommend using Photoshop’s “Nearest Neighbor” interpolation method to enlarge pixel art while retaining sharp edges. However, reducing the hardness can help make edges less jagged.

Strategic antialiasing along key edges can help pixel art feel more cohesive, blended, and polished. It takes experimentation to find the right balance between softness and sharpness for each piece.


In conclusion, blending colors seamlessly in pixel art requires an understanding of color theory, using techniques like dithering, creating harmonious palettes, and blending edges. The key tips are:

  • Choose complementary colors on the color wheel for smooth blends
  • Avoid jarring contrasts by adjusting hue, saturation, and brightness
  • Use dithering to transition between colors with limited palette
  • Understand color temperature for natural, harmonious palettes
  • Blend colors by adjusting lightness and shadows
  • Use gradient maps to aid in smooth color transitions
  • Soften edges by switching between colors gradually

By following these guidelines, pixel artists can blend colors seamlessly for professional results. With practice and an eye for color, your pixel art can have smoothly gradated colors and convincing lighting effects. Keep experimenting with techniques and color combinations to develop your blending skills.