Pixelart Evolution: Exploring Current Trends For Creative Minds

Pixel art refers to digital art made using raster graphic editors to create images on the pixel level. While all digital art is technically pixel art since digital screens display images by lighting up small dots called pixels, the term pixel art usually refers to a specific retro style that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. This was mainly due to graphics technology limitations of the time that could only display low resolution images with chunky pixels.

The earliest examples of pixel art can be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s when graphics artists worked with limitations of early computer and console games. They had to create characters, environments and animations using very low resolutions and limited color palettes. This led to the distinct pixelated aesthetic that we now associate with retro game graphics. While technological advancements have enabled much higher resolutions and millions of colors, pixel art continues to have a strongnostalgic appeal and unique visual style.

After falling out of mainstream popularity, pixel art has seen a resurgence among indie game developers, graphic designers and digital artists in the 2000s. New tools and techniques have also evolved that embrace the pixel aesthetic. Pixel art remains appealing for its retro style and ability to convey complex scenes and emotions with just a limited number of pixels. It strikes a balance between abstraction and realism. Today pixel art continues to evolve across gaming, digital art, animation, and more. Its growth speaks to the creative possibilities of limitations and the enduring appeal of lo-fi graphics.

Distinct Styles

Pixel art has developed a wide range of distinct art styles over the years. Some of the most popular include:


8-bit pixel art originated in the 1970s and 80s with early video game consoles like the Atari 2600. It is characterized by large pixilated blocks of color and very low resolution, usually 320×240 pixels or less (1). This creates a distinct retro video game aesthetic.


16-bit pixel art became popular in the late 80s and early 90s with gaming systems like the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. It has higher resolution and color depth than 8-bit, typically up to 640×480 pixels. This allows for more detail, shading, and smoother animations (2).


Voxel art uses 3D pixels rather than 2D. This creates a unique blocky 3D aesthetic. Minecraft is perhaps the most famous example of a voxel style game. Voxel models can also be rotated and viewed from different angles.


Isometric pixel art utilizes a 2D perspective that makes objects appear 3D. It creates the illusion of depth through the use of angled lines and shapes. This style was common with early computer RPGs and strategy games.

Tools and Techniques

Pixel art is created digitally using a variety of tools and software. Some of the most popular tools used by pixel artists include Clip Studio Paint, Aseprite, GraphicsGale, Piskel, and Pro Motion. These tools allow artists to work on a pixel level to place individual pixels and achieve the signature blocky, pixelated look.

Clip Studio Paint is a full featured digital art software that includes custom pixel art brushes and tools like the Dot Pen to make the pixel creation process easier. The software also allows artists to create and import their own custom brushes optimized for pixel art. Some artists even use the versatile Vector Layers in Clip Studio to create clean pixel art lines and shapes before filling them in with pixels.

Tools like Aseprite and GraphicsGale are pixel-specific programs built just for pixel art design. They include specialized features like palettes, tiling, and pixel-perfect tools. Many pixel artists use these programs to focus on animation and sprite design for gaming and other applications.

Web-based tools like Piskel and Pixel Lab provide free online editors that allow beginners to easily start creating pixel art right in the browser. Their simple interfaces serve as an introduction to pixel art for new artists.

No matter the software, the hallmark techniques of pixel art involve careful placement of individual pixels and using limited colors, dimensions, and resolutions to create a visually striking retro style.

Notable Artists

Pixel art has been popularized by many talented artists over the years. Some of the most influential include:

Pedro Medeiros (https://www.themastersofpixelart.com/) is a Brazilian pixel artist known for his work on classic games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI in the 1990s. His intricate character sprites pushed the limits of pixel art on limited hardware.

Mark Ferrari (https://www.pixilart.com/art/famous-pixel-artists-sr2241de3043c38) is an American pixel artist who worked on early Sierra games like King’s Quest and Space Quest. His dithering techniques to simulate colors with limited palettes set high standards in the field.

Paul Robertson is a contemporary pixel artist from Scotland revered for his hyperkinetic, psychedelic animations and games. His striking use of color and motion exemplify pixel art’s versatility for creative expression.

Arne Niklas Jansson, aka EvilEye, helped pioneer pixel art animation in online demoscenes during the 2000s. His smooth character animations expanded possibilities for storytelling and humor through limited pixels.

Izumi Todo charmed many with her isometric pixel fan art and original fantasy characters. She represents a new generation of diverse voices shaping pixel art’s narrative scope.

These artists demonstrate pixel art’s evolution as a dynamic medium for game design, animation, and digital art that both honors retro style and forges new ground in visualization.

Gaming Applications

Pixel art has played an important role in gaming, especially in retro and indie games. Early video games used pixel art out of necessity due to the limited processing power of computers and consoles. Games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, and The Legend of Zelda used simple pixel art that was easy to render but still had a charming aesthetic. As gaming technology advanced, pixel art fell out of favor for more complex and high-resolution graphics. However, there has been a resurgence of pixel art in indie gaming in recent years. Indie developers choose pixel art as a deliberate stylistic choice, aiming to evoke nostalgia for retro games [1]. Games like Terraria, Stardew Valley, and Shovel Knight use pixel art to embrace retro style. Pixel art can allow small indie teams to create appealing visuals without the larger budgets of AAA studios. The constraints of pixel art can also drive creativity and focus on strong gameplay over graphical showcases. Retro throwback games directly emulate old-school graphics. Titles like Hyper Light Drifter and CrossCode adopt the pixelated charm of 80s and 90s games. Overall, pixel art remains a stylish and practical choice for indie developers aiming to recapture the magic of classic gaming.

Animation Uses

Pixel art has become increasingly popular in animated shows, movies, and GIFs due to its retro aesthetic. Shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls utilize pixel art animation to evoke a nostalgic 8-bit video game feel. Indie animated movies like Saved By Grace (https://www.savedbygracemovie.com/) and Another World also incorporate pixel art in their unique visual styles.

GIFs are a medium where pixel art thrives, allowing animators to create short, looping animations. Artists like Uno Moralez, Scorpion Dagger, and David OReilly have produced surreal, glitchy, and humorous GIFs. Their distorted pixel art adds atmosphere and transformative visuals. Overall, the use of pixel art in animation provides flexibility for stylized looks, from subtle touches to full conversions of traditional animation to a pixelated form.

Pixel Art Communities

Because pixel art is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, vibrant online communities have formed where pixel artists can connect, receive feedback, and share their work. Some of the most active pixel art communities include:

Lospec – This site hosts a popular Discord server with different channels for sharing WIPs, getting critiques, and pixel art discussion. Lospec also features pixel art tutorials and hosts frequent game jams.

Reddit’s r/PixelArt subreddit – With over 300,000 members, this subreddit is hugely active with users posting their latest creations and getting constructive feedback. It’s a great place to showcase work and get inspired by fellow artists.

Pixonomicon Discord – A free Discord community with hundreds of pixel artists who discuss techniques, share tips, and critique each other’s work. Focused on growth and learning.

Events like Pixel Joint‘s Pixel Art Masters Tournament allow artists to compete against each other and get exposure. DeviantArt also has an active pixel art community.

These are spaces where enthusiasts can learn from each other, get feedback to improve skills, and build relationships. For those interested in pixel art, joining one of these communities allows connecting with fellow creatives.

Commercial Applications

Pixel art has become an increasingly popular style choice for businesses and brands looking to market products or establish a visual identity. The nostalgic, retro aesthetic of pixel art can evoke feelings of nostalgia and tap into pop culture trends. When used thoughtfully, pixel art can help brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Many companies are using pixel art in their logos and branding as a way to appear playful, approachable and modern. For example, financial services company SoFi incorporates 8-bit pixel art into its logo and website design. Beauty brand Glossier uses pixelated product photography on its Instagram feed, leaning into the vintage video game visuals. Pixel art offers a versatile style that can work for brands in any industry seeking a warm, friendly vibe.

Beyond logos and websites, pixel art is frequently applied to physical products like apparel, home goods and accessories. Independent artists on platforms like Etsy sell custom pixel art patterns printed on t-shirts, pillows, phone cases and more. Large retailers like Target and Urban Outfitters also carry pixel art-inspired merchandise, from notebooks to throw blankets. The DIY, handmade look of pixel art translates well onto consumer products.

As a striking visual medium that triggers nostalgia, pixel art can be an impactful addition to marketing campaigns. When leveraging pixel art, brands should ensure the style choice aligns with their ethos and resonates with their target demographic. With its widespread pop culture presence, pixel art offers creative branding potential for companies when thoughtfully implemented.


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Future Possibilities

As technology continues to advance, pixel art has the potential to evolve in new and exciting ways. Some speculate that AI and the Future of Pixel Art could open up new creative possibilities for pixel artists to push the boundaries of the medium. AI tools may assist in automating monotonous tasks or provide new dithering and optimization techniques to achieve more detailed and polished results. This could allow artists to focus more on the creative aspects of their work.

Pixel art may also expand into new mediums like VR and AR, bringing virtual exhibits and installations to new audiences. As display technology improves, we may see ultra high-resolution pixel art presented on next-gen screens. Some envision large-scale outdoor pixel art murals and architectural installations being enabled by advancements in modular LED panels.

The internet and social media have also increased the visibility of pixel art. Emerging pixel artists are able to share their work across the globe and connect with an active online community. In the future, the intersection of pixel art with viral trends and internet culture could lead to new memetic art styles and innovations.


In summary, pixel art has maintained its popularity for decades due to its nostalgic appeal, accessibility for creators, and ability to convey complex designs and emotions with limited resolution. Though it originated in classic video games, pixel art is now used across digital media for animation, mobile games, commercial brands, software interfaces, and graphic design. While new tools have expanded the possibilities, limitations can inspire creativity. Active pixel art communities drive innovation and preserve traditional techniques. In gaming and beyond, pixel art endures as a unique aesthetic that merges vintage style with modern applications. Its past and future are intertwined, as today’s artists build on the retro legacy using evolutions of those same simple pixels.