Pixelart Poster Design Tutorial: Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners

What is Pixel Art?

Pixel art refers to digital art created through the use of software, where images are edited on the pixel level. It emerged in the 1980s as graphics technology advanced to allow for digital art and pixel-level manipulation. The style is often associated with 8-bit and 16-bit video games from the 1970s to 1990s, where characters and environments were rendered at low resolutions. Some define pixel art specifically as a type of raster art.

Early examples of pixel art can be seen in games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Mega Man. These games utilized pixel art out of necessity due to hardware limitations, but pixel art has persisted as a stylistic choice. Contemporary examples in indie games include Stardew Valley, Terraria, and Shovel Knight.

While initially used in video games, pixel art has expanded into other digital media. Today it is popular online in animated GIFs, artwork, webcomics, and more. The constrained nature of pixel art presents unique challenges, pushing artists to convey emotion, movement, and narrative within limited resolutions.

Why Create Pixel Art Posters?

Pixel art has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to its nostalgic, retro aesthetic. The simplified style is often associated with classic video games and pop culture from the 80s and 90s, giving pixel art posters a vintage vibe that many find appealing. According to this article, “Posters and t-shirts with pixel designs are considered retro cool.”

For beginner digital artists, pixel art can also be an accessible entry point. Compared to highly detailed digital painting and illustration, pixel art uses simpler shapes and a limited color palette. As noted in this post, “Well-executed pixel art has unparalleled clarity and visual control, especially on small screens.” The structured process makes it easier for novices to create polished, retro-style posters without advanced artistic skills.

In summary, the nostalgic pixel aesthetic and approachable process explain why pixel art posters appeal to many creators and fans.

Tools You’ll Need

When creating pixel art posters, having the right software tools is essential. Two of the most popular and user-friendly options for beginners are Aseprite and Piskel. Both offer features specifically for pixel art design like indexed color palettes, onion skinning, and pixel-perfect tools.

For canvas size, it’s common to start with a small poster like 128×128 or 256×256 pixels when you’re just beginning. This keeps the project manageable but still large enough to add details. More advanced pixel artists often work at 512×512 or larger.

Limiting your palette to around 12-16 colors can help maintain a cohesive and intentional look. Have a balance of light and dark tones. Consider adding some colors sparingly as accents to make key elements stand out.

Planning Your Design

Before starting your pixel art poster, it’s important to spend some time planning out your design. This involves choosing a theme or subject, drafting some initial sketches, and gathering reference images.

Decide on the overall theme or topic for your poster. Pixel art lends itself well to gaming themes, pop culture characters, landscapes, etc. Pick a subject you’re passionate about to help inspire your creativity.

example pixel art poster draft sketch

After choosing a topic, sketch out some rough drafts on paper. Don’t worry about details yet, just map out the basic elements and composition. Sketching will help you experiment with different layouts and visualize the final product.

Next, look for reference images related to your topic. Study pixel art that inspires you or includes elements you may want to incorporate. References will help guide your color palette, style, and level of detail. Useful sources include Pinterest and Pixeljoint.

Take time upfront to carefully plan your poster. It will help the actual pixel art process go much more smoothly.

Drawing the Base Shapes

When starting a new pixel art poster design, it’s best to begin with simple geometric shapes. According to this pixel art tutorial, beginning with basic squares, circles, triangles and rectangles helps you map out the composition and major elements.

Try roughing out your main subject with primitive shapes first. For example, if you’re designing a poster with a person, you might draw a large circle for the head, a rectangle for the body, cylinders for the arms and legs, etc. This establishes the core form.

From there, you can add smaller shapes to add complexity and detail. Building up from fundamental building blocks helps maintain clean lines and geometry. According to pixel art experts, it’s easier to simplify complex shapes into pixels rather than trying to pixelate complex drawings.

So start simple. Sketch your poster layout using basic geometric forms. Once you have the core composition mapped out, then you can start sculpting those primitive shapes into more intricate pixel art designs.

Adding Details

Once you have the basic shapes and forms blocked out, it’s time to start adding details to your pixel art poster. This helps make your artwork come alive. There are a few key techniques for adding effective details:

Refining Shapes: Look closely at your initial shapes and forms. Are there any areas that need cleaner lines or more definition? You may want to go in with a smaller pencil to sharpen edges and corners. This helps make your shapes look crisper.

Adding Textures: Consider adding textures like wood grain, metal, etc. to make elements appear more realistic. You can do this through careful shading or using pattern brushes if working digitally. Textures add great visual interest.

Incorporating Lighting: Think about how you want lighting to affect your scene. Add shadows and highlights to make elements look more three-dimensional. You can use shading gradients to indicate how light wraps around forms. Backlighting creates nice silhouettes.

Start small and focus on one area at a time when detailing. You don’t need to add details everywhere, just important focal points. Refer to pixel art tutorials like this one for strategies on refining your artwork step-by-step.

Choosing a Color Palette

Choosing the right color palette is crucial for creating a visually striking pixel art poster. Here are some tips:

Limit your palette to 12-16 colors maximum. Too many colors can make your art look noisy and chaotic. Stick to a smaller palette for a clean, cohesive look.

Browse pixel art palette inspiration sources like the Lospec Palette List which contains hundreds of palettes used in actual games and pixel art.

Use dithering techniques to create the illusion of more colors than are in your palette. Dithering blends your existing colors together for smooth shading and textures.

Choose a palette that enhances your design’s mood and style. An earthy palette for natural scenes, a bright pop art palette for a fun cartoon poster, etc.

Aim for high color contrast so elements stand out clearly. Don’t choose colors that are too similar in brightness and hue.

Consider palette trends like retro CGA palettes, modern neon palettes, monochrome, triad, and more. But don’t be afraid to create your own signature palette!

Animating Your Poster

One of the fun parts of creating pixel art posters is bringing them to life through animation. Even simple animation techniques can make your poster more engaging and eye-catching.

Some easy ways to animate your poster include:

  • Blinking eyes or mouth on a character
  • Waving hair or clothes
  • Moving clouds, water, or other background elements
  • Small movements like a bouncing ball or fluttering bird

You don’t need complex animation to bring your poster to life. Just picking one or two subtle motions can go a long way. According to an in-game pixel art animation tutorial, simple wiring can animate different frames.

When planning your animation, sketch it out first to map the key frames. Keep your movements minimal, such as blinking eyes or swaying clothes. Limit animation to specific zones rather than the entire poster. Test your animation at different speeds to find the right balance.

Animated pixel art can be mesmerizing, as seen in these examples:

  • Bouncing balls over a cityscape
  • Waving sea grass with swimming fish
  • Marching ants circling a picnic spread

With just a touch of motion, you can bring new life and visual interest to your poster design!

Exporting and Printing

Once you finish your pixel art poster design, you’ll need to export it to the proper file format for printing. For pixel art, the best file format to use is PNG. PNGs support transparency and lossless compression, meaning no image quality is lost when saving the file. This helps maintain the crisp, pixelated look of your artwork.

When exporting, make sure to select the highest resolution and largest size possible for maximum print quality. For professional printing, aim for 300 DPI or higher. This provides enough pixels per inch to reproduce the fine details of your pixel art on paper or canvas.

When it comes time to print, choose a high quality printer and paper/canvas stock. Pixel art relies on hard edges and vibrant colors, so you want a printer that can reproduce that precisely. Consider using a professional print shop if you want large format prints for public display. Let them know the artwork is pixel art so they understand the need for sharpness.

To protect your artwork, avoid over-stretching it when printing to very large sizes. Scale it up just enough to make an impact while retaining the original pixel size relationships. And feel free to print smaller pixel art works in their original sizes as well. With care in exporting and printing, your custom pixel art poster will look amazing!

Source: https://pixeljoint.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=9877

Showcasing Your Poster

Once your pixel art poster design is complete, it’s time to share it with the world! Here are some great ways to showcase your creation:

Share on Social Media

Post your finished poster on social media sites like Reddit, DeviantArt, Twitter, and Instagram. Use relevant hashtags like #pixelart, #gamedev, and #indiegames to help people find your work. Interact with other pixel artists and video game developers.

Sell Prints and Merchandise

You can make money from your pixel art by selling prints, t-shirts, mugs, phone cases and more featuring your design. Sites like Redbubble and TeePublic allow you to upload designs and choose products to sell.

Enter Art Contests

Look for pixel art contests to enter your poster in and potentially win prizes or recognition. Sites like Pixel Joint and Lospec often hold contests with categories for posters and promotional art.