Pixelart Steampunk Design Tutorial: Beginner’S Guide To Steampunk Style

Steampunk art first emerged in the 1980s and 1990s as a subgenre of science fiction. It imagines a neo-Victorian retro-futuristic aesthetic, influenced by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery (Source). Steampunk pixel art applies this anachronistic techno-industrial style to digital pixel art.

Steampunk pixel art combines medieval and industrial influences with digital art techniques. It utilizes limited palettes, pixelation, and spriting methods to create a distinct retro-futuristic visual style. Typical steampunk elements include gears, rivets, airships, robots, and goggles. The art often depicts an alternate Victorian era powered by steam technology (Source).

To create steampunk pixel art, artists use digital drawing tools like Aseprite, Pyxel Edit, and Pro Motion. These allow spriting, animation, and exporting sprite sheets or GIFs. The limited resolution encourages creativity within constraints.

Getting Inspired

When creating steampunk pixel art, it helps to look at examples of steampunk inventions, machines, and characters for inspiration. Steampunk incorporates elements of science fiction and 19th century industrial steam-powered technology. Some common steampunk themes and items you may want to depict include:

  • Airships or flying machines
  • Clockwork robots and mechanical creatures
  • Goggles and aviator caps
  • Gears, gauges, pipes, and rivets
  • Brass and copper metallic finishes

Here are a couple examples of steampunk pixel art that illustrate these elements beautifully:

This steampunk game asset pack includes characters, machines, and objects with intricate steampunk details.

These steampunk pixel art icons incorporate gears, goggles, and other mechanical steampunk elements.

pixel art icons with steampunk elements like gears, goggles, and airships

Study pixel art like these examples to spark ideas and inspire your own steampunk creations. Analyze how the artists use color, shading, and details to bring the steampunk aesthetic to life.

Choosing Your Canvas Size

When creating pixel art, one of the first decisions to make is choosing the size of your canvas. This will determine the resolution and level of detail in your artwork. Here are some common canvas sizes used for pixel art:

16×16 – Great for icons and other very small sprites. Allows for simple designs.

32×32 – Versatile size for small game sprites and characters. Enough resolution for basic shapes and details.

64×64 – Provides good level of detail for game sprites, characters, tiles, etc. Popular intermediate size.

128×128 – Allows for lots of detail and complexity. Common for detailed sprites and environment art.

256×256 – Large high-resolution canvas good for complex scenes and backgrounds. Requires more time to complete.

512×512 – Very large and detailed pixel art. Mainly used for complete game environments and backgrounds.

The smaller canvas sizes like 16×16 and 32×32 are good for beginners to start with. The limited space helps focus the design. Larger sizes allow for more detail but are harder to keep consistent. Consider what your pixel art will be used for when picking a size. For example, a 16×16 icon needs to be simple while a character sprite can handle more complexity at 64×64 or 128×128.

Also think about how your art will be scaled. Pixel art looks best at its original resolution. If scaling up, larger canvases will have clearer details. If scaling down, smaller sizes work better. Finding the right balance takes experimentation!

Using a Limited Color Palette

A limited color palette is ideal for pixel art for a few key reasons. First, restricting your palette to just a few colors allows you to carefully choose a cohesive set of tones that work well together. This creates visual harmony in your piece. Second, pixel art relies on clarity and contrast between shapes to read well. Using too many colors can make your image look muddy. Limiting your palette to 4-5 colors forces you to make clear distinctions between elements.

Classic steampunk color palettes stick to earthy, desaturated tones like browns, grays, dark reds and brass metallics. Here are some examples of steampunk palettes to get inspired by:

This steampunk palette uses olive green, mustard yellow, chocolate brown, maroon and black.

This Pinterest board collects a wide range of steampunk color schemes ranging from neutral browns to vibrant jewel tones.

Drawing Base Shapes

When starting any new pixel art design, it’s important to begin with simple base shapes like circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. According to this helpful pixel art tutorial, “Pixel art shape tips for beginners” on Brave At Night, mastering basic shapes is key before moving on to more advanced techniques.

Start by using the pencil or shape tools in your art program to draw uniform circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. Play around with different sizes and start positioning them close together and overlapping to form more complex shapes. For example, you can combine two squares to make a rectangle, or position a triangle on top of a square to make a house shape.

The benefit of starting with simple base shapes is that it warms up your brain and gets you comfortable with your tools before tackling trickier subjects. It also helps train your eye to break down complex objects into their basic building blocks. As the Brave At Night tutorial states, “Being able to see real world objects as a collection of shapes is an important fundamental skill for any aspiring pixel artist to master.”

Take your time experimenting with basic shapes and forms. The more you practice, the easier it will become to visualize and render intricate shapes and designs in your future pixel artworks.

Adding Depth and Texture

Adding lighting and texture to your pixel art can bring it to life and make it feel more realistic. Use shades and highlights to create the illusion of dynamic lighting. Place shadows along edges and where shapes meet to give a sense of depth. Highlights along the tops or edges of shapes make them feel three-dimensional. You can experiment with different light sources and angles to see their effect.

Textures also add realism and interest to pixel art. Try adding metal textures to steampunk elements like gears or robots. Use a wood grain texture for crates, barrels, and other objects. Brick, stone, or concrete textures work for walls and floors. Avoid perfectly smooth textures – add some roughness and imperfections. When applying textures, shade them as if they are being lit dynamically.

To make textures, study real photos for inspiration. Use a limited color palette and minimal details to suggest the texture without drawing every detail. For example, draw diagonal lines in shades of brown for a wood plank texture. Reuse and repeat your texture tiles instead of drawing new details everywhere. This helps tie the texture together across your artwork.(1)

(1) https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/qkwjp6/how_can_i_make_a_pixel_art_with_textures_which/

Creating Steampunk Elements

One of the most fun parts of creating steampunk pixel art is designing the steampunk elements like machines, objects, and characters. Steampunk incorporates futuristic technology into 19th century settings, so you’ll want to get creative with designing things like flying machines, elaborate costumes, and mechanical objects.

When designing steampunk elements, it helps to use reference photos for inspiration. Look at photos of old-fashioned machinery, Victorian fashion, and sci-fi technology to spark ideas. You can find great references by searching sites like Pinterest for terms like “steampunk machine”, “Victorian costume”, or “retro robot”.

Pay attention to key steampunk features like gears, goggles, airships, corsets, top hats, and mechanical limbs. Try combining these elements in new ways to make your pixel art feel fresh and original. For example, you could create a character wearing a 18th century dress with a jetpack strapped to her back!

Start by sketching some quick concept drawings to plan out your steampunk designs. Then translate your sketches into pixel art, deciding which colors and shading techniques will work best. Add finishing touches like smoke, animation frames, or light effects to bring your steampunk pixel art to life.

Animating Your Art

Once you’ve created your steampunk pixel art scene, bringing it to life with animation can take it to the next level. Even basic animation techniques like looping frames can make static art feel more dynamic. Here are some tips for animating your steampunk pixel art:

Start simple by identifying elements that could naturally move, like gears spinning, smoke billowing, or lights flickering. Animate these in a loop of just a few frames. Keep loops short and seamless. For gears, draw the gear in 3 positions as it rotates, then loop those frames. For smoke, draw it in 2 positions as it wafts upwards, looping between the frames.

Add character animations like walking or arm movements to make your scene feel alive. Draw the character in a few key poses, then insert in-between frames to complete the animation cycle. Keep character movements subtle and natural.

Convey narrative or mechanical processes through animation. Show gears turning to open a door or bridge extending out. Break major motions down into smaller cycles of animation frames to illustrate the process step-by-step.

Incorporate lighting effects to set mood and draw focus. Flashing or flickering lights, glowing effects, and color shifts can all enhance your animated steampunk scene.

Start animating elements one by one and observe the scene as a whole. Adjust timing and sequence to create an illusion of logical cause and effect between elements. Bring your steampunk pixel art scene to life with thoughtful and engaging animation.

Exporting and Sharing

Once you’ve created your steampunk pixel art, you’ll want to export it to share with others. Pixilart makes exporting easy with options to download your art as a PNG image, animated GIF, or MP4 video. This allows you to share your pixel art in the optimal format.

To export a still image, click the download icon in the upper right of the editing screen and select “PNG Image.” This will download your full canvas with all layers flattened into one image file. For an animation, click download and choose “Animated GIF” or “MP4 Video” for a high-quality version with sound (http://www.pixilart.com/online).

Post your pixel art creations on social media to showcase your work. Share on art communities like DeviantArt and Pixel Joint to connect with other pixel artists. You can also embed Pixilart creations on websites or blogs using the “Share” option. Consider setting up a dedicated art profile on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube to publish your animations. Pixel art makes for unique social media content that stands out in feeds and helps build an audience.

Steampunk pixel art offers a fun creative challenge for beginners. By sharing your work, you can get feedback from experienced pixel artists to improve your skills. Social platforms also allow you to admire and learn from fellow artists in the pixel art community.

Final Thoughts

Steampunk pixel art is a fun and creative genre to explore. In this tutorial, we looked at getting inspired, choosing a canvas size, using a limited color palette, drawing base shapes, adding textures, creating steampunk elements, animating your art, and exporting/sharing.

Some key takeaways:

  • Focus on bold shapes, metallic textures, gears, pipes, goggles, and other steampunk machine elements
  • Animating elements like smoke, gears or propellers can bring your art to life
  • A limited palette with sepia tones fits the vintage style
  • Export your art as a sprite sheet or GIF to use in games or share online

To continue improving your pixel art skills, look for tutorials on shading, perspective, and animation. Experiment with different styles and themes beyond steampunk. Consider joining pixel art communities to connect with other artists.

Some additional resources:

With patience and practice, you’ll be creating amazing steampunk pixel art worlds and characters. Have fun bringing your visions to life one pixel at a time!