Pixelart Text Effects: Beginner’S Tutorial

Pixel art has a long history, with origins dating back to the 1970s when personal computers first became widely available. The term “pixel art” refers to digital artwork created through editing and positioning individual pixels to form a complete image or animation (Source: Wikipedia). Text effects within pixel art involve manipulating the arrangement of pixels to create the illusion of text and fonts.

In this beginner’s tutorial, we will provide a step-by-step overview of how to create pixel art text effects using common software tools. The goal is to introduce new pixel artists to techniques for making eye-catching text with a retro, pixelated style. By the end, you should have the skills to design your own pixel art text for images, animations, games, and more.

We will cover choosing fonts, creating outlines, selecting color palettes, adding shading, utilizing backgrounds, and special effects. You’ll also learn how to export your completed pixel text creations. Let’s get started!

Needed Software

There are a variety of options when it comes to choosing software for creating pixel art. Some of the most popular choices include Aseprite, GraphicsGale, Pyxel Edit, Piskel, and Photoshop. For beginners, Aseprite is often recommended as the best all-around software to start with.

Aseprite is specifically designed for creating pixel art and sprite animations. It provides users with tools like layers, color palettes, brushes, raster effects, and more. The simple and intuitive interface makes it beginner-friendly, while still offering powerful functionality for experienced pixel artists. Aseprite is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded from the official website. There is both a paid and free trial version available.

For those looking for completely free pixel art software, Piskel and GraphicsGale are good options. Piskel runs right in the browser and is very easy to get started with. GraphicsGale has more robust features and works well for game sprites. Both provide basic layered editing and animation tools. Photoshop is another alternative with pixel art capabilities, but may not be the most intuitive program for beginners.

Overall, Aseprite is recommended as the best software for beginners looking to get into pixel art. It provides the features and tools needed while remaining approachable for those just starting out. The free trial lets new users test it out before purchasing the full version.

Image Size and Canvas

When creating pixel art, one of the most important considerations is selecting the right image dimensions and canvas size. The dimensions and pixel density you choose will affect the overall style and level of detail in your artwork.

For beginners, it’s recommended to start with a small canvas size like 32×32 or 64×64 pixels. This allows you to get used to working within the limitations of a confined space. Common dimensions for pixel art include powers of two like 16×16, 32×32, 64×64, 128×128 and so on. But you can use any dimensions you like.

Higher resolution canvases like 500×500 pixels give you more space to work with fine details. But they require more time and skill to complete. Lower resolutions keep things simple for beginners. You can always scale up your artwork later as your skills improve.

Setting up your canvas size in pixel art software like Aseprite is straightforward. Just input your desired width and height dimensions in pixels when creating a new file or canvas. This will determine the total working area and boundaries for your pixel art.

In summary, carefully consider the styling and level of detail you want when picking image dimensions. Lower resolutions like 32×32 or 64×64 are great for beginners starting out.

Choosing a Font

When choosing a font for pixel art, it’s important to consider legibility and nostalgia. Smaller pixel sizes can make standard fonts difficult to read, so pixel fonts designed specifically for low resolutions are recommended. Some popular pixel fonts include 04B-03, Pixel Operator, and Advanced Pixel 7.

To get a pixel look with any font, the font can be converted using tools like Pixel Font Generator. The pixel size should be matched to the canvas size for optimal scaling. Standard fonts with bold, blocky designs like Impact or Arial Black tend to convert well. Potential issues to watch for include letters blending together or details getting lost at low resolutions.

When picking a font, aim for legibility first while considering the nostalgia factor. Pixel fonts specifically designed for low-res work best, but any font can be converted. Match the conversion pixel size to the target canvas for best results.

Text Outline

Outlining text is an important technique in pixel art to make the letters stand out. According to the Pixel Art Outlines Tutorials on Lospec, outlines help define the shape and readability of text.

When outlining text, it’s recommended to use a single pixel width for the outline. This keeps the text crisp and pixelated, as explained in the Pixel Art Outlines Tutorial on Lospec. Wider outlines can cause the letters to lose their shape and pixelated look.

Anti-aliasing is another consideration for text outlines. Anti-aliasing smooths out the edges, so many pixel artists avoid it for a hard pixelated edge. As demonstrated in this pixel art tips video, turning off anti-aliasing keeps the outlines sharper.

Color Palette

Choosing the right color palette is crucial for creating appealing pixel art. The color palette refers to the set of colors that you will use in your artwork. Here are some tips for selecting colors:

Stick to a limited palette – Pixel art usually works best with a palette of around 4-6 colors. Using too many colors can make the image look noisy and chaotic.

Consider color theory principles – Choose complementary, analogous, or triadic colors for bold contrast. Or opt for monochromatic or shades of a single hue for a more cohesive look. Learn more about color relationships from resources like Color Theory for Pixel Artists.

Pick colors purposefully – Choose dominant colors that you will use the most, accent colors for details, and neutral colors for backgrounds. This creates visual hierarchy.

Use a pixel art palette generator – Sites like Lospec have premade palettes you can sample and customize.

Study palettes from pixel art you like – Gather inspiration from other artists’ color choices.

Test palettes with shading – Make sure colors translate well when shaded and highlighted.

Don’t be afraid to experiment – Try out different color combinations until you find a palette that brings your vision to life.

Shading and Highlights

Shading and highlights are key for adding dimension and depth to pixel art. Shading indicates where shadows are cast, while highlights show where the light source hits the brightest. By paying attention to light, you can make your pixel art really pop off the page.

Start shading by identifying your light source and thinking about where shadows would naturally fall. For example, if the light is coming from above, the tops of objects will be highlighted while the undersides and areas facing away from the light will be in shadow.

When shading, it helps to work in layers starting with large shadow shapes, then adding midtones, and finally small highlights for accents. Slowly build up the shading. Don’t be afraid to redo areas until you get the right effect. Referencing real life objects can help understand how light and shadow interact.

Some useful shading techniques for beginners include dithering, using shades of the same color, and limiting your palette. See this guide for pixel art shading tutorials explaining these methods.

Highlights draw the eye and make pieces pop. Reserve pure white for the brightest areas hit directly by your light source. Highlights along edges can create a nice rim lighting effect. You can also add vibrant highlights using colors from your palette.

With practice, lighting and shading can take your pixel art to the next level. Experiment until you find a shading style that suits your artistic vision.


The background can make or break a piece of pixel art text. Choosing a background that complements the colors and style of the text is key. Some options for backgrounds include:

Complementary Colors: Pick a background color from the complementary side of the color wheel to make the text pop. For example, if your text uses blues and purples, choose a peach or orange background.

Simple vs. Complex: A simple, solid color background puts all the focus on the text. A more complex background like a pixel art landscape can work, but be sure the text stands out clearly.

Palette Matching: Choose a background made with the same limited color palette. This creates a cohesive look. Just avoid blending the text into the background too much.

Refer to sources like iStock for examples of pixel art text with beautiful, complementary backgrounds.

Special Effects

Special effects can really make pixel art text stand out. Some common effects to try are glows, reflections, shadows, and animation.


Adding a glow effect around the text can make it look like it’s illuminated or radiating light. To create a glow, duplicate the text layer and blur it slightly with the Gaussian Blur filter. Set the layer blending mode to Screen to make the blurred layer appear brighter.


Reflections can make the text look like it’s in a glossy or wet environment. To add a reflection, duplicate the text layer and flip it vertically. Position the reflection below the original text. Apply a slight blur or distortion to make it look more realistic.


Shadows help ground the text and make it appear more three-dimensional. Create a shadow by duplicating the text layer, blurring it slightly, making it darker, and offsetting it diagonally down and to the side. Play with the blur amount and opacity to get the look you want.


Animating pixel art text takes more work but can look amazing. Make a duplicate text layer for each animation frame. Then export the layers as an animated GIF. Experiment with effects like glitching, flashing, moving, and more.

Exporting and Sharing Your Pixel Art

After putting in all that hard work creating your pixel art masterpiece, you’ll want to export it and share it with the world. There are a few things to consider when exporting pixel art to ensure it looks its best when shared online or on social media.

The most common file types for exporting pixel art are PNG and GIF. PNG is lossless and preserves all the detail of your original artwork, whereas GIF compresses the image which can result in some loss of quality. However, GIF supports animation and transparency so may be a better choice if those features are needed. (1)

When exporting, be sure to export your pixel art at the original size or scale it up by a multiple of the original size to avoid blurring. Pixel art looks best when each pixel directly maps to a pixel on the screen. (2)

To share on social media like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, export your pixel art and upload the image file. Be aware that some compression may occur from the social media platform. For the crispest results, share a direct link to the full-size exported image file.

If using Pixel Studio, you can open the share menu to export and directly share your artwork to various social platforms. (3)

With the proper export settings, your pixel art will look amazing online and on social media!