Pixelart Ui Design Tips: Designing User-Friendly Interfaces

Pixel art UI design refers to user interfaces and graphical elements created using pixelated graphics and limited color palettes, similar to the style of retro video games and computing interfaces. The goal of pixel art UI is to simplify interfaces and make them clean, readable, and visually cohesive through the use of geometric shapes, solid colors, and blocky text.

In this article, we will cover tips for creating user-friendly pixel art interfaces, including simplifying shapes, limiting colors, using clean lines, making buttons obvious, providing feedback, spacing out elements properly, choosing legible typography, and playtesting extensively. Following these guidelines can help designers build interfaces that are aesthetically pleasing, intuitive, and accessible.

Simplify Shapes

Simple geometric shapes like circles, squares, and triangles are highly recognizable and easy for users to understand. As this article explains, UI design tools work by manipulating vector shapes, so utilizing common geometric forms is an effective strategy. Icons and interface elements built out of basic shapes are intuitive because users can quickly interpret their meaning.

For example, a triangular “play” button, a circular user profile image, and a square tile layout are examples of using simple, recognizable shapes. As discussed in this UX Planet article, shapes carry psychological associations that designers can utilize to convey concepts quickly. Circles and rounded shapes feel inclusive, calm, and friendly, while triangles feel more dynamic and active. Leveraging these associations through geometric icons and layouts enhances usability.

Limit the Color Palette

When designing pixel art interfaces, it’s important to limit the color palette. Pixel art thrives with a restricted range of colors. Having too many colors can make the interface feel cluttered and chaotic. According to the Lospec Palette List, classic pixel art games often used palettes of 16 or fewer colors.

Limiting the palette helps create visual cohesion. With fewer colors, it’s easier to make elements feel connected. Repeating colors ties together buttons, menus, and icons. Streamlining the colors also makes it easier for users to process the information on screen.

Aim for a palette with enough contrast between colors. Adjacent colors should be distinct enough to clearly differentiate buttons and text. Good color combinations provide sufficient contrast while using colors that complement each other. The Color Palette List on PixilArt has curated palettes with balanced, harmonious colors.

Use Clean Lines

Smooth lines look more polished than jagged ones. Recommend stroke widths for clean linework.

When creating pixel art interfaces, it’s important to use clean lines with consistent widths. Jagged and uneven lines can make a design look unpolished. A general guideline is to stick to 1 pixel thick lines and try to smooth things out. As this article suggests, you can go back over rough outlines and adjust lines to create smoother transitions between colors. The cleanliness of your linework can greatly affect the overall quality of your pixel art.

Make Buttons Obvious

Buttons should stand out on the interface. Tips for visually distinct buttons include:

Using contrasting colors for the button compared to the background. For example, a bright blue button on a white or gray background. As one Reddit user suggests, “Using colors close to the edges of the hue wheel like blue and orange make good, easily distinguishable buttons” (Source).

Adding borders or outlines to the button can help it pop off the screen. Try a contrasting color border like white around a blue button.

Using shading, highlights, or shadows on the button can make it appear three dimensional and stand out more. Add shading to the top and left edges for a raised button effect.

Giving the button a different shape than other elements on screen helps it visually stand out. Circular or rounded rectangle buttons contrast well with square menus/UI.

Animating the button with a hover effect, like a color shift or pulse, draws the eye to interactable elements.

Avoid making the buttons too small. Give them ample padding/breathing room from other UI elements.

Provide Visual Feedback

Users need visual indicators when actions are taken in an interface. Visual feedback cues communicate the results of user interactions and provide a sense of reassurance that the system is working as expected (Visual Cues – Interaction Design Foundation, 2022). Good examples of visual feedback cues include:

  • Changing button color on click
  • Showing a progress bar or spinner during file uploads/downloads
  • Displaying success/error messages after form submission
  • Animating page transitions
  • Altering pointer icons to indicate clickable elements

Without proper visual feedback, users can feel lost and unsure if their actions registered. Strong feedback cues guide the user, reduce errors, and improve usability. When designing pixel art interfaces, provide clear visual indicators to confirm interactions and maintain a smooth user experience.

Space Out Elements

Don’t clutter the interface. Principles for clear spacing and alignment are crucial for pixel art UI design. As this article discusses, whitespace helps clearly separate elements, reduce visual noise, and improve scanability. Be intentional about spacing between buttons, menus, text, and other components. Macro whitespace around major sections is key, as is micro whitespace between finer details. Well-balanced whitespace results in interfaces that feel clean, intuitive, and easy to parse.

Use Legible Typography

Font choices are especially important for pixel art UIs to maximize readability at small resolutions. Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica tend to be most legible. Avoid decorative fonts and opt for simple, easy-to-read typefaces. Use font weights and styles consistently throughout the interface. Adjust letter spacing as needed for improved readability. As a general guideline, normal or slightly expanded letter spacing works best for onscreen text [1]. Leave extra space between lines and paragraphs so text doesn’t feel cramped on small screens.

Playtest Extensively

UI design requires rigorous testing and refinement to ensure usability and a smooth user experience. With pixel art interfaces, playtesting is especially crucial due to the compact nature of the visual elements. According to Jonathan Rose, a software developer experienced in UI design and playtesting, “Playtesting is vital for making sure your UI makes sense to users and allows them to intuitively navigate and interact as intended.”

When playtesting a pixel art interface, focus on clarity of visual cues, legibility of text, ease of tapping interactive elements, and logical flow between screens. Watch for confusion, hesitation, accidental taps, and other friction points. Pixel art UI often utilizes icons and symbols in place of text, so test their interpretability. As James Haikin advises, “Iterate rapidly to refine icons, menus, and screens based on user feedback until the interface feels polished and user-friendly.” With rigorous playtesting and iteration, you can create a pixel art UI that delights users.





In summary, PixelArt UI design requires focusing on simplicity, clean shapes, limited color palettes, clear navigation, and thoughtful user feedback. As discussed, some key tips are to simplify designs to basic geometric shapes, limit colors to a cohesive palette, use clean lines without anti-aliasing, make buttons clearly clickable, provide visual feedback on interactions, properly space out elements, utilize legible fonts and text sizes, and rigorously playtest the interface (source).

Well-designed pixel art interfaces provide many benefits, including a lightweight and fast interface, retro aesthetic appeal, clarity through simplicity, efficient collaboration between designers and developers, and a more enjoyable user experience (source). By focusing on user-friendly design, PixelArt interfaces can feel intuitive, responsive, and delightful.