Riding The Wave: Pixelart Trends To Spark Your Imagination

Pixel art has become an increasingly popular art form over the past few decades. Though pixel art is often associated with vintage video games from the 1970s to the 90s, the origins of this visual style actually date back much further. The earliest known example of pixel art is from the 1958 artwork “Sputnik” created by scientists at Bell Labs (The History Of Pixel Art, 2018). This piece consisted of a mosaic of pixels on an oscilloscope display. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, artists began experimenting with pixelated visuals through printmaking and computer art. In the 1980s, pixel art gained mainstream popularity through early gaming systems like the Atari 2600, Nintendo Game Boy, and Sega Genesis which featured simple 2D graphics due to technological limitations. As gaming evolved with increasingly advanced graphics, pixel art faded from the mainstream. However in recent years, pixel art has undergone a major resurgence among indie game developers, digital artists, and pixel art enthusiasts. The retro appeal of pixelated graphics continues to capture people’s imaginations (The History of Pixel Art, n.d.). Today pixel art is flourishing across a range of digital mediums and reinventing itself in new and creative ways.

Nostalgia-Driven Pixel Art

Pixel art has become a popular way for artists and designers to recreate nostalgic elements from retro video games, TV shows, movies, and other pop culture. By using a limited color palette and blocky, pixelated visuals, artists can evoke the computer graphics and gameplay of 8-bit and 16-bit era games from the 1970s to 1990s. According to this article, reimagining retro game characters and environments in pixel art “adds a modern twist to the nostalgic pixel art and game designs” of the past.

pixel art portrayal of super mario bros game cover

Some pixel artists focus on recreating specific retro games like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, or Sonic the Hedgehog. They stylize the iconic characters, enemies, power-ups, and levels in vivid pixel art as an homage. Others take a more conceptual approach, using pixel art styles to capture the essence of retro gaming rather than directly copying designs. This could involve creating original characters, landscapes, or gameplay elements inspired by 8-bit and 16-bit games.

Beyond video games, pixel art can also recreate pop culture from the 80s and 90s. Pixel artists have remixed and reimagined retro cartoons, movies, TV shows, comic books, toys, celebrities, fashion trends, and more. This nostalgic pixel art celebrates media that shaped the childhoods and adolescences of generations.

Minimalist Pixel Art

Minimalist pixel art features sparse designs with limited color palettes. This style rose to popularity through indie games like Risk of Rain, which used simple pixel art visuals to evoke a sense of nostalgia and imagination.

Artists intentionally limit the number of colors and details in minimalist pixel art. Pieces often utilize just two or three colors, rather than the elaborate palettes seen in other pixel art. Clean lines and geometric shapes are prioritized over complex textures.

According to a Reddit discussion, minimalist pixel art can be challenging for beginners to create compared to more complex styles. However, tutorials are available to help aspiring artists master the basics.

While minimalist pixel art may appear simple on the surface, it requires strong fundamentals and creative vision. The artist must convey emotions and ideas through subtle details like light, shadows, and poses. When done well, minimalist pixel art can tell an immersive story or evoke a powerful mood with just a few carefully placed pixels.1

Pop Culture Pixel Art

Pixel art has become a popular way for artists to reimagine iconic pop culture characters, movies, TV shows, and more in a nostalgic, retro style. Pinterest boards are filled with pixel art recreations of everything from Star Wars to Mario Bros. By reducing pop culture icons to their most basic pixelated forms, artists are able to simplify complex designs into clean, minimalist, yet recognizable pixel art.

Musicians like Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, and Elvis have been immortalized in pixel art portraits. Famous movie scenes from Pulp Fiction, Titanic, and others have been recreated using grids of colored pixels. Even internet memes and viral pop culture moments like Grumpy Cat get the pixel art treatment.

This playful, nostalgic art style allows people to connect with beloved characters and stories from the past and present in a fresh, stylized way. Pixel art offers a unique creative challenge for artists to capture the essence of celebrities, songs, shows, and films using just pixels and basic colors. As pop culture continue to evolve, pixel artists find new inspirations to explore this distinct retro art form.

Pixel Landscapes

Pixel artists have used landscape scenes to create vast pixel art environments and scenery. By working at low resolutions like 32×32 or 64×64, artists can render sprawling vistas and panoramas. These pieces often feature pixelated mountains, rivers, forests, villages, and other natural or rural landscapes. The low resolution results in a blurry, impressionistic, and nostalgic effect. According to Redbubble, landscapes are one of the most popular subjects for pixel art prints, with themes like paradise and nature.

Some examples include:
Pixel Landscape Art Prints for Sale
Pixel Art Landscape Wall Art for Sale

Animated Pixel Art

Animation is bringing pixel art to life through motion. Animated pixel art uses carefully crafted sprites and gifs to add a sense of movement and narrative to static pixel art. From flickering flames to walking characters, animation breathes new energy into the retro pixel aesthetic.

Pixel art gifs have become widely popular for their nostalgic, lo-fi look. Pixel art gifs often feature repetitive motion like a character walking or swimming. Lower frame rates give pixel art gifs a choppy, vintage vibe. Game developers frequently use pixel art gifs for characters, environments, and other game elements. Pixel art gifs work well for social media too since they grab attention with motion.

Creating animated pixel art requires sprite sheets – grids of images that playback sequentially. Sprite sheets allow artists to pose characters in multiple frames of motion. After assembling the frames into a sequence, pixel artists export the sprite sheet as a gif. Modern programs like Aseprite streamline animated pixel art by handling sprite sheets and gif export.

The nostalgic pixel aesthetic combined with mesmerizing motion establishes animated pixel art as a distinct trend. Aspiring pixel artists can bring their static scenes to life through thoughtful sprite sheets and captivating gifs.

Pixel Art Photography

Pixel art photography involves recreating and stylizing photos using pixels. Photographers carefully position individual pixels to form a mosaic-like portrait or scene. This painstaking process allows the artist to render light, shadow, and detail in a unique pixelated aesthetic.

To create pixel art photos, artists first take a high resolution photograph. They then map the image onto a pixel grid using photo editing software. Each pixel represents a single color value from the original photo. Artists can choose the pixel density to control the level of detail and abstraction in the final piece.

Pixel art photography emerged as digital cameras gained popularity in the 1990s. Early pioneers like Gerhard Mester began exhibiting their pixelated portraits and landscapes in art galleries. Today, many pixel artists share their work on social media and sell prints online.

Contemporary pixel artists like Erika Zolli from Pixel Art Photography specialize in portraiture [1]. Their fragmented style lends an intriguing, futuristic aesthetic to wedding photos, family portraits, and more. Meanwhile, artists like Zsolt Miklosi use pixels to capture urban landscapes and city scenes [2].

Pixel art photography allows artists to recreate the world through a digital, cubist lens. Their work pays homage to the early days of computer graphics while also charting new creative territory.

Abstract Pixel Art

Abstract pixel art focuses on shapes, colors, and composition rather than representing concrete objects or figures. The abstraction allows the artist to play with geometries, patterns, textures, and visual rhythm in the constrained pixel grid. This approach prioritizes evoking moods, ideas, and emotions over realistic depictions.

Some abstract pixel artists use randomized algorithms or generative processes to create dynamic compositions that feel almost digital and glitchy. The pixelated medium lends itself well to angular designs and digital artifacts that abstract artists can amplify. Bold fields of color and intersecting shapes are common in this genre.

As DIY Abstract Pixel Art | As Seen on Makeover by Monday mentions, abstract pixel canvases can make an interesting accent wall or art piece using a grid overlay and some simple geometric shapes cut from cardstock or foam. The minimalist pixel aesthetic pairs well with boho, modern, or eclectic home decor.

Abstract pixel art posted on Pinterest by Katarzyna Kulczyniec demonstrates how concentric rectangles, triangles, and circles in black, white, and red can form a compelling graphic design. The hard edges and digital look are hallmarks of the pixel art medium. This abstraction allows viewers to interpret their own meaning from the intersecting shapes.

Interactive Pixel Art

Interactive pixel art takes the static medium and adds new layers of engagement through interactivity. This art form has become especially popular in video games that use retro pixel art aesthetics. Some great examples are indie games like Hyper Light Drifter, Stardew Valley, and Dead Cells that immerse players in responsive pixel worlds.

Interactive pixel art can also be found in apps and installations that allow viewers to directly manipulate the artwork. For instance, the project Interactive Pixel Art by Dusan Cezek uses JavaScript and SVG to create an open-ended pixel art animation that responds to user input in real time.

By incorporating interactivity into pixelated environments, artists are able to transcend the limitations of static images. The result is an engaging experience where users can explore and shape the artwork around them.


Pixel art has come a long way since its early days but still retains a unique retro appeal. This article recapped some of the major trends that are shaping pixel art today, from nostalgia-driven 8-bit tributes to innovative explorations of abstract and interactive art. What’s clear is that pixel art continues to evolve with the times while staying true to its roots.

The constrained nature of pixel art has challenged artists to do more with less. Limitations in resolution and color palettes have pushed creativity in new directions. Now with more advanced tools, pixel artists can expand on those limitations to make highly detailed works previously not possible. The style has also benefited from adoption by popular culture and big brands. More widespread use has exposed pixel art to wider audiences.

Yet the core qualities still resonate. At a time of increasingly high-definition imaging everywhere, the throwback aesthetic and handmade imperfections of pixel art feel special. The style speaks to our memories of beloved retro games and media while allowing personal expression. As technology progresses, pixel art offers a touch of humanity. It seems this deceptively simple art form still has much more potential to tap for a long time to come.