Trendspotting Pixelart: Ideas To Ignite Your Artistic Vision

Pixel art refers to digital artwork created through the pixel-level manipulation of digital images. The artist works directly with individual pixels to create sprites, textures, environments, icons and more (, 2023).

Pixel art has a long history in video games and digital art. The style emerged in the 1970s and 1980s when video games had very limited processing power. Artists had to work within tight pixel resolutions and constraints. Over time, the limitations became part of the aesthetic style (, 2020).

Early pixel art was very basic with chunky, blocky graphics. As technology improved, artists gained the ability to work with more pixels and colors. Modern pixel art encompasses a huge range of styles from the retro 8-bit looks to highly detailed, photorealistic creations.

Some common techniques in pixel art include dithering, anti-aliasing, pixel sorting, and isometric projection. The field keeps evolving with new digital tools and creative trends.

Popular Pixel Art Styles

Some of the most common pixel art styles include:


Retro or 8-bit pixel art mimics the style of very early video games and graphics from the 70s, 80s and 90s. This style is defined by large pixels, a limited color palette, and simplified imagery [1]. Retro pixel art brings about a sense of nostalgia.


Isometric pixel art involves drawing a 3D world from an angled, overhead perspective. This makes the art appear pseudo-3D while still being made up of pixels. Isometric pixel art can be very complex with lots of depth and perspective [1].


Abstract pixel art uses pixels to create designs, patterns, shapes and colors that are not trying to represent something realistic. The focus is on form, color and composition rather than a clear picture. Abstract pixel art can be very creative and imaginative [1].


Glitch art incorporates elements like distortion, artifacts, errors, symmetry and repetition into pixel art. This style has a messy, deconstructed, digital feel. Glitch pixel art draws the viewer’s eye through the imperfections [2].


Voxel pixel art uses small 3D cubes instead of flat pixels to create artwork. This makes it feel more three dimensional while still maintaining the blocky pixel aesthetic. Voxel art can incorporate lighting and textures [1].


Animated pixel art combines multiple frames of animation with pixel art to create moving images. This is often seen in 8-bit retro video games. The animated frames bring pixel art to life [2].


Chibi or kawaii pixel art has a cute, cartoon-like style often depicting people, animals or characters with exaggerated, simplified features. This Japanese-inspired style aims to create art that appears adorable [1].

Pixels in Modern Art and Culture

Pixel art has become a ubiquitous part of modern art and culture. Its pixilated, retro aesthetic can be seen across a variety of mediums and genres.

In video games, pixel art is a popular technique used to create sprite-based graphics, especially for indie and retro games seeking a nostalgic 8-bit or 16-bit look. Classic games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Pokémon Red and Blue used pixel art to bring their worlds to life. Many modern indie games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, and Shovel Knight also feature beautiful pixel art as homage to the early days of gaming.

On television and in movies, pixel art shows up both as an artistic style and as literal pixels on screen within the story. Shows like OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes and Hi Score Girl are completely pixelated in a nostalgic video game style. And “hacking” scenes in film and TV will overlay trippy, glitchy pixels to represent breaking into a computer system. Real pixel art may also appear on screen, like the pixel character portraits in the hospital waiting room in Inception.

Clothing, jewelry, home decor, toys, and other physical goods are incorporating pixel art designs, with indie makers creating pixel scenes and characters on fabric, accessories, wall art, and more. Retro gaming loungewear featuring Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon pixel art has also become popular. On the internet, pixel art gifs, emojis, avatars, and memes are a form of pop art expression.

Overall, pixel art’s resurgence across so many areas shows its flexibility as an artistic medium, its ability to evoke nostalgia, and its cultural significance in the digital age.

Tips for Beginners

When starting out with pixel art, there are some key things to keep in mind that will set you up for success. First, be thoughtful about choosing your canvas size. Pixel art looks best when zoomed to its native resolution, so pick a size that works for your needs. Common sizes are powers of two like 16×16, 32×32, 64×64, etc. but any size can work. Also consider limiting your palette to just a few colors when you’re new, as this makes shading and color choices simpler.

You’ll need some basic tools and software. Many pixel artists swear by Aseprite, but free online tools like Piskel or Pixilart are great for beginners. Programs like Photoshop can work too. When planning your composition, start with rough sketches to map out basic shapes and flow before going in and detailing with pixels. And remember to save periodically!

Learning some pixel art fundamentals will set you up to create great looking game sprites, icons, textures, and more. With practice and patience, anyone can pick up these tips and start bringing their pixel art visions to life.

Intermediate Techniques

Once you have mastered the basics of pixel art, it’s time to level up your skills with some intermediate techniques. Animation, lighting, textures, and special effects can take your pixel art to the next level.


Animation brings your pixel art to life. Some key skills to practice are walk cycles, idle animations, attack animations, and prop animations. Start simple with just a few frames, then build up to smooth multi-frame animations. Plan out key poses first before filling in the in-betweens. Study real life movement for inspiration. Tools like Piskel and Aseprite are great for creating animations.

Lighting and Shading

Add depth and realism to your pixel art through thoughtful lighting and shading. Pay attention to light sources and shadows. Use color gradients and texture to portray the illusion of 3D form. Experiment with different shading techniques like dithering and crosshatching. Highlights and rim lighting help make objects pop.


Realistic textures take pixel art to the next level. Practice creating textures like stone, wood, metal, water, fire, smoke, fur, grass and more. Use color blending, shadows, highlights and details to mimic real-world textures. Reuse and manipulate textures to create new ones. Study photo reference to understand how light interacts with different materials.

Special Effects

Special effects like particles, glows, and distortions can make pixel art more visually dynamic. For glowing effects, use radial or directional blooms. Convey magic powers through animated particle effects. Create distortions with waves, ripples, and heat haze. Use special effects judiciously to enhance the overall composition.


Refine your workflow to work faster and smarter. Use keyboard shortcuts to streamline common tasks. Create your own pixel art brushes and color palettes to reuse. Organize assets into libraries for quick access. Automate repetitive tasks with scripts and macros. Work at the right zoom level for detail and consistency. Streamline the feedback process with version control.

Advanced Skills

As pixel artists gain experience, they can develop more advanced techniques to create stunning, hyper-realistic pieces. Some of the most impressive pixel art pushes the limits of the medium to new heights.

One advanced technique is developing photorealistic pixel art. This involves meticulous attention to lighting, shading, textures, and details to make pixel art that looks like a photograph. Artists may use millions of tiny pixels and extensive color palettes to achieve photorealism. Examples can be seen on art sharing sites like Reddit, where pixel artists show off their skills.

Some artists also create 3D pixel art, giving their work the illusion of depth and perspective. This requires skills in anatomy, architecture, and 3D modeling. Raytracing techniques can produce realistic lighting and shadows as well. AI art generators like NightCafe have also been used to convert photos into pixel art automatically.

As technology advances, pixel artists can push into new frontiers. But fundamental skills like composition, color theory, and patience remain key. Dedicated artists who constantly refine their technique can create pixel art that approaches photographic quality.

Creative Ideas and Inspiration

Pixel art allows artists to render complex scenes and characters in a simplified, blocky aesthetic. Analyzing and drawing inspiration from the innovative work of legendary pixel artists can ignite your own artistic vision.

Some groundbreaking pixel artists to study include eBoy (known for their isometric cityscapes), Paul Robertson (master of action and animation), and Cure (famed for emotive character portraits). Examining their compositions, color palettes, and use of dimension can teach you new techniques to apply.

It’s also worthwhile looking at novel pixel art that brings the medium into new frontiers. Artists like Uno Moralez use hyperdetailed rendering to achieve photorealism. Media popularizers like Invader spread pixel art through videogame-inspired mosaics in public spaces. And tools like Pixelorama enable creating pixel art animations.

By trendspotting bold new styles, innovations, and applications of pixel art, you can incorporate fresh ideas into your own artistic practice. Look at both classic and cutting-edge pixel art for inspiration. Analyze what makes the greats so memorable. Then develop an original pixel art vision that pushes boundaries.

Community and Resources

There are many great online resources to help connect with the pixel art community and further develop your skills.

Some popular online courses and tutorials for learning pixel art include Pixel Art Master Course on Udemy, Pixel Art for Beginners on Skillshare, and numerous YouTube tutorials like Pixel Overload.

Helpful asset packs with textures, sprites, tiles, and more can be found on sites like Lospec and

Some of the most active online pixel art forums and communities include Pixelation, the Pixel Art subreddit, and the Pixel Art community on GameJolt.

Major social media groups for sharing pixel art and connecting include Pixel Art – The largest group on Facebook and numerous pixel art Discord servers.

In-person pixel art events and conferences like PIXEL provide opportunities to meet and learn from fellow artists.

Overall, there is a vibrant, engaged pixel art community across online platforms offering inspiration, feedback, resources, and support on your artistic journey.

Monetizing Your Pixel Art Skills

As pixel art has grown in popularity, there are now a variety of ways to make money with your skills. From selling prints to offering workshops, monetizing pixel art has never been easier.

One of the most common ways to earn an income is by selling prints and assets. Many artists set up online stores to sell prints of their pixel artwork. Sites like Etsy and Creative Market are popular platforms. You can also sell assets like character sprites, backgrounds, and tilesets on marketplaces like

Offering custom commissions is another great option. You can promote commissioned work through social media and art communities. Set rates for different project types and complexity levels. This allows clients to hire you to create custom pixel art tailored to their needs.

Teaching workshops and classes is a fulfilling way to monetize skills. You can offer in-person or online sessions covering pixel art fundamentals, techniques, and software tutorials. Many artists sell video courses on platforms like Udemy and Skillshare as well.

Some artists are able to sell merchandise featuring their pixel artwork, like apparel, stationery, and other items. Partnering with print-on-demand services makes fulfillment easy.

With endless creative possibilities, pixel art can provide a rewarding artistic career. Dedicated artists are able to generate stable income through diverse monetization strategies. The pixel art community is thriving, meaning no shortage of opportunities for selling artwork and sharing skills.

Future of Pixel Art

Pixel art continues to grow in popularity and evolve in new directions. As technology advances, artists are finding creative ways to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with pixels. Some key trends that point to the future evolution of pixel art include:

Growth in Indie Games – Many independent game developers embrace pixel art for its retro appeal and efficient production workflow. As the indie gaming scene expands, pixel art skills remain highly sought after to bring these stylized worlds to life. The nostalgic pixel aesthetic shows no signs of fading as new generations discover the distinctive look and feel of pixel art games like Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, and Dead Cells.

Evolution in Tools and Techniques – New tools like Aseprite provide user-friendly pixel art creation optimized for animations and sprites. Emerging techniques like isometric and voxel art expand pixel capabilities into 3D environments. As technology progresses, it opens up new frontiers for experimenting with pixels in innovative ways.

Pop Culture Presence – Pixel art continues to invade mainstream culture through designer toys, clothing, posters, and more. Indie games keep pixel art in the public eye. Pop culture collaborations demonstrate broad appreciation for the pixel aesthetic that extends beyond niche gaming circles.

With strong nostalgic appeal and a distinct look, pixel art seems poised to thrive into the future. As artists harness new tools and technology, it continues to evolve across gaming, digital art, product design, and pop culture.