Last Updated on November 10, 2023
In the digital age, pixel art has become a popular way to create and share artwork. But what is pixel art, and how can you create your own? In this blog post, we will explore pixel art and discuss some of the best ways to create your own pieces. We will also provide a link to a free pixel art generator that you can use to get started!
Getting started with pixel art
The iconic, blocky looks of early video game consoles like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System have inspired countless artists over the years. This nostalgia for the ’80s and ’90s pop culture has driven a recent resurgence in pixel art. Although today’s games boast much better graphics than their retro predecessors, there is still something special about the charms of pixels.
What is pixel art?
Pixel art doesn’t just refer to images made up of pixels; it’s a type of art that captures the look and feel of early computer and video games. That includes classics like Pong all the way to Sonic the Hedgehog.
Early video games had poorer resolutions, making it impossible to hide the miniature rectangles that created worlds like those of Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Consequently, pixel art became necessary. The artists creating video games during the 1970s and 1980s had to be creative in order to reduce images down to their bare essentials.
For example, a few red pixels would have symbolized Mario’s hat, while one or two pixels might suggest his hands or face. In the 16-bit era of the 1990s, pixel art became more detailed; however, the general idea stayed the same. Artists had a bigger foundation to work with but were still using singular pixels as their main source – each pixel playing an integral role in forming together the overall image.
Start drawing with pixels.
Pixel art is extremely detail-oriented. Unlike a painter who can use large brushstrokes, a pixel artist must focus on the placement of every unit in their image. A good pixel artist is able to capture the essential form of a subject while still simplifying it and creating images.
“Pixel art is a type of digital art where portrait images are made out of pixels,” says pixel artist Emi Monserrate. If you’re interested in creating pixel art, start by studying the work of past artists and see how they’ve used pixels to create characters. “References from real life don’t apply as nicely in pixel art as they do in other digital art disciplines,” notes Monserate. That’s because complex shapes like hands or facial expressions have to be simplified when using this medium.
API and homage both have a rightful place in art, so long as you give credit to the original artist. While it can be tedious manpower-wise to slavishly recreate another’s work, doing so can also serve as an excellent study guide in creating art.
3 Use Cases for Pixel Art
Most people create pixel art for one (or more) of the following reasons:
1. Video Games –Thanks to games like Minecraft, pixel art is still a popular form of artwork used in many video games.
2. NFTs– Consider pixel art for your next big thing. NFTs that rely on pixel art often sell for high prices, proving that this type of design is here to stay.
3. Mobile Graphics – Though pixel art is no longer en vogue like it once was, many phone companies still practically utilize it in mobile graphics. While new mobiles are straying from this retro look, there is still a relevant market for pixel art designs.
What is the best software for pixel art?
Anything that lets you manipulate squares on a grid can be turned into a pixel editor with the right software. With programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you have access to the basic functions necessary to create stunning retro images.
No matter what software you choose, you’ll be relying heavily on the Pencil and Line tools. Fill and Brush are also used by pixel artists, but only in moderation – a single pixel can make all the difference. Therefore, it’s important to select software that makes it easy to move these pixels around deliberately.
A general rule of thumb for pixel artists is to avoid using JPG format and opt for PNG or GIF instead. Even though JPG is a common file type that’s often set as the default, the compression it employs can ruin artworks created with painstakingly placed individual pixels.
Making a career as a pixel artist.
The pixel art community is always expanding and offers a lot of chances for artists to get their work seen by prospective employers. If you’re feeling stuck, try taking some cues from other drawings like Kirby, Pokémon, or Pac-Man. Social media accounts also help drive creativity by giving opportunities to post based on themes such as breakfast items, epic heroes, zombie outbreaks, etc. Creating pixel artwork can be really rewarding–all it takes is a little bit of imagination!
Though it is fairly niche, there is a demand for pixel art. The majority of it originates from the video game industry; lots of modern video games such as Shovel Knight and Enter the Gungeon have NES-style graphics instead of more updated designs seen in today’s consoles and PCs.
Aspiring pixel artists benefit from participating in game jams and singing, as they provide an opportunity to join a larger team and see the project through from start to finish. “Art is needed,” Monserrate says. “It’s a good way to participate in something more complex. Having a team of people helping you on a project within very specific time parameters will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.”
While pixel art is not required like it used to be, it nonetheless remains a popular artistic choice. Whether you create individual pieces, animated sprites, or your own video games – if you use pixels, people will always feel nostalgic. However, pixel art is more than just a throwback; even though the sprites might be simple, the overall art form can still be complex.
The best pixel art generators
If you can put squares on a grid, then you have the potential to create pixel art. For example, Adobe Photoshop has all of the fundamental functions and other tools required to make images out of pixels. Additionally, Adobe Illustrator lines up your work with a pixel grid so that you can get precise retro pictures or resulting images of different models and different styles.
The Pencil and Line tools are key regardless of the open-source nature program you use. Pixel artists do occasionally utilize Fill and Brush tools, but only sparingly – a single pixel can make all the difference also in the offline version. Being able to move those deliberately and easily is important when choosing your software.
When saving pixel art, always use PNG or GIF format for the best quality. JPG is a common file type that is often used by default, but its compression can damage the pixel art’s quality and make it difficult to view the artist’s work accurately.
Tools to help you create pixel art.
In order to create pixel art, you need a grid on which to place your squares of color. Luckily, there are quick ways to create such a grid in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator:
Make pixel art in Photoshop.
Creating pixel art canvases in Photoshop is a breeze once you know the optimal settings.
1. Start with a fresh canvas.
2. Instead of measuring your document in inches, switch the units to pixels.
3. Change subdivisions to a single one.
4. In the image interpolation drop-down menu, select Nearest Neighbor to preserve hard edges.
5. The Pencil tool is great for creating hard edges.
This setting will give you a field of blank pixels where you can create any retro image you like by using individual squares. By avoiding unwanted blur and blends, your image will be much clearer.
Make pixel art in Illustrator.
1. Click “View,” and then select “Smart Guides.”
2. In order to build a pixel grid, begin by selecting the Rectangle tool from your toolbar. Once you have done so, change the fill color to white and then use shift in order to create a perfect square. Lastly, select it.
3. Create a new square by clicking on the first one and dragging it. The Smart Guide will say Path. Align one side of the new square with a side of the original, and continue until you have your desired number of pixels.
If you use Illustrator to make pixel art, your image will remain scalable. Keep in mind that if you opt for Photoshop instead, the pixels will become actual images at larger sizes. That being said, a pixelated effect can actually be pretty cool Looking ahead.
Pros and Cons of some of the Best Pixel Art Generators
With PixelMe, you can easily convert your photos into pixel art. It’s a free online tool that is easy to use, with an interesting web design in the style of pixels. You can start by simply uploading an image from your PC and selecting the desired pixel size. Additionally, PixelMe is also available for mobile devices on both Google Play and App Store.
-Intuitive and User-Friendly
-At no cost
-Now accessible on mobile devices!
-The website’s pixel design makes it difficult to navigate.
-The software lacks customization options.
-There are no bulk settings.
If you’re looking for a pixel art converter that’s both advanced and free, PixilArt is the perfect tool for you. With its easy-to-use editor, you can upload any image and turn it into pixels in just a few clicks. Plus, there are plenty of design or editing tools to play with, from adding text and shapes to painting and creating patterns. You can even compete against other designers in PixilArt’s contests. And if you want to animate your designs, you can also upload GIFs and convert them into pixel art.
-A good image editor is important for creating high-quality images.
-This software supports GIFs.
-This community is full of amazing people!
-This course includes tutorials that will help you understand the material.
-This course is good at making pixel art
-This software does not allow for bulk editing.
-Not available on mobile devices
3. Pixel Art Maker
When you visit Pixel Art Maker, there is no homepage that I could find. You are immediately brought to a full-screen editor with various pixel art shapes and colors. While it is not the most complex image editor software available, it does its job well enough for my needs. I wasn’t pleased with how large the canvas was when you first open the website – feeling overwhelmed until understanding what everything did.
When I tried to use the program, it wouldn’t even load my images.
-Simple to utilize
-This software provides you with a few tools to edit your images.
-This source lacks reliable information.
-Your website is not secure.
-It didn’t work for me
-You can’t edit large quantities of text at once.
4. Minecraft Image Converter
Minecraft is a hugely popular RPG, and Minecraft Image Converter is a great tool for generating pixel art based on the game. With this tool, you can create an image from a Minecraft block which you can then replicate in the game. The largest uploaded image can be 256 blocks (pixels) high. Once the conversion completes, you can perform additional edits to the image and even replace some blocks according to your preference.
-Perfect for anyone who loves playing Minecraft
-Proof has shown to work quickly and efficiently.
-Editing is possible with this tool.
-The maximum height for this is 256 blocks.
Piskel is a secure online editor for animated sprites and pixel art that can also be used for commercial projects, like game development. Even if your browser crashes, Piskel automatically saves your progress in the cloud so you never have to worry about losing any content. A few additional features of Piskel include live preview, Google sign-in, offline capability, private gallery access, and exporting to gif and png formats.
-If you are a game developer, this is an excellent tool for you.
-The Cloud-based saving option
-Can be used commercially for free
-This company does not have a mobile app.
-The website’s animations gave me a headache.
Currently, Pixelator is unavailable for purchase because of some Paypal issues. Here’s a brief overview of what it does: Pixelator is an online pixel image generator that allows users to convert real images into pixelated sprites. It also gives users the ability to turn various art styles into pixel art, create their own style, and build prototypes. If Pixelator ever comes back into business, we highly recommend giving it a try!
Not only does Pixelator work with multiple formats, but you can also export to PNG, BMP, JPG, GIF, and TIFF. You could buy it for a one-time payment of $35 or $70 consecutively for the Studio and Company licenses.
-The free option
-Transform natural images into pixelated art
-This business is no longer in operation.
-A company license is quite expensive.
Dinopixel is a free, online pixel art maker that’s easy to use. Just load the intuitive pixel art image editor and you can start mirroring elements, erasing various elements, changing the background, and picking colors. Once you’re happy with your result, just download the converted image. If you don’t want to start from scratch, no problem! You can choose from predesigned models based on popular games like Super Mario and Minecraft and create pixel art online.
-Proof is easy to use
-There are many creative ways to display art.
-Use for free
-This software does not support the use of custom images.
-No additional information
8. Pixel It
For any users interested in going beyond the basics, Pixel It has its own API with several input parameters.
-Community-driven software development
-Website only has one page.
-This website has no community.
-This software lacks an image editor, which makes it difficult to create and edit images.
Aseprite is an online pixel art generator that has both a free and premium version. The basic price for the premium version is US$19.99, however, there are periodic sales which you can take advantage of. It was created by David Capello and it currently supports Windows, macOS, Ubuntu, as well as being available on Steam.
If you’re not familiar with Aseprite: in its simplest terms- it helps with creating 2D animations for video games; this includes anything from sprites to retro-style graphics or pixel art –basically anything that falls into the 8 bit or 16 bit worlds. With Aseprite you get access to a workspace where you can organize your workflow along with options such as resizing and changing color modes & profiles ( onion skinning included).
-Excellent customer service
-The paid version is affordably priced
-The interface is quite outdated
-The app isn’t the most intuitive, and it’ll take some time to learn how to use all of its features.
10. Adobe Pixelate
With Adobe Pixelate, you can make pixelated images for free in just seconds. You don’t need any previous experience or knowledge – all you have to do is upload a JPG or PNG image, choose an effect, adjust the intensity and size of the pixels, and download your new image.
-It is Adobe
-This product has great options for settings.
-In order to use certain features, you need to sign in.
Overall, there are a variety of options available for creating pixel art, from free to paid apps and online tools. It is important to consider your needs, budget, and any additional features before choosing the right tool for you. Your choice may also depend on whether or not you need more advanced features such as an API or animation capabilities.
Can I upload my own image in creating pixel art?
It depends on the tool you are using. Some, like Dinopixel, only provide pre-made templates. Others, like Adobe Pixelate and Pixel It, allow for custom images.
Is there a free option available?
Yes, there are multiple options available for free, such as Dinopixel and Adobe Pixelate. However, these may lack some advanced features that paid options offer.
Is it worth investing in a premium version?
That ultimately depends on your needs and budget. Consider if the added features or capabilities justify the cost for you. Additionally, consider if the company has good support and a thriving community for any potential future issues or questions.