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Introduction

In 2010 JackKane wrote a post in Stack Overflow with a nice synopsis of history of digital art in games. Before I start showing links to the best Pixel Art tutorials I have found, I would like to quote him. Because it is very instrutive and because I completely agree that the old 2,5D art was nicer than the 3D art that came to succeed it.

In the old days, sprites were hand-drawn pixel by pixel. This works well for flat 2D games (side-scrollers, cartoon adventure games, Z-axis top-down, and such), particularly if they are in the 320x200 resolution. Some examples of gorgeous hand-drawn sprite games are the Sierra and Lucas Arts adventure games, Disney's jump&runs, Capcom's fighter games, the Tyrian/Raptor-style top-down scrollers, and the early RTS games (C&C, WC1). Some games, like Prince of Persia and Mortal Combat, used sprites from animated actors. That produced fluid motion, but looked 'flat'.

Between the mid-90s and the early-00s, character/item sprite-drawing was done by taking stills of 3D objects. Practically every 2D RTS game since around Age of Empires 1 did that. AFAIK Diablo, Baldur's Gate, Divine Divinity, and other such RPG games did the same. This is the reason those games came on so many CDs - they were chock-full of content. This approach looks great (not flat, but "2.5D") but takes a lot of hard-drive space. Also, whereas you could produce hand-drawn sprites in Paint, the 2.5D ones require 3Ds Max (or equivalent). One problem that arises with this approach is the combinatorial explosion in costume design (i.e. if you want animate a character in three different coats with three different hats and three different pairs of pants, you need 27 distinct animation). The solution to this, as seen in Diablo II and Baldur's Gate, is rag-dolling - you produce different sprites for every part of the body. This takes a lot of work. Blizzard made their own tools to produce their sprites, but I'm not sure there are sprite rag-dolling tools in the open.

More recently, most games are 3D. Many actually look worse than the old 2.5D ones, because a simple 3D model can animate well in sprites, but poorly in real-time 3D. The difference is that between a glamor shot of a celebrity, taken from a certain distance in certain lighting and then worked-over in photoshop, and the appearance of the same celebrity in real-life (which may not be as glamorous).

Introduction To Pixel Art For Games

Glauber Kotaki Sprite wrote a very nice introduction to pixel art for games.

Sprite by Glauber Kotaki

How to draw Pixel Art clouds quickly

Oscar Rodriguez wrote a cool tutorial about Pixel Art clouds. The resulting cloud is very nice and he shows how to make it in a few easy steps, using a 5 color palette for cloud plus 1 color for sky.

Pixel Art cloud

Creating An Isometric Circle

Rodder at PixelJoint steps us through how to create an isometric circle. Neat.

Pixel Art isometric circle

Making An Isometric Cube

This tutorial from Pixelblink at PixelJoint describes how to make a handy building block of isometric pixel art -- the beloved cube.

Pixel Art isometric cube

Building A Isometric Building

PixelJoint: Pixelblink steps us through how to make our own isometric building. No spackle needed!

Pixel Art isometric building

Isometric Pixel Art Tutorial

Gunstar Red made this excelent tutorial about isometric pixel art. It is very objective and teaches important aspects that are missing in other tutorials, like mathematics of isometrics.

Pixel Art mathematics of isometrics

The 2 Types Of Isometric Corner

Gunstar Red teaches the 2 types of isometric corner, a detail that matters a lot.

Pixel Art isometric corner

Isometric Shapes

Again by Gunstar Red, another nice and objective tutorial: isometric shapes.

Pixel Art isometric shapes

The Gradient Tool Is Evil

This tutorial by Tsugumo tells why we must be careful with the gradient tool.

Pixel Art gradient tool

Obliterating "The Grid"

In Tsugumo's words: The grid is the thing that tells the player "You're not in an actual world... You're just walking around on a bunch of tiles.". He explains how a very nice tile can make a bad map.

Pixel Art obliterating 'the grid'

Anti-Aliasing

Another article on Pixel Art anti-aliasing, this time on Open Gane Art.

Pixel Art anti-aliasing

Creating Pixel Art

This is a hot general Pixel Art tutorial. It starts telling what Pixel Art is and what it is not. Then it covers a lot of aspects like dithering, shading, palette, color ramp...

Pixel Art creating

Pixel Art Outlines

I suggest you read this nice tutorial about outlines by Sam Keddy. And the second part too.

Pixel Art outlines

Isometric Pixel Art Grid In PhotoShop

Again by Sam Keddy a lesson on how create isometric Pixel Art grid in PhotoShop.

Pixel Art isometric grid

Lines And Curves

From this article at Open Game Art: "There is only one rule to follow to achieve a smooth curve: the length of the segments will vary in a progressive manner.".

Pixel Art lines and curves

How To Make Round Objects In Pixel Art

By vanmall at Deviant Art, a tutorial on how to make round objects in Pixel Art.

Pixel Art round objects

Reference Images In Pixel Art

This article from Deviant Art covers the use of reference images in Pixel Art.

Pixel Art reference images

Pixel Art Brickwork Tutorial

You really should see this Pixel Art tutorial about brickwork by crackpot.

Pixel Art brickwork

Pixel Art Rocks And Stones

This tutorial by DJ Fenix features how create rocks and stones in Pixel Art.

Pixel Art rocks

Shading A Rock

Pixel Art tutorial about shading a rock by kiwinuptuo from Deviant Art.

Pixel Art shading a rock

Shadow And Light

From Open Game Art, nice article that covers Pixel Art shading.

Pixel Art shadow and light

Color Palettes

A good tutorial about constructing the color palette by Raymond Schlitter.

Pixel Art color palette

The Magic Of HSL

Another good article about the color palette, from Open Game Art.

Pixel Art color palette

Best Colors For Your Sprite

From 2D Will Never Die, this article presents how to pick the best colors for your sprite, exposing an intriguing fact: colors that are nice on a sprite, may not be as nice when this sprite is scaled down.

Pixel Art sprite colors

Pixel Art Main Mistakes

This article by Arne Niklas Jansson, featuring common mistakes in Pixel Art you really should read.

Pixel Art skulls

Pixel Art Character

Here we have a comprehensive tutorial about a Pixel Art character.

Pixel Art character

Pixel Art Character (2)

Another comprehensive tutorial that covers making a Pixel Art character.

Pixel Art character

Sub-Pixel Animation

This article on sub-pixel animation features how change few pixels inside a sprite to animate it. From 2D Will Never Die. This is hot!

Pixel Art sub-pixel animation

Simple Character Animation

This is a tutorial featuring simple character animation by Manning Leonard Krull.

Pixel Art simple character animation

Animation Of A Flag

By kiwinuptuo, a tutorial on how draw an animated flag.

Pixel Art animated flag

Pixel Art Waterflow

This tutorial by Sergey DELer Kanev that covers realistic waterflow imitation you should not miss.

Pixel Art waterflow

Isometric Roof

Pixel artist zi, at PixelJoint provides a very thorough tutorial on how to build a pixel art roof.

Pixel Art roof

Log And Squirrel

Log and squirrel Pixel Art examples.

Pixel Art log and squirrel

Simple Character

Pixel Art simple character tutorial wich best part is about shading.

Pixel Art simple character

How To Make A Pixel Nightstand

By vanmall from Deviant Art, this cool tutorial teaches how to make a pixel nightshade.

Pixel Art nightstand

And there is more by the same artist:

how to make a pixel lamp
how to make a pixel chair
how to make a pixel table
how to make a pixel tile
how to make a pixel house
how to start with Pixel Art

Pixel Art Tree

This tutorial by D-e-n-a from Deviant Art teaches how to make a Pixel Art tree.

Pixel Art tree

And this is another tree tutorial.

Pixel Art Briefcase

This tutorial by mocha-san from Deviant Art teaches how to make a Pixel Art briefcase.

Pixel Art briefcase

Pixel Art Sword And Shield

From vbGore, this tutorial features nice Pixel Art swords and shield.

Pixel Art sword and shield

Pixel Art House

Simple tutorial to make a nice Pixel Art house.

Pixel Art house

Pixel Art Isometric Cake

From Deviant Art, a tasty tutorial: how to make a isometric cake. Check the corners outline.

Pixel Art cake

Pixel Art Videos

Below are linked Pixel Art videos, some show very impressive works.

Pixel Art shield
a shield
an armor
another armor
armors
weapons
many characters
dragon
an outfit
another outfit
werewolf
centaur
house
building
color harmony
techniques
shooter
colossus
mushroom

TENS Of Pixel Art Tutorials

Studio Miniboss, you must visit this website!

Pixel Art studio miniboss

Pixel Art Scaling Comparision

This well constructed web page compares different algorithms to scale Pixel Art.

Pixel Art scaling comparision

Pixel Mixing

Here we have an article about another scaling algorithm.

Pixel Art pixel mixing

Pixel Art Freelance: Best Practices & Guidelines

This interesting post in Gamasutra by Adam Saltsman in 2009 tells about Pixel Art from a professional point of view, answering the question "Why Pixel Art?". As an additional benefit, it shows very nice Pixel Art images!.

Pixel Art by Yuriy Gusev

Retronator Magazine & Pixel Art Academy

Well, Retronator Magazine is not just a tutorial page but a digital magazine dedicated to Pixel Art with a lot of cool stuff inside. Including news, reviews, tutorials and the Pixel Art Academy.

Retronator Magazine