Introduction, why I choose to write this tutorial
Over the past year I have been at PW, I've been spriting quite a bit, often without any goals or a suiting army.
Often I have been experiencing the frustration of not being able to come up with anything myself, and being stuck with directly copying from my references.
While not entirely free of my unimaginative bonds, I have gathered a few tools I think is worth sharing. I use three different methods that I just named for the heck of it, the first being "reference image", second "silhouette", and the third "sketch".
I hope to get the new pixel artist off to a better start, while also giving a few tips to the more experienced.
Hope you find it useful!
This is the first method I used, and while I find it a good way to get started and get a basic idea of how pixels works, it comes with some down sides.
- You have to find (or better, make) a reference image of what you want.
- It is easy to become stuck with what you can get, and forget to use your imagination.
- You may get some pretty advanced results, but have a hard time making new poses. (keep it simple in the beginning(!))
Still, I am going to show it, due to the good it has done to me after all.
First find (or make!!) a suiting image.
I choose this.. soldier dude.
This soldier dude is 220 pixels tall, and I want him to be 24.
Now, a bit math.
So I downscale the image to 11%
(Don't ask me how it works, it just does...)
Now fill in the body parts with color, making them easy to recognize from each other. Keep the original size reference close, as things can get pretty messy.
You will have to play around with the shapes, adding and removing pixels until you get the shape, and if you do not have a 100% size window available, be sure to zoom out regularly.
It can be difficult in the beginning to see what looks good, and what does not.
This will only get better with practice, and don't be afraid to ask in the WIP thread.
This method is useful for getting a lot of ideas out very quickly.
I have had much success using it for PPW (spaceships), and I have found it useful as a stepping stone to set my creativity free.
This method gives you a flat silhouette that you will have to shape into a "3D object" in your head.
It has been a very good exercise for me.
But, as the method above, it requires some kind of reference.
I have found these by searching "mech silhouette" or something on google.
I re-scale the image like the way I did it above, and clean it up with a 2 color palette in Aseprite. You can also use gimp for this (Image/mode/indexed, and selecting a 2 color palette.)
Now that I have the silhuettes, I take bits and pieces and put them together in new ways. You can go as crazy as you like, and it's very easy to come up with lots of different variations.
Sometimes though it can be a challenge to get references in 3/4 view, making it better suited for spaceships.
Remember, you can use all sorts of images for this, from insects to construction vehicles, you name it!
Here's an older example of one of my PPW ships made with this method:
This is the newest method I have come across.
It may be hard to use for the beginner, but can get really rewarding once you get an idea of the anatomy of humanoids. (or what ever you want to make)
I can only suggest you give it a try, even if the results are far from what you want, it is good practice.
I was reading about how concept artists works, and thought I could do the same.
It build on your intuition, imagination and creativity to come up with ideas from complete scratch. Just make a new empty image, and start drawing, without giving it too much thought. You might have a few ideas about what you want, but keep it simple.
Like "alien" "mechanoid" "tank" and so on.
Or you might not have any ideas beforehand, and just spit random shapes out until you have something you like.
Don't use more than 5-10 min. per sprite, and avoid erasing and correcting as much as possible. This is clearly a challenge, but it will only get easier the more you practice.
Before I start I decide what colors I will use, just to make the process easier for myself, and a line in the approximately height I want my sprite to be.
I then start with the head, and work my way down.
Now you have your first sprite, keep going. Don't stop just yet.
Your aim is to achieve a flow, so don't think too much about it.
At some point you will hopefully have something that you can use, go ahead and polish it.
I chose the upper right sprite.
I then made a "skeleton" over it, to be sure to get the right proportions for the poses.