Pixel art: easy to get started

This is an article about Start making pixel artFor those who have started or never opened pixel art software.

Now, I only report Basic knowledge, how to create files, set canvas size and use color limits.

Before we start

Before you start pixel art, remember that pixel art is just another form of artistic expression, such as gouache, oil painting, pencil, sculpture or its close relative mosaic.

To make good pixel art, you have to be able to draw good pictures. Generally speaking, it means studying anatomy, perspective, light and shadow, color theory and even art history, because these are the basic elements of making pixel art well.


Making good pixel art doesn't need special knowledge, even with a good mouse and open source software, you can do it.

The following is a list of commonly used software for pixel art:

  • Apatite : excellent professional editor with many time-saving features (paid)
  • Figure square : Classic used in many games. It's a bit complicated, but it has a lot of interesting (free) features.
  • Picker : free pixelated art online editor (free)
  • Photoshop : powerful image editor, not used to make art pixels, but you can set it to use (pay)


Asepride is my favorite pixel art software. It is powerful, rich in functions, but easy to use. I chose aseprise as the software for this tutorial, but I'm sure you can apply it to any other software you use with a little modification.

You can also get a free trial version of aseprite, but remember that it doesn't back up your files, which doesn't matter if you're just practicing.

create a new file

Just click the "new file..." link on the home screen, or go to file > new file to start painting.

Let's create a new file. 16 times 16 may seem a little too small, but I think it's a good place to start. Higher determination may distract you from what you should focus on now.

Pixel art Panda

You can keep the color mode in RGBA, which is the simplest and most intuitive mode at present. Some pixel experts like to use the index palette, which allows you to make some pretty cool colors, but it has some drawbacks.

Keep the background transparent or white, there won't be much change at this time. Just make sure that the advanced options are not selected (but don't hesitate to test them later), and you're ready to start!

Let's draw!

There are lots of toolbars and menus, but don't worry, we only need a few buttons now. The main tool is the pencil, which must be 1 pixel wide. This is how we will put the pixels on the canvas. Just click the button, or press B, and then click on the screen to place the pixels of the selected color.

Pixel art Panda

On the left, you can see the palette, which contains some default colors. Let's replace them with a simpler set. Click the third icon at the top of the palette (presets) and select Arq4 (very good palette)This is the first time you use the sprite.

Now, just use the four colors in the upper left corner and try Draw a cup.

Please feel free to draw inspiration from my work, but also try to make it different. If you make a mistake, Alt + Click You can "pick" a transparent color in a blank area or outside of a drawing and use it to erase pixels. You can also click the eraser or press e to select it.

You may notice that working at such a low resolution is very different from normal graphics. Everything needs to be calculated, and every pixel you place is a huge choice you have to make. It's something you have to get used to.

Pixel art

You can also try other buttons on the toolbar. Interestingly, some buttons open more options when pressed. Now, avoid using the blur tool because it adds color, which we don't need yet.

Let's have some Sprite! attempt Draw skulls, swords and faces-Yes. This time, there is no pixel art for my reference. If you think elves can't stand in the canvas, that's normal. Try to abstract something on a pixel and try again. It's very difficult to work at such a low resolution, sometimes it looks like a puzzle.

It's still a good exercise. If you want to continue the exercise, try drawing more graphics with these constraints.

Backup folder

To save a file, press Ctrl + s (or go to file > Save as...), select a file name and location, and then click save.

Keep in mind that backup is disabled in the aseprite trial!

Pixel art panda course

You'll see that aseprise can save multiple formats, but I still recommend that you keep the ASE version of each file you create. Just like in Photoshop, you will keep a. PSD file. When exporting for web or game, you can use control + Alt + ship + s or file > export.

The art of pixel painting

Aseprise has a good function of adjusting the size of the export window. She just zooms your Genie into a circle, which is perfect. For example, if you size the sprite to 107%, it will destroy pixels anywhere, which will be a disaster, but if you size it to 200%, each pixel will now have 2 pixels wide and high, so it looks beautiful and neat.

Bigger canvas

Now that you know the basics, such as creating new files, saving and painting on canvas, let's try painting on a larger canvas, 32 x 32 pixels. Now we're going to use a bigger palette as well, try paa-micro12. This time we're going to draw a shovel.

Unlike 16 by 16 elves, we can actually keep some silhouettes here, so let's start with this.

My process is described as follows:

  • Step 1: route

Pixel art excavator

This line style is called perfect near pixel line, which is only one pixel wide and connected diagonally with other pixels. By doing so, we can avoid unnecessary edges as follows:

Pixel art of painting

Aseprise also has a very good function to almost automatically perform this operation on the brush settings: after selecting the brush tool, click the "pixel perfect" check box. When not working with contours, remember to disable this option as it may be inconvenient for you.

Perfect pixel

  • Step 2: basic colors

Excavator color pixel art

The advantage of limited color choices is that you won't be overwhelmed by too many choices. That's why it's much harder to use multiple colors, and if you have one color in your palette, there's no reason why you can't use it best. (e)

Try to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle and try a lot, even strange or unusual combinations, until you find that you think every field is "the best match.".

  • Step 3: Coloring

Shovel coloring in pixel art

Using the palette, you can creatively create shadows and lights. Because the palette you use is very limited, you won't be able to use all the tones of different brightness, so improvisation is needed.

People in pixel art

In the example on the left, I use the same palette as you, paa-mini12. When I drew this green character, I didn't have a light green color, so I chose the closest color, yellow. The same thing happens to shadows. I choose blue because it's the closest color. But what if I go the other way? I can get light blue and dark red, can't I? Well, it's not true:

Person (pixel)

It's a cool effect, but obviously something's wrong. Usually, you want cool tones to be your shadows, hot tones to be your main light, or they look strange. It's not an absolute rule, there are many exceptions, but if you're not sure, do it.

  • Step 4: anti aliasing and polishing

Polishing shovel into pixels

This is the part of the drawing where you are trying to make pixels less "dashed.". Manual anti aliasing is a complex topic, and we may need a full article to discuss it, but in theory, you'll use mid tones to simulate "half pixels" and soften edges. But don't worry too much now, because it's to make your Genie as clear as possible.

Another good idea in this step is to look for isolated pixels to reduce noise. Isolated pixels are pixels that do not belong to a larger pixel group of the same color and do not belong to an anti alias, as follows:

Planets in pixel art

Do you see a pixel island on the left? These are isolated pixels. As you can see, when we fuse these pixels with other neighboring pixels of the same color, the planet will be more beautiful.

What about the stars in this example? Well, they're here to prove that isolated pixels aren't always bad. The stars work exactly as expected, creating a noisy texture and highlighting contrast in the background.

The goal is not to delete isolated pixels thoughtlessly, but to traverse them and ask yourself: does this pixel really need to exist alone?

What now?

Now it's time for you to experience more colors and higher resolution! You can start from Our Panda ArtBut take your time, maybe 48 by 48, 16 colors and so on. If you really start, I'll avoid animation for a while, I'll focus on still images first.

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