Isometric pixel art in photoshop

If as a child you liked to play with Lego (or you continue to play with him even as an adult), you will certainly be interested in isometric pixel art. It may depend on technology and be more like an exact science than an illustration. But in such art there is no 3D perspective, you can move the elements of the environment with maximum simplicity.

We will create a character as a logical point of reference for a pixel of art, since it will help determine the proportions for most other objects that we may create. However, first you need to learn some of the basics of isometric pixel art, and then move on to creating a character; if you don’t want to learn the basics and draw the cube, go to step 3. Now, let’s begin.

1. Pixel lines

These lines are the basis for the most common (and interesting) style of the isometric pixel art, the style that we will use in the lesson:

They are two pixels down each pixel. These lines look relatively soft and are used for square surfaces:

The most frequently used line structures (as in the figure below) will work well, but the image will be more angular and coarse with each increment in step:

For contrast, here are some unevenly structured lines:

Very angular and do not look

beautiful. Avoid using them.

2. Volumes

Our character will not exactly follow the laws of isometry, so let’s first create a simple cube to determine the proportions.

Create a new document in Photoshop with resolution 400 x 400 px.

I like to open an additional window for the same file using the menu Window> Arrange> New Window / lessons. (Window> Arrange> New Window …). This allows, working at an increase 600% follow the result in the window with zoom 100%. Using a grid is your business, but sometimes it seems more intrusive to me than useful.

Let’s bring the document closer and create one of the lines. 2: 1

I prefer to use five% gray instead of black, to add shadows (black and low opacity) and to be able to choose each color separately with the help of a magic wand.

There are several ways to draw a line:

1. Using Line tool (Line Tool) with mode Pixels (Pixels) unchecked Smoothing (Anti-alias) and thick 1px. When drawing a tip with a tilt angle should show 26.6 °. In fact, the Line tool cannot be called convenient; it creates uneven lines if the angle is not exact.

2. You need to create a selection 20 x 40 px, then choose Karandash (Pencil Tool) as thick as 1px and draw a point in the lower left corner of the selection, then hold down the key Shift Click in the upper right corner. Photoshop will automatically create a new line between two points. If you practice, this way you can create smooth lines without highlighting.

3. You need to draw two pixels in pencil, select them, click Ctrl + Alt, after that drag the selection to a new location so that the pixels converge at the corners. You can also move the selection with the arrows on the keyboard while holding Alt. This method is called Alt offset (Alt-nudge).

So we created the first line. Select it and move as in step 3 or simply copy and paste by moving the new layer down. After that, reflect the second line horizontally through the menu Editing> Transform> Flip Horizontal (Edit> Transform> Flip Horizontal). I use this feature so often that I even made a keyboard shortcut for it!

Now let’s combine our lines:

Then, again apply the Alt offset, flip the copy vertically and merge the two halves to complete our surface:

It’s time to add the “third dimension”. Alt-offset the square surface and move it to 44px way down:

Tip: If you hold the arrow while moving Shift, the selection will shift to ten pixels instead of one.

To make a tidier cube, let’s soften the corners by removing the left and right pixels from the squares. After that add vertical lines:

Now remove the unnecessary lines at the bottom of the cube. To start coloring our shape, select any color (preferably a light shade) and fill the upper square with it.

Now increase the brightness of the selected color by ten% (I recommend using the HSB sliders on the control panel) to draw lighter angles along the front of our color square. Due to the fact that we cut the cube a little, these light lines will look more beautiful, being above the black edges (instead of replacing them) as in the figure below:

Now you need to remove the black edges. Use the trick of the second line drawing method for an eraser (which should be set to normal Eraser tool (Eraser Tool) mode Pencil (Pencil Mode) thickness 1px).

Select the color of the top square with Pipette (Eyedropper Tool). To quickly select this tool, while drawing with a pencil or shading, press Alt. Use the pipette color obtained to fill the vertical line in the middle of the cube. After that, reduce the color brightness by 15% and fill the left edge of the cube with the color you received. Decrease the brightness by another. ten% for the right side:

Our cube is complete. It should look clean and relatively smooth at zoom. 100%. We can continue.

3. Add a character

Character style can be completely different, you are free to change proportions or elements as you wish. As a rule, I make a thin body and a little big head. The character’s thin body helps keep the lines straight and simple.

It would be logical to start with the eyes. If we were strict with isometric angles, then on the face one eye should be lower, but on a small scale we can neglect this feature to make the characters’ faces more pleasant. This will make the drawing neat even in spite of its size.

We make the character small, because in time you may want to add a car, a house, a whole square or even a city to it. Therefore, the character must be one of the smallest elements in the illustration. Graphic efficiency should also be considered; Try to make your character as attractive as possible with a minimum number of pixels (large enough to depict facial features). In addition, small objects are much easier to draw. The exception is when you want to show only the character, his emotions, or similarity with someone.

Let’s create a new layer. The eyes need only two pixels – one for each eye, with an empty pixel in between. Having skipped one pixel to the left of the eyes, add a vertical line:

Now add another layer and draw a horizontal strip of two pixels, it will be a mouth. Use the arrows on the keyboard to move and when you find the perfect position, move the layer down. Do the same with your chin, it should just be a longer line:

Finish the hair and top of the head, then soften the corners. You should get something similar:

Now, next to the second eye, leave a blank pixel, add sideburns (which will also help draw the character’s ears) and a few more pixels above them all the way to the hairline. Then leave another empty pixel; the ear and the line marking the end of the head will start here. Continue and soften the corners of the docking lines:

Add a pixel to the top of the ear and reshape the head if you want; heads are usually drawn in the neck area:

Draw a line from the chin – it will be the chest. The beginning of the neck will be around the ear, a few pixels down and a couple of pixels diagonally, so that our character can see the shoulders:

Now in the place where the shoulders end, add a vertical line with a length of 12 pixels to make the outer side of the hand, and the inner side will be two pixels to the left. Connect the lines at the bottom with a couple of pixels to get a hand / fist (in our case there is no detail, so do not pay attention to this element) and just above the place where the hand ends, add a line 2: 1, which will act as a waist, then draw a chest line and get a finished upper body. The character’s other hand is not visible, but it will look normal, as it is closed by the body.

You should have something like this:

Of course, you can use any proportions that you like; I prefer to draw different options together before deciding which is better.

Now for the lower torso we will add some more vertical lines. I like to leave 12 pixels between the soles and the waist. The legs are very simple to draw, you only need to make one leg a little longer, which will allow the character to look more volumetric:

Now we will add color. Finding good skin color is always difficult, so if you want to use the same as in this lesson, its code # FFCCA5. The selection of colors for the remaining elements should not be a problem. After that, determine the length of the sleeves, the position of the cut shirt, its style. Now add a dark strip to separate the shirt from the body. I prefer to make all the decorative elements lighter than black (especially when many elements are at the same level, for example, from shirt to leather or pants). This allows you to get the necessary contrast, while the image will not be too rough.

You can add light effects to almost every color zone. Avoid using too many shadows or using gradients. A few more pixels (ten% or 25%) light or dark color is enough to make the elements look voluminous and remove the plane of illustration. If you want to add a bright color for a zone that already has 100% brightness, try to reduce its saturation. In some cases (for example, when painting hair) this can be a good way to change shades.

You can try many hair options. Here are a few ideas:

If you continue to create characters, such trifles as clothes, length of sleeves, pants, accessories, clothing and skin color are very useful for a change.

Now all that remains to be done is to put both elements together and evaluate how they look in the same setting:

If you want to export your creation, PNG will be the perfect format.

That’s it, the work is done!

I hope this lesson turned out not too confusing. I think I talked about the maximum number of tips and aesthetic techniques. You can freely expand your isometric pixel world – buildings, cars, interiors, exteriors. To do this is all possible and even interesting, although not so easy.

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