To date, some consider pixel graphics too limited and simple. With the help of modern tools we can create realistic and detailed drawings. But, nevertheless, even in such conditions, pixel art still attracts attention.
Many people think that in pixel art the rules of the traditional pattern do not apply. But it is not. Do not forget about the work of light and shadows, color, shape, etc. In fact, this is not such a complicated process. You do not have to sit for hours in front of the monitor and draw every pixel.
In this lesson you will learn an easy way to create a pixel-art-style picture.
1. Cooking sketch
As in any kind of drawing, we must first make an ordinary sketch.
We draw a rough sketch, outlining the main details of the character.
Then, using simple blocks, we create a volume.
With the help of blocks we add new parts.
Add the last details and clean the sketch. Do not try to create the perfect sketch.
2. Prepare a document
Create a new file (Ctrl + N) with a size of 245 x 331 px (or less). The size of the document should be small enough for the drawing to be clear, and so large that there is enough free space.
Insert a sketch on the created document. Hit Ctrl + T to activate free transformation, Hold Shift and adjust the size of the outline. Name the layer “Sketch”.
Going to the menu View – Show – Pixel Grid (View – Show – Pixel Grid), we activate a special grid that will make it easier for us to work with individual pixels.
Reduce the opacity of the “Sketch” layer to 40% and block this layer by clicking on the lock icon.
3. Create a pixel contour
Create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and activate Pencil tool (B) (Pencil) (size 1 px). We draw with a pencil along the outline of the outline. At this stage, for hard edges do not worry.
Hard edges appear due to crowded pixels. A smooth neat line at a small scale should contain as few pixels as possible. To achieve this, make sure that each pixel is connected in only one place (either vertex or edge).
But Photoshop has a completely different vision regarding the smoothness of the lines, which is why such rough edges are obtained. Carefully inspect the entire sketch to remove any extra pixels.
Take the eraser (E) mode Pencil (Pencil) (the mode is switched on the top panel with the tool parameters). In the settings of the brush (F5) deactivate the parameter Transfer (Broadcast). The size is set to 1 px.
The smooth line rule has one exception. Sharpened items should be covered with additional pixels so that when they are reduced, these places do not look broken.
Compare the results before and after. Name the layer with the outline “Outline”.
Now we must highlight the inside of the dragon. For this:
- Activate Magic wand tool (W) (Magic Wand) and install Tolerance (Tolerance) to 0.
- Deactivate Anti-alias.
- Select the outer contour area.
- Press Ctrl + Shift + I to invert the selection.
Under the “Outline” layer, create a new and gray color (# 808080) and fill the selection with Paint bucket tool (G) (Fill). Name this layer Clipping Mask.
Place the sketch between the Outline and Clipping Mask layers. Hold Ctrl and select the “Outline” and Sketch layers, then press Ctrl + Alt + G to convert them to clipping masks.
Now create the internal details of the contour. Under the layer “Outline” create a new and draw.
Clean the contour and name the layer “Line art”.
4. Create volume
We have finished the work with the contour and we can begin to apply the shadows. For this we will use black and white colors.
This time we will slightly increase the size of the pencil and activate the brush parameter. Transfer (Broadcast). Make sure that Control (Control) is set to Pen pressure (Push brush) (push will only work on graphics tablets!).
Under the “Line art” layer, create a new one and call it “Ambient Occlusion 1”. Now we must create a base for the further application of light and shade.
This method is very simple. We take the color lighter than the base and lightly apply it in the areas between the contour. But not close to the contour! If you press on the brush softly enough, we will get strokes with variable opacity.
Reduce the opacity of the “Line art” layer to 10%. This layer will also serve as shadows.
Create a new layer and call it “Ambient Occlusion 2”. We take a new color, lighter than the previous one, and on top of the first strokes we make new ones, without touching the contour.
Now add some shadows. Create a new layer “Shadow”. Change its blend mode to Multiply (Multiplication). Soft gray brush (B) (not with a pencil, but with a brush!) Draw shadows, as in a normal digital drawing.
Brush slightly smeared pixels. To fix this, duplicate the shadow layer (Ctrl + J), hide the original (by clicking on the eye icon in the layers panel) and rename the copy to “Shadow 2”. Then go Filter – Convert for Smart Filters (Filter – Convert for smart filters). Click OK and apply the filter. Filter – Noise – Add Noise (Filter – Noise – Add noise).
Again make the “Shadow” layer visible and look at the result. If the pixels are still poorly visible, lower the opacity of the “Shadow” layer or delete it altogether. The amount of noise can always be changed by clicking on the smart filter. Add noise (Add noise) on the layers panel.
Create a new layer and call it Light. White soft brush paint over the place where there should be glare. Change layer blend mode to Screen (Lightening).
Filter again Add noise (Add noise). Only this time we use a high percentage of noise.
Compare the results.
The pixels are still a bit blurry, but we will try to fix it. Slightly increase the opacity of the “Line art” layer. You can also manually add white pixels on a new layer.
Add more light gray pixels to create a smooth transition between the highlights and the dark part.
Also add dark pixels in places with shadows.
5. Add color
Create a new layer “Color Base”. Select the base color (in my case # 496d91) and fill it with the dragon. After that, change the layer blending mode to Multiply (Multiplication).
Hide the “Color Base” layer. For each new color we create a separate layer. Take brush (B), turn on mode Dissolve (Dissolve) and paint over the desired areas. Excessive accuracy is not needed here. Then again make visible the “Color Base” layer, change the blending mode of the color layers to Color and lower the opacity so that the layers are clearly visible and matched.
Create a new layer “Color Light”. Soft brush (B) in the Normal mode, we draw highlights. Then change the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap).
Because of the glare in the previous step, the pixels are blurred. To fix this, create a new layer “Pixel Light”. Fill the areas where we painted highlights, randomly located bright pixels. For this we use Pencil tool (B) (Pencil).
Change the blending mode of the “Pixel Light” layer to Color dodge (Lighten the base) and reduce the opacity to 40%.
Create a new layer “Color Highlight”. With a white pencil (B) we put dots in the brightest areas of the picture. After that, change the layer blending mode to Screen (Lightening).
Create a new layer “Color Shadow”. Paint over areas with shadows in the color of the environment. For example, if your dragon is near a fire, then it may be orange or red. In the lesson it will be lilac. Change layer blend mode to Color (Color) and reduce the opacity to 40%.
Create a new layer “Reflected Light”. Pencil (B) draw the reflected light. Color take lighter than what we used in the previous step. This color is added only in shaded areas! After that, change the layer blending mode to Overlay (Overlap).
6. Final touches
Now we need to modify the stroke. As you can see, it merges with the black background and spoils the overall look of the picture.
To fix this, we will add an inner light stroke. To do this, create a new layer under the layer “Outline” and call it “Smoothing”. White pencil (B) draw a stroke on the right side of the black contour. No need to trace the whole picture! Change layer blend mode to Screen (Lightening) and reduce the opacity to 73%.
With such a stroke, the picture will look great on almost any background.
When finished, press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S to save the file for the web and devices. Format choose GIF and activate the parameter Transparency (Transparency).
After playing with the settings, we can make the image more pixelated. You can reduce the number of colors, but the result is not very high quality. Instead, it’s better to change the parameters. Web snap (Colors for the Web) and Lossy (Losses).