In this lesson we will learn the technique of turning a person’s photo into a pixel character in arcade games from the early 90s.
James May – he’s Smudgethis – developed this style in 2011 for the first hit dubstep-rock band Nero – Me You. He created an animation in which two members of the group were shown as heroes of the old arcade. The game looked like a 16-bit side-scroller in the beat-em-up genre, similar to Double Dragon, but much better quality than the eight-bit retro classics like Super Mario Bros.
To create this effect, the characters should be a bit clumsy, but more detailed than in the oldest games. Also, since we will need to limit the color palette, do not forget that these games had only 65,536 colors.
In this tutorial, James will show you how to create a character based on a photo using a simple color palette and tool. Pencil (Pencil).
In addition to the animation frame, we also need a photo. James took a snapshot of the punk he included in the lesson materials.
When everything is ready, read a lesson on 16-bit animation in After Effects, where James will show how to transfer a character to AE, make him move and apply the effects of retro games.
Open files Animation Guide (16bit).psd and 18888111.jpg (or your chosen image) to use as a character base. A full-length profile photo is perfect, and will also help you get color palettes and a 16-bit style.
The animation frame has several positions on different layers. Choose the one that best fits the position in the photo – since there are no legs in our picture, I chose the standard pose on the first layer.
With the tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee tool) select the person’s head, copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V) her in Animation Guide (16bit).psd.
Pull the photo to fit proportionally. You will notice that due to the small size of the document, the snapshot will get a pixel look.
Create a new layer and draw a stroke with black. Pencil (Pencil) one pixel thick, using the frame as the base.
This frame helps in drawing a variety of characters, ranging from large “bosses” and ending with slender heroines. This is a rough basis for the layout and animation of my pixel art.
With the tool Pipette (Eyedropper tool), select the darkest area of the skin and paint over the small area with the resulting color. Do this three more times, getting a four-color palette for skin tones.
Create a layer under the stroke, then using a brush with a radius of one pixel and the resulting palette toned character (again, focus on the photo).
It is best to store different elements of work on different layers, as this makes it easy to apply them to other characters. This is especially useful when drawing “bad guys”, since many 16-bit games used similar faces. For example, one thug may wear a red T-shirt and hold a knife, while the other will look identical, only in a blue T-shirt and with a gun.
Repeat the process for the rest of the body, shading the skin and clothing and focusing on the original image. Do not forget to use Pipette (Eyedropper tool), first creating a color palette, as this will create a fixed set of colors that look great and fit in a 16-bit style.
Add details, improving the character with additional shadows, tattoos, earrings or similar things. Experiment at this stage and think about how the character will fit into the game environment. Perhaps he will walk with an ax at the ready or will get a mechanical arm?
To animate your character, repeat the previous steps on the other five layers of the animation frame. This process may take time to master and obtain organic results. However, time can be saved by re-using items from past stages. For example, in a six-frame sequence, the head is almost unaffected.
To check if everything is drawn correctly, open the panel Animation (Animation) in Photoshop and make sure the first frame is active. You can add new frames, enable or disable each layer, get your animation, but the fastest way is to use the command Create frames from layers (Make Frames From Layers) in the popup menu of the panel (upper right corner).
The first layer is a blank background, so select it and click on the trash can icon (below) to remove it.
Author: James May