piskel art-how to make pixel art

Make Pixel Art: The 10 Best Tools for Developers in 2018

By Michael

2D Sprites are the visual building blocks of almost all mobile games and the pixel art style that has become synonymous with video games is still a popular choice amongst game developers today. With pixel art and 2D sprites, you can quickly animate your game objects and create a dynamic viewing experience for your players.

Knowing how to work with sprites and pixel art has become an essential skill for all mobile game developers. Read on to find out how to make your own sprites and where to find resources for making your own pixel art!

Note: we have collected more free resources for game developers at the end of this site. Make sure to check these out as well!

What are Pixel Art and Sprites?

Pixel Art

Pixel art is a digital art form where color is applied to individual pixels to create an image. The term Pixel Art was first published in 1982, although the concept had existed for at least 10 years before hand.

Pixel art is saved in file formats that use lossless data compression such as GIF or PNG format. JPEG format is not recommended as it uses lossy compression that leaves artifacts in your images.

make_pixel_art_pngvsjpg

Source: Wikipedia

Pixel art can be categorized into two main forms, isometric and non-isometric. Isometric pixel art has a 3-dimensional appearance even though the image is still a 2D shape.

make_pixel_art_isometric example

Non-isometric pixel art presents one side of an object, such as the top or front.

make_pixel_art_non-isometric example

Sprites

Sprites are animations such as characters or objects that can be used in your mobile game. They can be made from any imaginable image source and animated in a number of ways. They’re one of the most used visual components for mobile game development and have a long history within the game development industry.

A basic example of an animated sprite can be seen below:

make_pixel_art_plant
This simple animation looks like one 256×256 sized image but it’s actually a 512×256 image that moves the image frame to create a bouncing effect.

make_pixel_art_Plant
This 512×256 image is known as a sprite sheet and is the reason you can animate your sprites. A sprite animation simply shows a different part of a sprite sheet at different times to create an animation. There are a wide range of possible animations for sprites but the above example shows the most basic use of a sprite.

Why Should You Use Sprites?

Easy Scene Creation

If you had to create every scene of your game as one image, it would make things a lot harder to edit later on. With sprites, you can add and remove visual elements as you please without having to edit any of the other visual components of your scene. This makes it easier to design complex game scenes and introduce new characters and objects for your players to interact with.

Better Performance

Sprites also offer a performance enhancement as it places less pressure on your game to repeatedly call multiple images to appear on screen. Instead, a sprite sheet is called and then a different part of it is displayed as desired. It’s much easier for your game to call an image once and display it in a multitude of ways, rather than repeatedly calling for new image sources.

How to Make Pixel Art with these 10 Tools

We’ve already covered how sprites work but now it’s time to start making them. To make it easier for you to experiment with sprite creation, you can use one of the pixel editor tools listed below. They’re all free to download or use online and can help you to create the pixel art for your sprite sheet.

1.      PiskelApp

PiskelApp is a free online pixel editor with an emphasis on sprite creation. It allows you to save your pixel art online and also has an import function so you can use it to edit your existing pixel art. PiskelApp has a simple user interface and is a great choice if you want to dive right into creating your sprite sheet.

make_pixel_art_piskel

2.      Pixie

Pixie is another fully functional online pixel editor. Although it’s not as well suited to sprite sheet creation as PiskelApp, it’s still very easy to use and is a good choice for anyone looking to let their imagination run wild. The white canvas is the standard starting point for this tool and encourages free hand drawing rather than rigid grid designs.

make_pixel_art_Pixie

3.      Pixlr

Pixlr is a slightly more advanced pixel editor in comparison to the previous editors with a large range of drawing tools. It offers the same online saving feature as PiskelApp but isn’t as well suited to sprite sheet creation. If you want to avoid the 16-bit style that PiskelApp encourages, check out this tool instead.

make_pixel_art_pixlr

4.      GrafX2

GrafX2 is a bitmap paint program that includes a number of tools and effects that make it especially useful for designing game graphics, pixel art and sprite sheets. It’s free to download and available on all major desktop platforms

make_pixel_art_sshot_svn1398

5.      GIMP

GIMP is an open source image editor for desktop that can be used for everything from photo manipulation to creating original artwork. You can also use GIMP to create your pixel art and sprite sheets. Although there is a bit of a learning curve for beginners, GIMP is a powerful tool that can cater for almost all image editing needs. You can see a tutorial on setting up GIMP for pixel art here:

6.      PyxleOS

If you’re looking for a stripped down tool that lets you focus on creating great pixel art, you should check out PyxleOS. This open source desktop application is specifically designed for the creation of pixel art and it’s extremely easy to pick up and use.

make_pixel_art_PyxleOS

7.      LunaPic

LunaPic is an online tool with a number of capabilities for image editing. One of its many features is the ability to pixelate images, even photographs. You just need to upload your image, click adjust -> pixelate, choose how much you want to pixelate your image and there you go!

8.      GraphicsGale

GraphicsGale is an animation graphic editor that’s available in both free and paid options. The free version still allows you to create and save pixel art in png format, which is all you need for your sprite sheet. GraphicsGale is an easy to use tool with a wide range of tools for image creation.

make_pixel_art_graphicsgale

9.      Paint.net

Paint.net is free image and photo editing software for Windows. This is a powerful tool with a great community behind it to show you how to create pixel art and sprite sheets. You can find many pixel art tutorials, such as the one below, on YouTube.

10.  Make Pixel Art

Make Pixel Art is a fun online tool that lets you start drawing your pixels straight away. Although it might be considered a little basic compared to some of the other tools, it could be your best bet if you need to quickly sketch an idea or prototype an object or character for your game.

make pixel art

If you’d like to follow along with the next section of this post, you can redraw the plant sprite with one of the tools from above or else download it here!

 

How to Use Sprites with V-Play

Now that you have created a sprite, it’s time to test them on your mobile phone! For displaying sprites you can use V-Play, a cross platform game engine specialized for 2d games. Here is a code example that displays an animated pixel art sprite in V-Play:

import VPlay 2.0
import QtQuick 2.0

GameWindow {

  Scene {
	
    SpriteSequenceVPlay {
      anchors.centerIn: parent // center it in the scene
      width: 150 // width of the image in the game
      height: 150 // height of the image in the game

      SpriteVPlay {
        frameCount:2 // number of frames in the animation
        frameRate: 2 // how fast animation plays
        frameWidth: 256 // width of 1 frame
        frameHeight: 256 // height of 1 frame
        
        source: "https://v-play.net/web-assets/pixelPlant.png" // path to the spritesheet file
      }
    }
  }
}

Click on the Run button above to open this code in your browser and run it on your mobile device (iOS & Android are supported). You can change the source code in the web editor and see the effect immediatelly on your device with V-Play Live Code Reloading. See this quick video how you can use V-Play Live Reload to speed up your game development process:

Make Your Own Sprites and Use Them With V-Play

And that’s it! Adding a sprite to your game is that simple with the SpriteSequenceVPlay and SpriteVPlay component — just 23 lines of code including newlines for a complete game!

It’s important to set the frameWidth and frameHeight properties to be the size you’d like the sprite to appear in your game. you can use the component properties such as frameCount and frameRate to customize your animation.

 

Download V-Play Now and Create Pixel Perfect Games!

Do you want to create a game 60% faster than with other game engines like Unity, Corona or Cocos2D?

See the V-Play Game Engine highlights and the tutorials below how you can:

 

Free Download

 

More Free Game Developer Resources

The Best Game Development Tutorials & Free Game Templates

All of these tutorials come with full source code of the games! You can copy the code to make your own games for free!

Game Development Video Tutorials

How to Make a Game like Super Mario Maker

 

How to Make a Mobile Game in 15 Minutes

 

How to Use Multiplayer in your Game

 

Thanks for reading & scrolling that far! :)

Do you know any other sites you like for creating pixel art?

Or would you like to see a game tutorial about a certain game you always wanted to develop but don’t know how?

Let us know and send us a direct message here.

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