piskel art-how to make pixel art

How to Quickly Make Pixel Art Online: 10 Free Tools

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 entities 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!

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.


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 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:

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.

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.

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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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!

Using sprites with V-Play is simple, thanks to a few of V-Play’s custom components. Follow the steps to animate a sprite and find out more about them:

1. Open up Qt Creator and create a new project. If you haven’t already downloaded V-Play, you can get it here. Qt Creator will be included in your installation.

2. Add your sprite sheet to the assets folder of your V-Play project

3. Go to the Main.qml file of your project and add the following code

import VPlay 2.0
import QtQuick 2.0


    SpriteSequenceVPlay {

       SpriteVPlay {
         frameRate: 2
         frameWidth: 256
         frameHeight: 256
         source: "../assets/Plant.png"

4. Hit run to test your sprite. It should show the plant bouncing up and down like before


Make Your Own Sprites

And that’s it! Adding a sprite to your game is that simple with the SpriteSequenceVPlay and SpriteVPlay component. It’s important to set the frameWidth and frameHeight properties to be the size you’d like the sprite to appear in your game. Then you can use the component properties such as frameCount and frameRate to customize your animation. You can find out more about animating and customizing sprites with V-Play in our V-Play Documentation

For advanced usage, V-Play also supports Texture Packer Support for high-performance sprite animations and density independent sprite loading. In the next weeks, we will also announce support for Spine, a bone-based animation tool. Stay tuned for that one. :)

Thanks for reading and make sure to check the V-Play blog next week for another update. Make sure to share this article with all of your friends and colleagues and hit the Like button!

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