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Article - 'Unique Sprite Creation' by SMOPHWoD.Y

An item about Graphics/Audio posted on Jan 14, 2004


Mr. Y goes into some of the 'whys?' of pixel art and spriting, and also gives advice on gaining unique ideas for sprites (character sets).


Thank you for reading this gamemaking article. I want to cover a reason for starting with spriting, the benefits and requirements of unique sprite creation for any games you may make- RPGs, platformers, adventure games, whatever you enjoy doing. I really don't plan to explain pixel art, as I consider myself rather poor at explaining it. But, I will provide some excellent references and tutorials so you can advance to the next step and begin learning to draw sprites.

Now then. By unique sprite creation, you probably know what I'm talking about already, and that would be amateur gamemakers like any one of GW's typical members taking it upon themselves to draw all of their sprites for their games. Pixel art itself is a very useful ability for any sort of gamemaking, as teams of pixel artists with different specialties can work together to create wonderful, unique graphics of all sorts for their games- sprites, tilesets, battle animations, enemies, and much more. It's very rare, but some pixel artists take such interest in learning and applying unique pixel art that they eventually become strong artists in all the types of pixel art. These artists are like the Super Heroes of pixel art, because they often have the free time and devotion to draw all the unique art for their games on their free time, no matter how demanding with effort and time it may be. This article certainly isn't intended to get you interested completely in all sorts of pixel art, but to get you to place your foot in the door by becoming interested in what is generally agreed to be the simplest form of pixel art, spriting.

When you're learning to draw pixel art, why should you begin with spriting, and not something like chipsets or battle animations? For one thing, a single chipset consumes a vast amount of dedication and time to finish. If you can later just copy and paste tiles like the grass and dirt to your other chipsets it becomes easier, and the more chipsets you finish the less time you'll spend drawing new ones. Even so, you can learn much of the same techniques with less time by starting with spriting. Monsters, villains, battle animations, and other general pictures also typically are considered less of pixel work, as well. Rather than use traditional pixel art techniques to draw these types of graphics, most pixel artists use programs like Paint Shop Pro and effects like spray can and complex gradients for them. However, it is generally much more beneficial for your later work to start with simpler pixel art like sprites, then work up to more 'advanced' art. However, if you want very simple graphics for these types, and are content with just using MSPaint or IDraw 3, go right ahead.

Why should you learn to draw pixel art, anyways? As anyone involved with gamemaking may tell you, having original graphics will certainly help your game a lot. Most game players really appreciate amateur games with all-original graphics a lot more for just standing out so much more, though they will care less for poorly-made graphics. You shouldn't concern yourself with failure though, because after all, pixel artists get quite a bit of support from fellow artists, gamemakers, and general community members not interested in either. If you're looking for a simple answer for improving your game, original graphics is it. Just study and practice for a week or so, and you'll be drawing up suitable art in no time. However, pixel art isn't for everybody. It can be quite frustrating, messing up portions, fixing small portions that look bad, and studying for a whole week without much action, all the while spending hours and hours learning and drawing while others may give harsh criticism. But, most folks deal with these kinds of problems in one way or another in the gamemaking community, so these things really shouldn't effect most of you. However, just don't beat yourself over the head if you lose interest- it's alright, there will be other possibilities of course.

So, how can you begin learning? For starters, there are loads of pixel art tutorials floating around Gaming World's Content- dig around and read up, and learn from experienced gamemakers that know what you want to learn. If you can't find enough around GW, here are a few links from the Graphical Art forum leading to some excellent pixel art tutorials and websites.

Pixel Tutorial - This site is simply called Pixel Tutorial, I think, and it's run by a person named Tsugumo. This is my personal favorite, which I have bookmarked for future reference.

Sprite Domain - An affiliate of Gaming Ground Zero, OH NO!? Still, very good site with good pixel art tutorials available.

Pixelation Forum - A very good forum for pixel artists to hang around with their fellows and pick up some more tricks.

Of course, we have our own forum for pixel artists. Visit GW's Graphical Art forum.

If you want to sprite, you're probably already terribly eager to draw something very magnificient and unique. You probably can't do that yet because of your limitations with experience, but you can learn to think big and get great ideas. Ideas for unique sprite looks is much like preparation for the great plots and stories of any role-playing game- it is something you can learn to do on your spare time. To gain unique ideas, I try to take in my surroundings and haunts into memory. I think about them when doing physical activities like biking or weight lifting, when I concentrate much less on more important things, and just turn over simple thoughts and ideas in my head. Keeping your body active when brainstorming is actually very effective. Now, I am not subtly suggesting everyone to drop their pasttimes and pick up more physical lifestyles, but I am asking them to consider trying this thought. Go play some sports, go bikeriding, lift some weights, go fishing, whatever, but just try to stay active physically and to stay alone in thought. Once you've gathered some thoughts, make sure to try mixing them with other ideas to see if anything newer and better comes up. A traditional lizard man combined with colonial sea pirates? A diabolical insurance salesman-turned-Jehovah's Witness? Take the simple things that may seem ordinary or overdone, and bring new ideas to them so that they are original, yet remain easy for you to identify and control.

That's it, I am finished with this piece. I hope those new to pixel art and spriting appreciate my more wordy explanation of the general ideas of it all, and now understand much more about the facts surrounding the actual work. Thanks for reading, I appreciate!