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Let's draw some pixels

I've been getting into pixel art a lot lately. It appeals to me on a lot of levels.

The coder in me likes it because it's so precise. Every pixel is placed just so. The color palette is limited to a dozen colors. Building a drawing out of such limited means reminds me of building programs out of primitives. There are design patterns in pixel art: dithering, manual anti-aliasing. There are abstractions that work and abstractions that don't. There's a lot of goofing around with RGB values and transparency settings; it's perhaps the most deeply computer-based art form you could come up with, and as a deeply computer-based human, I really like it.

The gamer in me is still partly stuck in the early 90's, so it's a huge injection of nostalgia to look at pixel art. NES- and SNES-era games had a charm that is unmatched by anything since. And I don't think that's entirely nostalgia talking; I still play old games and they're still so much fun. And the art in a lot of those games was just darned good. If you stop and look at it really carefully, and start to get an understanding of how it was made, you can't help but be impressed.

The "artist" in me (if there is such a thing in my brain somewhere) is blown away by some of the things good pixel artists can produce. Go look at and try not to slobber. Some of this stuff just looks amazing. Not "good for a pixel drawing", but good on a level anyone could appreciate.

Pixel doodles are also good practice for the RPG my wife and I are still ever-so-slowly creating. Creating art and music for a game are turning out to be much harder work than programming it.

In any case, I drew a cow standing beside a tree. And I made a new pixel art page to house my admittedly still-amateurish drawings.

Cow Tree

August 10, 2010 @ 4:19 AM PDT
Cateogory: Art


Ali Gündüz
Quoth Ali Gündüz on August 10, 2010 @ 8:44 AM PDT

What software do you use to create them?

Quoth Brian on August 10, 2010 @ 9:08 AM PDT

I used Pro Motion 6. If you don't like that, there's also GraphicsGale which is cheaper. Unfortunately they're both Windows-only. Probably work OK in Wine though, they're simple programs.

The Gimp works just fine too. Even MS Paint. Any program where you can zoom in and see pixels is good. But Pro Motion has some very nice palette-management features and better keybindings than Gimp, among other things.

Quoth avx on August 10, 2010 @ 11:29 AM PDT

I'm impressed, espacially if you're rather new to this. I wouldn't have the patience for this and I guess my wife would kill me :/

Did a quick hunt on Google, found this (gtk+)

Keep em coming :)

Timo Mihaljov
Quoth Timo Mihaljov on August 10, 2010 @ 8:26 PM PDT

You might be interested in this essay, which suggests that the appeal of "low-tech" aesthetics is more than just nostalgia:

Quoth Brian on August 11, 2010 @ 2:55 PM PDT

Interesting read, thanks for the article.

Michał Marczyk
Quoth Michał Marczyk on August 12, 2010 @ 11:23 AM PDT

The tree is fantastic! Good to see a cow here again too.

Can't wait for your RPG, by the way... :-)

Emmanuel Fuller
Quoth Emmanuel Fuller on August 12, 2010 @ 10:58 PM PDT

Could we expect similar posts sometime down the line about how you're handling the music (tutorials used, tools, stylistic decisions etc.) and the direction the coding has taken since the last post on the Clojure RPG engine? Those sorts of articles about the inner workings of game physics, rendering engines etc. out there are often neat little enlightening pieces even when they mostly tell you about a clever application of stuff you learned back in CS 201; take for example the articles out there on the precise physics of Genesis Sonic games and the rendering engine in Doom.

Also, after trying out JOGL once for this project, have you looked into LWJGL as an alternative OpenGL/OpenAL/input handling layer for Java?

Quoth Brian on August 13, 2010 @ 2:46 AM PDT

Michał: Thanks. The RPG is coming along slowly but surely.

Emmanuel: My current plan is to get a crappy demo of the game done as fast as possible as a proof of concept, and publish the whole thing with source code. Then I'll make the real thing once I get some feedback.

I do plan to blog about it, but I'm not sure how much insight I have to offer. I don't know anything about game programming. I feel like I'm probably doing it wrong. There are likely best practices of which I'm ignorant.

I am probably moving to LWJGL for the game, yes. I'm using penumbra. It was quite easy to set up, and it's a much better version of exactly what I was trying to hack together myself last time. I'm turbo-reading through the OpenGL manual at the moment.