9 Tools for Creating Retro Pixel Art

By Tyler Keenan

Everything old is new again, and such is the case with pixel art. That two-dimensional, deliberately low-res style associated with 8- and 16-bit video games has found a second life among retro enthusiasts, independent game developers, and graphic designers trying to capture the spirit of the early days of gaming. Pixel art’s influence is everywhere, visible in mega-popular games like Minecraft and celebrated in the Style section of the New York Times and the Museum of Modern Art, not to mention the official currency of Norway.

The pixel art revival has brought with it a number of tools specifically designed to recreate the aesthetic. In contrast to high-powered image editing software like Photoshop or GIMP, the goal of these tools isn’t to doctor photographs or create realistic collages of images, but rather to create the most basic and obviously computer-derived art possible. That difference in philosophies means these image editing programs require a very different set of tools.

Pixel Art Basics

Before we get into the tools themselves, we should take a brief tour of what makes pixel art and what tools the digital artist uses to make it. While plenty of people have used the venerable Microsoft Paint to create high-quality pixel art, there are also a number of open source and commercial tools that offer more advanced features to expedite and guide the process.

We’ve divided this guide into three sections, depending on what kind of pixel art project you’re working on. We’ll move from the simplest to the most complex, starting with static pixel art.

Best Tools for Creating Static Pixel Art

A static piece of pixel art in an online editor

Let’s start with dead simple pixel art. Say you want to create a static image in a pixelated style. What do you need? Really, not much. In fact, you may not need to download anything at all. If you’re using Windows, MS Paint is still a perfectly good tool for creating static pixel art when configured properly (more on which below). Depending on the complexity of your project, though, you may want a tool with a little more oomph behind it.

Some pixel-art oriented tools emphasize grids, while others are more freeform. Which one is right for you is largely a matter of taste.

  1. Make Pixel Art is the most basic of basic options. It’s free, web-based, and comes with just a handful of features: draw, fill, cut, paste, draw straight lines, lighten, and darken. It probably won’t become your go-to option, but it’s a great, free tool for sketching and exporting ideas when you’re away from your main workstation.
  2. Pyxel Edit is a pixel art editor with a wider feature set than many other options for creating static images. If you’ve ever used Photoshop, Pyxel Edit’s interface will look familiar. It not only comes with the standard draw and shape tools, but also support for palettes and layers, which are considered Go to the full article.

    Source:: Business 2 Community

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