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darthdeus

What tools do professional pixel artists use?

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Hey guys,

 

I've been looking for the right tool for creating my own pixel art, but I've been having a few difficulties finding the right one.

What I've tried so far:

  • ProMotion NG - seems to have lots of features, but not sure how many of them are useful, or at least it's difficult for me to see how to use some of them (I only tried the Free version)
  • Aseprite - nice and simple, but doesn't do things like tile maps and more complicated brush modes
  • PyxelEdit - doesn't seem to do anything the other two wouldn't do as well, and lacks a shading tool

Then there's also Photoshop, but a lot of people seem to be using these editors made specifically for pixel art.

Is there some other program that I've missed? What do professionals at game studios use to create pixel art and its animations? When someone is creating an animation such as the one below, do they first draw the final version of the character? From what I've tried so far, changing the character after creating a bunch of frames is basically like starting over from scratch, and none of the tools seem to help with that.

TishY.gif

 

edit: Please don't say to try everything and see which one I like the best. Being a complete beginner to art, it seems more reasonable to be told what is the tool to learn, instead of using my zero experience to pick the right tool :) I'm very much willing to learn, and just want to make sure I learn the right thing.

Edited by darthdeus

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Photoshop doesn't have much in the way of animation-related features, so I don't recommend that.

 

In pixel art each frame IS basically made from scratch unless you can cut and paste pieces from frames you've already made.  Or if you are doing an avatar system, you make a base body sprite and then layer hair/clothing/weapons on top of that, so that you don't have to redo the body, just the parts that change.

 

*wanders off to angst over the fact that pro pixel artists still freaking exist, ugh, can't pixel art go extinct already?!*

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As far as my opinion of the best tool to learn for pixel art, it would be Pro Motion.  Unless there is something I've missed, it has features far beyond any other software, at least for pixel art.  You probably already know some of what it does.  It helps with animation, has layers, and the new(NG) version has the "pixel perfect" feature that stops your pixel lines from smudging, keeping your curves as smooth as you can move the mouse.  Then it has tools that help with making tiles and tilemaps, including something to help with making them seamless.

 

About not making things from scratch, good luck.  Many times you can copy/paste between frames and do some simple adjustments, but depending on what it is that isn't always the case.  If you want something that does skeletal animation for 2d, you can look up both Spine and Spriter.  They both take separate sprite parts, and animate them with a skeleton.  But, you still have to draw the pieces.  And, unless you draw several different variants for pieces, any lighting won't work perfect because that also gets rotated.  It's like how many games simply flip the sprite for the character and enemies to get it facing left instead of right.  But if the lighting is drawn from the upper right, it would then appear to be in the upper left.  This isn't really important in many games, and in fact at times isn't noticed.  But if you are using animation based off of pieces like that, it will likely be obvious if you don't draw it right.  If that is the style you want, great, but if not, you may end up needing to modify shading afterwards anyway.

 

And @sunandshadow............pixel art is never going to be extinct.  It's as bad as C++!  I love pixel art, but I can't get good at it.  Instead I do the whole 3d pre-rendered sprites thing to get "acceptable" graphics.  It has advantages of that I get to use all the tricks Blender has, including shading, marking edges, all the neat 3d modifiers like displacement textures(great for asteroids), and many other tricks.  And I can easily re-render after making changes too, or if I need a different size for whatever reason.

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And @sunandshadow............pixel art is never going to be extinct.  It's as bad as C++!  I love pixel art, but I can't get good at it.  Instead I do the whole 3d pre-rendered sprites thing to get "acceptable" graphics.  It has advantages of that I get to use all the tricks Blender has, including shading, marking edges, all the neat 3d modifiers like displacement textures(great for asteroids), and many other tricks.  And I can easily re-render after making changes too, or if I need a different size for whatever reason.

Cockroaches, the both of them!   :lol:  If there's ever a nuclear apocalypse they'll both survive and mutate in the bowels of old PCs and start generating terrible games that there will be no players to play. :wink:

 

I go for vector art, myself.  Making sprites is definitely benefited by the ability to pick one point on a curve and drag it somewhere else, not to mention the ease of replacing colors.

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There isn't anything wrong with Vector Art, though for animation it needs the same attention I was talking about or depending on what you are doing it won't look right when you rotate parts.  On the other hand, some of those same benefits are why I like doing things in 3d, as I can easily move things around too, colors, polys, curves, lattices, other stuff for modifiers, animating everything, including colors, materials, geometry, modifiers, well, you get the idea.  It is the only way I personally have found to get what I call "acceptable" art.

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For tools, it's literally anything. Any tool that the artist likes. Photoshop, MSpaint, Paint tool sai, GIMP, Krita, Paint.Net. The general rule of thumb is that it lets you have a one pixel brush.

 

As for drawing, unless you're doing some serious detailed animations, you'll find that general shapes of the body does not move around all that much, so redrawing it isn't an issue. The other bit is that a sprite's animation is typically not 60 frames a second. It's actually fewer frames. Clever use of general motion will help speed things up.
 

If you can load that gif up in photoshop. It'll be layered up for you. And use the layer transparencies to compare each frame.

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*wanders off to angst over the fact that pro pixel artists still freaking exist, ugh, can't pixel art go extinct already?!*

 

 

Well, the reason why I wanted to use pixel art is because it's probably the only way I can create "reasonable" looking graphics, or at least very simple graphics with decent animations. From my perspective, shitty graphics with good animations is more important than good graphics with shitty animations. But I might be wrong on that.

 

 

 

Read this eBook, especially the part on animation: http://www.widgetworx.com/book/

 

 

Thanks, I'll check it out!

 

 

 

And post what you have done. You can't get feedback if you don't show people your work.

 

 

I haven't done much yet, since I was mostly just looking for tools. But since you mention it, here's a simple animation I just did. http://i.imgur.com/pLv8MHI.gifv. The guy on the right could probably use a lot more work, as I mainly focused on animating the guy on the left.

 

 

edit: Do you guys think vector art is simpler to do than pixel art? I've tried doing a few skeletal animations and I'm not really sure if in the end I'd be able to create anything interesting other than moving hands and such.

Edited by darthdeus

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Some people like Vector Art over Pixel art.  In general, it can be easier to make, and at the least it is probably easier to modify as you can simply adjust curves.  But, it takes a lot of work to get vector art to be nicely shaded, as curves/paths are generally outlined, filled, or both, but you then have to make some small shapes to get shadow and highlight.

 

Also, about skeletal animations, that isn't dependent on Vector art.  You could use pixel art as well.

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Do you guys think vector art is simpler to do than pixel art? I've tried doing a few skeletal animations and I'm not really sure if in the end I'd be able to create anything interesting other than moving hands and such.

Using vector art doesn't necessarily mean you need to use cut-out animation (skeletons and transformations).
You can also do frame-by-frame animation, you would just make a unique drawing per frame.

If the sprites are small then I think pixel art should give a better result, as you have more specific control over how each pixel looks.
If the sprites are high in resolution then using vector art should be faster and give a particular visual style, while using raster art (digital painting with brushes) lets you get other styles.
This is not set on stone, you can do anything with either of these.
 

here's a simple animation I just did. http://i.imgur.com/pLv8MHI.gifv. The guy on the right could probably use a lot more work, as I mainly focused on animating the guy on the left.

There's a sense of timing and narrative in that sequence, so you will make some interesting stuff if you study hard on animation.
If you're starting out then instead of working with characters it's usually best to work with the basics first, like animating the bouncing ball.
It's also an opportunity to get familiar with a program (hotkeys, workflow etc.), so choose to do this with the program that you imagine is going to be best for you.

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