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Tutorial: Pixel art tips when making games

When creating your own video games, the art is extremely important. And you have only three choices for the design:

Use few colors

Colors are hard. When using hexadecimal colors for your game (something like #8E44AD), there are over 16 millions colors to choose from. How do you decide which ones to pick? And if you get just one wrong, everything will look off.

A simple trick is to use as few colors as possible. For example here's a space shooter I made a few years ago.

Here ther are only two colors: white for the sprites, and dark blue for the background. By having a limited number of colors, you can't go too wrong.

Use casic shapes

Let's say you want to build a 2D platformer like Super Mario Bros. You'll need at least 4 sprites for your game: player, enemy, coin, and wall. Each of these elements can be really complex to make: outline, colors, animations, etc.

But what if you only used basic geonmetric shapes for everything? For example here's a 2D platformer I made.

Here each sprite is just a rectangle, and it took me less than 2 minutes to create them all.

Try low resolution

When basic shapes are not enough, then you can try pixel art. However doing pixel art is very similar to drawing, and for the majority of people it is tough to draw something that looks great.

One solution is to use a really low resolution for your sprites. The less pixels available, the less choices you have to make, and the simpler it is to draw. Here's an example with an adventure game I made.

It's cute, yet all the sprites are just made of 25 pixles. Here's a bigger view of the main character.

Anyone can make a sprite like that.

Keep iterating

If a low resolution sprite is not a good fit for your game style, then go for a higher resolution. Your first attempt will probably look bad, and that's okay. Just keep working on it until it you are happy with it.

Here's an example of me creating a little princess for an arcade game I made.

At the beginning it was pretty bad (left), but after a few more iterations the result is quite good (right).

There's no way I could have made this sprite on my first try.


Try to simplify your design to make your game look good (few colors, basic shapes, low resolutions). And then iterate until you have something you like. With these simple tips anyone can make a great looking game!

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You can read my other tutorials or check my book "Make 2D Games".