Post news Report article RSS Feed How to make pixel art in Photoshop [mini tutorial]

Although Overgrowth is my top priority, I really love pixel art too. As an artist it is important to keep practicing all of my skills because you never know when they will be useful. For example, I ended up making a lot of pixel art icons and buttons for the iPhone version of Black Shades, and I also helped David out with the art in this blog post.

Posted by jeffr on Jan 23rd, 2010

Although Overgrowth is my top priority, I really love pixel art too. As an artist it is important to keep practicing all of my skills because you never know when they will be useful. For example, I ended up making a lot of pixel art icons and buttons for the iPhone version of Black Shades, and I also helped David out with the art in this blog post.


I have gotten some requests on how exactly I go about my pixel art, so here I will cover the basics. First, there are a few things that are a little buried in Photoshop (CS2) that make working with pixel art a lot easier.


You will want to go to "edit > preferences > general" and set the image interpolation to "nearest neighbor". With that set, whenever you transform part of your image it will stay in the form of discrete pixels. This is very useful if you want to make an animation.

I like to choose a fairly small image size for anything that is going to be pixel art. A good size for a nicely detailed, but still chunky character is 128^2 px.

I start blocking in the shapes for the character using the pencil tool. You also probably want to set your eraser to use the block or pencil style.


Gradually I clean up the shapes until I have an outline I like, and then on a lower layers, I fill in the shape and then have a couple layers for shading. This can produce a nice consistent result.


Once I have the character designed, sometimes it is fun to animate it. To do this in Photoshop, you can go to "window > animation". Now with the animation palette open, it is easy to set up your animations using different layers, and play them. Once the animation is done, you can save it as a .gif under "file > save for web" and selecting "gif" from the first drop-down box on the right. Then you can show off your animation in any web browser, like this:


I have heard there are better programs for making pixel art and animation than Photoshop. Does anyone else have any experience with these programs?

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Post comment Comments
SEKCobra Jan 23 2010, 1:10am says:

Nice Tutorial, but sadly I fail at drawing and Pixel Art /:

+7 votes     reply to comment
Spenzerr Jan 23 2010, 1:53am says:

thats awesome is this possible in gimp 2? i might wanna do some cowboy bebop pixel art :3

+3 votes     reply to comment
Oktyabr Jan 23 2010, 10:43am replied:

Yes, you can use GIMP. Double click the tool icon you want to use and if it's a transform tool it will offer you a choice of interpolation. Choose "None"... same as "Nearest Neighbor" in CS2. Google "GIMP animation" for tons of tutorials.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Spenzerr Jan 23 2010, 11:09am replied:


+1 vote     reply to comment
ShinobiNFC Jan 23 2010, 4:15am says:

Great tutorial!

One question, in regards to the nearest neighbor section, what exactly is a transformation? Does it include anything outside of scale/rotate/skew/distort/perspective/warp ?

+1 vote     reply to comment
ShinobiNFC Jan 23 2010, 4:49am replied:

never mind it became very obvious once I started doing some pixel art :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
qeloqoo Jan 23 2010, 4:49am says:

Thou I don't have much experience with it personally, I heard Graphics Gale is useful for pixel art. Unlike multi-utility apps as photoshop, Graphics Gale seems to be specialized for spriting and pixelart.

+1 vote     reply to comment
ShinobiNFC Jan 23 2010, 8:25pm replied:

just tried it out, very nice program

+1 vote     reply to comment
Betelgeuze Jan 23 2010, 5:51am says:

So what does this have to do with Overgrowth?

-2 votes     reply to comment
Milch Jan 23 2010, 6:13am replied:

Read the first 4 lines

+4 votes     reply to comment
Betelgeuze Jan 23 2010, 6:27am replied:

I did, still don’t see why it has to be posted on the front-page of moddb as Overgrowth news.
As someone already mentioned a couple of news posts ago, I also start to get the feeling they try to get on top of the newspage every day! I wouldn't care if it was actual real news about the game, but news so far have been about a pink beard, pixel art, web comics and 4 or 5 news post about the same 'organic' game pack you could buy. For those things there’s an option to post news for people who watch the game only, this shouldn’t be on the front-page. I see no other game or mod do this and I hardly see any other game or mod on the top of the front-page everyday!

I think Overgrowth is an amazing project but I rather not have the other mod/indie news get bumped down every day by stuff like this.
@ moddb crew: is there a way I could filter out Overgrowth news or something?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Milch Jan 23 2010, 6:58am replied:

I never though about this before - and you're right.
I really like Overgrowth but maybe there are other games that are as exciting as Overgrowth but hardly anybody reads the posts about it because they get bumped down.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Samuk Jan 23 2010, 10:16am replied:

Wolfire take the time to make the articles, They post alot more on there blog.

There not doing anything wrong, they want coverage, they write articles.

They make sure to tell you what your about to read. As long as theres only one article on the frontpage, I don't see the problem.

+7 votes     reply to comment
OriginalPerry Jan 23 2010, 9:52am replied:

If you had been following this, you would know that the Pink Beard was a promise they made to the community that if 1000 sales of the Overgrowth pack was sold, John would dye his beard pink - and for myself, I like developers who keep promises, maybe you don't.

The web comic is game related, and it could be classed as concept art for future characters, maps, settings etc. Adds a story to the game, and gives it life.

If you would rather they did what BlackMesaSource did and only post once every six months, that's your opinion, but the fact that they are making news posts relaxes me that they are still all alive and working hard.

(The pixel art may not have been relevant, but hey it's still really interesting and I liked reading it)

+7 votes     reply to comment
Betelgeuze Jan 23 2010, 10:29am replied:

They made the promise to the people who care, that’s why there's an option to show the news post for people who "watch" your project on moddb. For other gamer’s modders and developers this is not interesting or relevant to what they hope to find on moddb.
And because I don’t like to see relevant news being bumped down by pinkbeard news you conclude I don’t hold promises? I do, I just don’t post them on a website about mods and game development. Its not because I feel it’s a good idea to make a promise about something that this makes it relevant to be front-page news.

So making a complete news post for every web comic page that gets released is front-page worthy in your opinion? For me its not, but I'm sure its great for the people who "watch" the project (again use that option) In the ends its also possible to make a news post about it when the full comic is finished, instead of doing it for every page.

And yes I would rather have it the Black Mesa Source way who don’t try to get in the spotlight every single day and still manage to get a large fan base and win awards on this website. At least they don’t bump down all the other news and still manage to impress people.

There is no way any project manages to have something front-page news worthy every day, yet you guys manage to get on top of the news almost every day, and you clearly start to notice that in the news subjects. I don’t really care if there’s a news post about a web comic, or one about pixel art, its just that it all starts building up with more and more of those kind of news posts and its starting to annoy me a bit. Still the news post about the actual development of the game are always very interesting and great to read/see.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Spenzerr Jan 25 2010, 2:42am replied:

i liked the news post, i will try pixel art because of this news post, thank you overgrowth team, the end.

+2 votes     reply to comment
moci Jan 23 2010, 10:15am replied:

It's all about getting noticed. PR for the poor guy.

There are no rules that do not allow them to post something every day.

+5 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne Jan 23 2010, 11:41am replied:

Jealous and angry that your news got bumped down?

Exposing you:

Infinity dev team, eh?

I like it the way it's kept, Overgrowth team - keep it up! And post more news if you can. ;-D There were more news on feeds, and I believe there are more blog posts (I don't read it, so dunno really).

At least one team who really cares for fans and fan-stuff, and this game 'll be probably my first non-RTS/TBS indie I'm going to buy or pre-order. O.o

+3 votes   reply to comment
DOLBYdigital Jan 23 2010, 11:52am replied:

Sorry but in my opinion Overgrowth posts high quality articles that go over their design process and how they really cover all aspects of game design and concept creation. From comics that go over background story to art procedures used to create the interface or other functions.

Its one post that can easily be skipped over for those who don't care just like I skip over many of the 'news' posts for other mods that I don't care for. Its not that hard to just move down to the next post? Hell I can't even get my Social Modding Club events posted on the homepage but you don't see me complaining ;)

If you want your mod to show up, then start posting some thoughtful articles about it. Put some time into showing others how you do what you do just like Overgrowth does. Its not like these are sloppy articles that are just thrown together. You can tell that they put time into them to help show others their design process and art procedures. Just my opinion but they are completely appropriate and can easily be skipped by those not interested. Thanks :)

+6 votes     reply to comment
jeffr Author
jeffr Jan 23 2010, 12:44pm replied:

Thanks for stopping by again Betelgeuze, we already discussed this the last time, but here it is again.

a) I am not sure if you are new to ModDB, but ModDB encourages tutorials and other resources for game developers and modders, which is why this pixel art tutorial was approved for the front page by the MODDB STAFF. As you know, every article must be personally approved by ModDB. It is quite easy to talk to them, so when in doubt just shoot them a message instead of spamming the Overgrowth page (which is sort of ironic given your complaint).

b) We post maybe 1 article every 3 days, not every day like you claim. These are the creme of the crop from our blog, if I wanted to, I could have 3 posts on the front page every day, but I like to keep it high quality and relevant.

c) I have stopped posting new comics on the front page (even though ModDB staff encourages it) just for you, so please stop citing that as "spam".

d) Regarding the organic preorder pack, sure there were a few posts about that (one was a staff created official post). It was shared between us and NS2. I am thankful for the ModDB staff for letting us make a few original, meaty posts (including the pink beard followup video) about our and NS2's most important promo. I am sure when your game has an important promo, they will let you post about it as well.

Thanks for the feedback though, and as always you can reach me on aim or msn: osxii /

+6 votes   reply to comment
Betelgeuze Jan 23 2010, 6:14pm replied:

I'm not the only one who had a complaint about the news post and I stated my opinion as a moddb visitor never as an Infinity member. It's sad to see you see my opinion about the news post as an act of jealousy and boycott from Infinity. I clearly stated multiple times that I like the project and am always happy to read news post about the development of the game. Never did I mention Infinity in all of this, and its not because Im managing the Infinity profile on moddb that I shouldnt be able to state my honest opinion about things on moddb.
Instead of discussion it in a mature manner with me you take it on a personal level and say I’m someone who don’t follows his "promises”, call me "jealous" and "angry" and feel you have to contact the Infinity team instead of me. Therefore I take this as a personal attack on me.
I've decided to resign from the Infinity moddb team(im not even part of the dev team), to make clear that this has nothing to do about them, and I don't want to get them involved in it further. I will talk to the moddb crew about this and I will contact you in private about this too!
I accept nothing less than your apologies to me and to the Infinity team, not for disagreeing with what I said about the newspost but for getting Infinity involved in this, which has clearly nothing to do with this!

Thats all I have to say about this in public, If you feel the need to insult me even more and or just want to have a normal discussion, you can always contact me: alphaorionis01(at)

-2 votes     reply to comment
Tex1090 Jan 23 2010, 6:27pm replied:

@Betelgeuze: I do believe you have mixed up several different comments to be from a single person, where you're wrong. But anyways:

1. He wasn't saying you don't keep promises, no where did he blatantly say "I like developers who keep their promises, un-like you." He said "maybe you don't." which is in no way an insinuated attack on you, but a simple gesture as he does not KNOW you. What he was getting at, is that Wolfire Games had promised a video of the pink beard if they reached 1000 sales during the sale of the Organic Pack, and he liked that they had went through on their promise and gave out a video. You're complaints of the news could be said about any other mod, I don't come on here to see the other mods/indie games, but to see the ones I want to see, so should I complain about their news? Or just ignore which is so simple to do.

2. No one here has insulted you in anyway, you're honestly taking everything people have said, twisting it into a different context, and throwing it back out as if it was directed in a threatening motion towards you or the Infinity Team, take a chill pill and relax, because you're going a bit far-fetched with everything here.

anyways, Wolfire Team, keep up the good work :D This tutorial actually made me want to try out a few things with my new tablet that I didn't really think of doing before-hand. Keep up the updates, they're nice to see and need to keep coming as often as they do, Overgowth, NS2, and L.U.R.K. are the only things I look at here on Moddb anymore.

+4 votes     reply to comment
feillyne Staff Subscriber
feillyne Jan 23 2010, 8:21pm replied:

Please, just let it go, we should stop accusing anybody before it gets too far.

Unfortunately, I don't like the omission of news of webcomic so begged for by Betelgeuze, especially when I don't have time for blogs, even Overgrowth's one.

This or that way, it seems to be better if Overgrowth team will keep rolling out news about any new activity or material.

+5 votes   reply to comment
jeffr Author
jeffr Jan 23 2010, 8:37pm replied:

I really dont want you to resign from Infinity over a ModDB photoshop tutorial, so I'm emailing you to clear up any misunderstandings. This really is not a big deal. ;)

+4 votes   reply to comment
ShinobiNFC Jan 23 2010, 5:21pm replied:

It's really not a problem since their posts are awesome. One of the main things I check for on moddb now.

+4 votes     reply to comment
phunkracy Jan 23 2010, 6:54am says:
Only Microsoft Paint! :)

+2 votes     reply to comment
RogerRamjet Jan 23 2010, 8:43am says:

Nice tutorial. Reminds me of making games on the Amiga back in the day. "Everything" was pixel art. It is amazing how much information one can convey in only moving a few pixels around.

+2 votes     reply to comment
SinKing Jan 23 2010, 8:50am says:

Gif Animation will never die! It just looks so cool, no matter if we need it in times of Flash and Co.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Oktyabr Jan 23 2010, 10:41am says:

Nice, short, inspiring tutorial!

Yes, GIMP can do this too. Be sure to select "None" under Interpolation when using transform tools (double click the tool icon). Same thing as CS2's "Nearest Neighbor". Google "GIMP animation" for tons of tutorials on animation.

Inkscape is a vector art program that some use for pixels as well.

Synfig is a full blown cartoon workshop which may be interesting especially to those wanting to animate.

Pencil is another dedicated animation workshop. Open source, Mac, Win, Nix:

I agree that Overgrowth news shows up a lot on here and I can understand some of the resentment but really what it points to is a needed improvement in this website to allow filtering of news by project or something similar. If only other games I cared about posted as frequently!

+2 votes     reply to comment
ianna_keeper Jan 23 2010, 4:16pm says:

now I'll track this game. thanks for tutorial ^^

+2 votes     reply to comment
wazanator Jan 23 2010, 4:59pm says:

A simple yet easy program I played with for awhile was GameMaker its basically a simple way to make a flash game but comes with a sprite editor that is easy to use. Plus its free!

+2 votes     reply to comment
TropicalBob Jan 24 2010, 7:35am says:

I kinda suck at all types of art, but I think I'll try my (very shaky) hand at this now! <3

I think my main problem is that I'm too much of a self-perfectionist, and my artistic talents are crap. So I always scrap half of what I do at any given point and eventually give up.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Dave27 Jan 25 2010, 3:53am says:

I think that the pixel art is vital to any game not just overgrowth otherwise where is the desktop icon, the title screen or for that matter the user inface, menus etc.....

Even if some of the news posts aren't that relevent just ignore it if your not interested. I have read some pointless things off the front page by lots of other people Wolfire keep up the good work :)

I love doddling on paint might actually have a go on Photoshop never really thought of it for pixal art till now

+2 votes     reply to comment
Spenzerr Jan 28 2010, 3:05am says:

this any good first try on gimp 2, the eyes are messing me up and i jsut kept checking if it matched the actually photo. anyway give me some tips if yah like.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Spenzerr Jan 28 2010, 3:10am replied:


the eyes are messing me up but if yah have any advice i'd like to hear em

+1 vote     reply to comment
jeffr Author
jeffr Jan 28 2010, 5:34pm replied:

Nice work!

+2 votes   reply to comment
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