Here is a breakdown of my pixel commission process, using the sprite I am working on for domoblog's commission, Roxie! The final sprite will use the character's correct palette, but here is a glimpse of how I tend to work on bigger sprites like this one. I don't worry about keeping the palette right at first, so I like to pick colors to represent color boundaries so I can make sure each area reads.

I am constantly sculpting sprites to eke out any illusion of curvature I can use to make the final product look solid. It’s important to omit details that don’t read while working so you can plan around possible tangents and other readability issues that can come up as you add complexity to your piece. 

Would you like a pixel piece of your character, or some other piece from me? Here are my prices!

February 21, 2008
Oekaki drawn in MS Paint
MS Paint Vista Default Palette

The oversized features of characters in Street Fighter 4 were jarring when the first still frames were introduced, but the exaggeration helped keep everything easy to track in practice. This was one of my more ambitious MS Paint projects, requiring at least five or so files to finish. These MS Paintings taught me quite a bit about palette management.

I’ve been sick for a while, so I was unable to finish this pixel prototype in time for father’s day. The last thing I was working on was a prototype of Anthem’s dad, Cliff, the previous man to bear the title “Anthem” and protect machines and cyborgs from the wizard menace. I’m still working on fixing up Cliff’s silhouette and nail down the design for his mechanical parts. Anthem’s dad is one of his closest friends in the whole world.

February 27, 2007
Oekaki drawn in Paint.NET
Paint.NET Default Palette

I never liked the main character of Kingdom Hearts as a teenager. I didn’t have anything against Sora, but I thought things would be more interesting if say, Barrett were Mr. Kingdom Hearts instead of him. Looking back, I still think that’s true. E3 isn’t over yet, so maybe I can still hope… 

I’ve been sick for a few days, but still getting work done on sprites. I like to work on pixel art the same way I work on any other illustration. Many of the sprites I am building are initial studies that will be used to build the actual sprites I’ll be using in my game project
The purpose of the studies is to hone my anatomy skills as well as to develop a consistent anti-aliasing and shading style for this project. A quick turnaround helps me tweak the design of my sprites if they don’t quite work correctly in the first few iterations. I have an easier time solving small anti-aliasing and other rendering problems if I’ve already addressed them before. I begin humanoid sprites I will be animating as nudes, using things like belly buttons as landmarks.

Boss Battle v. Anthem
Project Synesthesia Boss Battle Theme A.
KORG M01 Composition

I’ve attempted to transcribe this song to KORG M01d several times since the app was released, but only recently managed to scrutinize and fix the messy percussion from the original. I’ve lately been doubling the tempo of the songs I’ve previously written to effectively have double the “resolution” to work with, since KORG M01/D does not allow one to work any smaller than single steps. I learned this technique while working with mbchips and his milkytracker files!


Select your character!
Project Synesthesia Character Selection Song
KORG M01 Composition

I’m still working on this song, but something about it still bothers me. I may end up composing a different character select theme entirely.

I’ve recently begun approaching recording from the 3DS in a different way that allows me to spend less time trying to figure out where the loop points are. It seems so obvious now, but previous recordings were done without first counting the duration the song should be given the number of total steps and the tempo. The whole process has been streamlined with this adjustment.


Most of tonight’s stream was dedicated to correcting issues with the secondary motion of Anthem's hair and preparing parts for the remaining bits of the walk cycle. I prefer to start off pixel animations in place but I like to move them forward when working on secondary details and checking arcs and the like. Animating this way isn't always the most exciting thing to watch, but stockpiling parts and taking measurements makes the whole process much easier to deal with. 

I bounce back and forth between Graphics Gale, Photoshop and Manga Studio 5 for my pixel workflow with a little bit of Illustrator tossed in. Manga Studio is where I start, drawing organic shapes and building my prototype. I move on to Gale for the bulk of my animation work and use Photoshop and Illustrator for various tasks such as equally distributing heel markers in the ground plane and combining frames to test arcs.

I’ll probably continue streaming tomorrow evening. See you guys then!

April 27, 2008
Oekaki drawn in MS Paint
MS Paint Vista Default Palette

The young cyborg, Anthem, had a flashier presentation in the early days of his design. He was also much more violent, especially towards the mobs of Salchicha dolls that may or may not have been innocent robots. Nowadays, he is more of a grappler than a capoeista, so a scene like this would be unlikely. The MS Paint airbrush tool makes for an attractive fade effect, making the large blue area easier on the eyes. This piece was one of many experiments using the MS Paint Vista default palette, which remains my favorite to this day!

I’m making good progress on that redesign for Anthem's sprite! I've made him somewhat bulkier and improved his anatomy in general. His arms are thicker now to help “sell” animations of him throwing and catching things; the thinner arms made those animation tests unconvincing. I included his navel because it is a landmark I need for determining the proper length of his arms. I generally make all my humanoid sprites nudes so I can reuse parts later. I'll probably livestream some more of this process tonight at around 7:30 PM EST.

The major difference between pixel art and any other form of illustration is how much more essential economy of line, color and shape are. All forms of illustration benefit from judicious use of these elements, but pixel art stops functioning when any of those aspects are off. I place my focus on form in my pixel work, so the beginning phases of spriting end up looking like a blueprint. I make more parts of each sprite than I use for individual frames, and reuse those parts later; as a result, all my sprites use a similar scale, with Anthem's head being the base unit for my soft shaded sprites and Rabid's head being the base unit for my hard shaded sprites.