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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
For practice, I like to revisit old concepts and play with them. Before the relaunch of my tumblr, I had a throwaway idea for a game that involved a mysterious cowboy with a Werewolf hand that rolled into town to clean up crime. The original doodle was discarded, but later I decided the player should be able to choose their gender. The game involved using the werewolf hand to block bullets, traverse platforms and that sort of thing.
All three protagonist design tests involved indicating a werewolf scratch on one arm and an oversized forearm/hand combo. I gave them each a little wheat somewhere on them, and tried to maintain a vertical stripe pattern on each torso. It was a fun exercise!
Tonight’s stream was a test that helped me prepare my next tutorial — how to work fast with Mischief! Hint — make a dot and zoom in the layer its on to make a quick background wash! Hint two — use free transform to your advantage! Mischief is vector based so transforms don’t harm the quality of lines or “fills”…
Had to cut tonight’s stream short again because I’m in the city right now. Working on designs for the antagonists of my game. Focused mainly on their leader, Black Timbre - a wizard that holds a grudge against the protagonist and his family for destroying his right arm. Ever resourceful, Timbre casts magic primarily with his feet, keeping his missing arm covered with a cloak.
I’ll be iterating on these designs. Thanks for coming to the stream!