How to make pixel art with Photoshop with this step-by-step guide

pixel art of a rodent

Would you like to learn how to do pixel art with Photoshop? Do you want to create images in the style of retro video games and give an original and fun touch to your projects? If the answer is yes, this article is for you.

In this article we are going to teach you how to make pixel art with Photoshop, one of the most popular and versatile image editing programs out there. With the tool, you can create pixel art easy way and fun, and unleash your creativity. Only you have to follow these steps.

What is pixel art

A pixel art on the wall

Pixel art It is a form of digital art that consists of creating images with pixels, that is, small squares of color that form the basic unit of digital screens. Pixel art has a style retro and nostalgic, reminiscent of video games and graphics from the years 80 and 90.

This art is characterized by having images small and simple, with a limited and contrasting color palette. It is based on abstraction and simplification, and does not seek to be realistic or detailed. This one is inspired by the aesthetics of 8-bit and 16-bit games, which had technical limitations in rendering complex graphics.

Pixel art tends to result in an art that requires patience, precision and creativity. It is done by painting individual pixels on a canvas, using different tools and programs. In this it can be applied to different types of images, such as characters, objects, landscapes, scenes, animations or icons.

In general, pixel art is an art that has many fans and admirers, who consider it a form of expression original and fun. An art that has its own history, culture and community. Finally, it is an art that is still alive and evolving, adapting to the new technologies and trends.

Step 1: Create a new document

Some humans in pixel art

The first thing you have to do to make pixel art with Photoshop is to create a new document. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Open the Photoshop program on your computer.
  • Click on the menu Archive and select the option New.
  • A window will open where you can configure the options of the new document. Choose a name for your project, for example “Pixel Art”.
  • In section Size, choose the dimensions you want for your image. Remember that pixel art is characterized by having small and simple images, so you don't need to use very large measurements. For example, you can use a size of 64 x 64 pixels, or even less.
  • In section Decision, choose a low value, such as 72 ppi (pixels per inch). This will make the pixels look sharper and more defined.
  • In section Color mode, choose the option RGB (red, green, and blue), which is the most common format for digital images.
  • In section Background content, choose the option Blanco o Transparent, as you prefer. White will give you a solid background, while transparent will allow you to see the pixel grid.
  • Click on the  Create.

Step 2: Draw with the Brush Tool

rpg items

The next step to do pixel art with Photoshop is to draw with the Brush tool. This tool allows you to paint pixels of different colors on your canvas. to draw with the brush tool, follow these steps:

  • Select the Brush tool in the side toolbar. You can recognize it by its icon of a brush.
  • In the bar top options, adjusts the properties of the brush. Please choose a small size, for example, 1px or 2px, to be able to paint individual pixels. Choose one 100% hardness, so that the edges of the brush are sharp and not blurred. Choose a blend mode of normal and an opacity of 100%, so that the color of the brush is solid and do not blend into the background.
  • Choose a color for your brush in the color palette. You can use the default colors or customize them to your liking. Remember that pixel art is based on using limited and contrasting colors, so do not use too many shades or too similar to each other.
  • Start drawing on your canvas with the brush. You can use the mouse or a graphics tablet to move the brush. You can change colors whenever you want by clicking on the color palette. You can erase what you don't like with the Eraser tool, which has an icon of a eraser.
  • Draw what you want: a character, an object, a landscape... Use your imagination and creativity. Don't worry about details or being realistic, pixel art is based on abstraction and simplification. You can be inspired by examples of pixel art that you find on the Internet or in your favorite video games.

Step 3.1: Add Shadows and Highlights with Dodge and Burn

planet surface image

The last step to do pixel art with Photoshop is to add shadows and highlights with the Dodge and Burn tools. These tools allow you to lighten or darken pixels in your image, thus creating an effect of depth and volume. To add shadows and highlights with the tool Dodge and Burn, follow these steps:

Overexpose

  • Select the Dodge tool in the side toolbar. You can recognize it by its icon of a sun. This tool allows you to lighten the pixels of your image, thus creating a light effect.
  • In the top options bar, adjusts the properties of the tool. choose a small size, for example, 1 px or 2 px, so that you can affect individual pixels. Choose a low exposure, such as 10% or 20%, so that the effect is subtle and not too intense. Choose a halftone mode, so that the effect is uniform and does not vary depending on the color of the pixel.
  • choose the pixels that you want to lighten with the Dodge tool. Think about where the source would be of light in your image, and apply the tool to the pixels that would be most illuminated by it. For example, if the light is coming from above, lighten the pixels at the top of your image. Do not lighten all the pixels of the same color, but only some, to create an effect of gradation and contrast.

Underexpose

  • Select the burn tool in the side toolbar. You can recognize it by its icon of a moon. This tool allows you to darken the pixels of your image, thus creating a shadow effect.
  • In the top options bar, adjust the tool's properties. Please choose a small size, for example, 1px or 2px, to be able to affect individual pixels. Choose a low exposure, such as 10% or 20%, so that the effect is subtle and not too intense. Choose a halftone mode, so that the effect is uniform and does not vary depending on the color of the pixel.
  • choose the pixels that you want to darken with the tool Underexpose. Think about where the shadow would be on your image, and apply the tool over the pixels that would be most obscured by it. For example, if the light comes from above, it darkens the pixels on the bottom of your image. Do not darken all the pixels of the same color, but only some, to create an effect of gradation and contrast.

Turn whatever you want into pixels!

A drawing on cloth

As you have seen, making pixel art with Photoshop is very easy and fun. Just create a new document, draw with the Brush tool, and add shadows and highlights with the Dodge and Burn tools. With these steps, you can create pixel art in a way quick and simple, and give a retro and original touch to your images.

We hope this article will have been useful and now you can make pixel art with Photoshop with complete confidence. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can leave us a comment. And if you liked the article, feel free to share it with your friends and followers. Thanks for reading us!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

*

*

  1. Responsible for the data: Miguel Ángel Gatón
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.