What better way to fulfill your retro fantasy than making your own pixel art? Triple-A titles may be boasting the latest and greatest graphics money can buy, but there’s still nothing quite like the simplistic charm of the pixelated world. Digital painting with tiny squares is not just approachable, but it also provides a satisfying creative pride. I’ve curated a list of resources to get you started on your own artistic adventure.
For the past four years, MortMort has been providing a myriad of RPG inspired artwork and a community based approach to his channel. His tutorials range from fundamentals of art software tools to full character creations. He’s known for his heavy interaction with his followers through art challenges, Twitch streams, Q&A’s, and more. He’s also a great resource for anyone wanting to explore the realm of level design as he uploads tutorials on creating tilesets (pixel patterns to create settings, platforms, landscapes, and buildings).
His art challenges are both engaging and uplifting to the gaming community. In one of his art challenges he gathers his followers, picks a Twitch streamer, and bombards their Twitch stream chat with fanart. It’s a real treat that paints a smile on other faces in the community.
A tenured artistic talent in the industry, Pixel Pete features insight on what it’s like to work as a professional artist in the game development world. He works for Half Human Games on the title Dwerve and has some background in traditional pencil-to-paper sketch art as well. Professor Pete’s Pixel Art 101 series gets viewers excited to jump into the digital art world with detailed tutorials on landscape components like rocks, water, trees, bushes, and other important fundamentals.
If you want to start your own small project, why not try following his Gameboy Studio tutorials? Each video shows a different aspect of creating a functioning game in the classic Gameboy style from sprites to spawning. He even details how to use the software to program interactions between characters or other elements you create.
Brandon James Greer
My personal favorite on this list, Brandon James Greer dives deep into essential art concepts like perspective, color theory, sizing, and linework. He’s cultivated quite a following on Instagram due to his console hardware inspired characters and animated street view scenes. He’s even got a detailed series on sprite analysis, a breakdown of sprite elements from popular games.
When Greer creates his own characters, he ends his tutorial with a character sheet that includes expressions, sprite animations, life icons, and weapons. He even walks through the process of creating a mock game title for a front cover. There’s plenty of information to dissect and inspire your own creations just from looking at his fully loaded sheets. Some episodes even end with short segment of the animation on a CRT TV for a heartwarming, nostalgic effect.
While this channel doesn’t feature any true tutorials for beginners, Kirokaze works as great fuel for inspiration. His channel is comprised of gripping timelapses. Much of his work has a futuristic, cyberpunk feel. His style can run a bit darker than the others on this list, but the cityscapes he puts together are stellar. An upload called Signs shows off his skills in pairing visual elements with raw emotion from music.
If you’re looking for someone to show you the ropes step-by-step, then this channel probably isn’t for you. But this is a great source of creative energy for those who are intermediate level or above in the pixel art discipline.
If you could draw anything in pixel art, what would it be and why? Would you architect a robot city for a sci-fi game? Or maybe you’d rather square up the next popular RPG character. Let me know if any of these resources helped you draw your own adventure.