How would one go about learning to draw pixel art/sprites for games

Discussion in 'GBAtemp Art Studio' started by Sop, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. Sop
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    Banned Sop groovy dude lmao

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    Hey, I've been wanting to make a game for about a year now, but have never really felt motivated to do it, I am going to be doing the composing and coding, but my friend who wants to do the art, has only ever worked with traditional art mediums (which he's pretty good at), and knows nothing about the software, nor the hardware and making a nice looking image. How would he go about learning to sprite?
     
  2. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    Normally I am the last person you probably want to consult on art matters unless you want a clinical option but I reckon I can claim a reasonable amount of knowledge here, a reasonable amount of skill is a different matter. I will try to avoid making the distinction between spritework and animation for the moment as it is not a useful one in small projects. I will note animation is a massive timesink to do well.

    Three schools of thought

    1) Jump right in. You have probably played games all your lives and though that might mean you consider the N64 an old console (and if you were born when it was released in Aus I would be wishing you happy 16th birthday in about 2 weeks so that is not so bad) and you missed out on 16 bit and older at the time you have probably gone back or seen a lot of it. You might not know the names of the techniques but you can probably figure them out.

    2) Traditional artistic progression. A lot of the art rules about drawing people and objects still apply. Though breaking them is quite important for a lot of sprite work (large heads and disproportionate things).
    Still start with a stick figure and move sideways works well enough.

    3) Emulate console progression. Kind of like 2) really but start with spectrum style, move to 8 bit, move to 16 bit and then factor in arcade niceties. Bonus is you will probably learn a lot if you take it seriously- most people will probably know Mario's moustache was a trick to avoid making a mouth (or at least so the story goes) but there are other nice things like Lemmings ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a6/Lemming_animation.gif - reverse engineer what was done), prince of persia (well noted for rotoscoping) and doom (more on that in a moment).

    4?) The cheating bastard methods. Twofold of vector images (modern street fighter is probably the most notable for this) and nearest neighbour shrinking/psuedo rotoscoping- doom was fairly noted for this where they would make clay models, scan them and turn them into sprites for enemies. 3d is increasingly used as well though it goes back a long way (SNES Donkey Kong being a good example though not really the earliest) and today stuff like NSMB on the DS uses 3d models all in hardware instead of sprites.
    I would also suggest at least a couple of hours reading up on voxels.

    I really also ought to mention when you say sprite are you going for actual restrictions in them like one working on the consoles might face and workaround techniques (palette swapping, composite sprites- legs on half and top half swaps out at will....) or are you going PC like where it just takes a bit more CPU, storage and memory and you can do anything? This comes into play first when people want to use gradients and multiply/darkening effects (I see it often enough when helping out with titlescreen hacks).

    Software.... to each their own, I tend to be more on the editing/replacing front so the worst I have to do is regen a frame/create an intermediate if I am doing a sprite swap or something so I am probably not going to be much good on the ultra specialist $15000 a chair but does sprites, does sprite animation and does it all spectacularly software- good old Gimp, restricting myself by thinking what I can not do and using a few restrictions the program affords works well enough for me. If I were to start paying for something then http://www.humanbalance.net/gale/us/ would be where I start though http://aseprite.com/ (an open source rough equivalent) would probably catch my eye beforehand. As prices go up more things appear ( http://www.cosmigo.com/promotion/index.php first of all) but I am not sure what to say here as we have left my area of comfort.
    Likewise though I called it a cheating bastard method plenty of game devs in antiquity and beyond use conventional image editors ( http://gbatemp.net/threads/once-you-see-it-classic-game-title-screens.326030/ ) and "spriteify" it when it comes to actually getting it done. If you want gifs I like http://www.benetonsoftware.com/Beneton_Movie_GIF.php though the paid GraphicsGale does well enough here.
    As I mentioned it for vector work I tend to use inkscape http://inkscape.org/

    More than any other art area though you will probably want to land yourself a drawing tablet for this. An entry level Wacom tablet seems to run about the price of a game, a proper one is a different matter (hundreds) but entry level should be good enough for the time being. I am not sure what exists on the "abuse a regular tablet as a remote control" front right now though it could be interesting.
     
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  3. Sop
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    Banned Sop groovy dude lmao

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    Fast, how did you get so good at answering questions?
     
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  4. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    Good might be a bit strong - I usually find my answers end up long and rambly enough that someone might be able to read something into it. Also almost everybody around here cares about computers, computer games, electronics and physics/chemistry/maths areas of science - ask me questions on a topic not related to those (the only reason I can do stuff for 2d artwork is because in the likes of the consoles graphics tricks are made in silicon- it will flip, scale, rotate and composite things there) save perhaps for a bit of light literary criticism and it will probably not be me answering.
     
  5. Sop
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    Banned Sop groovy dude lmao

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    I can see that you're interested in those areas, but that's not my point. I sometimes find my answers to be long and rambly, but I'd like to do more rambling, how do I become as great a rambler as yourself?
     
  6. FAST6191

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    That one is easy enough- everything branches and has related areas in another field. If you think it does not you are either wrong or working at the very pinnacle of a field, though you could still be wrong and if you are doing science you almost certainly are wrong. If you want to ramble on then speak of those related areas; in reply to your question I spoke of voxels, cheating techniques and 3d from a viewpoint so that it looks like 2d, granted that may fall under the sprites remit but straight pixel art it is not. This need not be completely off topic but a few analogies and worked examples.
    Bonus is that a tiny bit of knowledge from another area can often bump up your game in one you are playing in; here you could make great artwork but if you constantly use all the colours you can and need to load 60 sprites into memory for an animation you are going to make your programmer's life a pain if you are working on limited hardware, however if you tone down your use of colours and maybe consider that the bottom half of your sprite can be the same and stitch it back together you have made their life easier and probably made things look better by virtue of being able to get more done.

    The main problems with this approach to life though is that it tends to see you only know how much more there is to know and schools tend to discourage this- time you spend learning other things is time you do not spend memorising things for tests and getting good grades. For my money this means when you finally do encounter a situation where you need to apply some knowledge you can usually make something happen*.

    *you probably saw this in a maths class when the shift from "solve this quadratic equation" to "here are some words, you need to realise it is a quadratic equation at the heart of it all for you to solve" hit and people you might not have expected to falter did indeed falter.
     

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