Be a Pixelartist

You've seen the pixeltrain in the news? You wonder how to create these sharp, excellent looking pictures with your blurry brushes? You want to create some tiny pixelimages?
So here's how to do it.

Setting up Photoshop

For the creation of pixelart it's important not to use any antialiasing or other "calculated" colors. That's why we need to change the settings of all the tools we're using to fit our needs.
The brush of our choice will be the Pencil, so bring it up in your toolbar by selecting it. we could also need some selection-tools, so make sure to select the Magic Wand, the Circular Marquee and the (Polygonal) Lasso Tools and uncheck "Anti-aliased" . Since we're just about to learn the art of pixeling images, we surely will need the Eraser, too. Select it and change it's mode to "Pencil" .
Both of these Settings can be found in your Tool-Options (Window > Show Options).

Pixeling Images

Creating an image with these tools is kinda simple, but still some hard work. First of all, think of a subject and have a rough outline of your image in mind. Then zoom in (Ctrl +) as much as you like, personally I often work with zooms from 700% to 1200%. This will help you place your pixels right.
Now use the pencil and your selection-tools (Alt + Backspace to fill your selection) to create a plain solid black shape. Pay attention not to use weird angles, but stick to the few basic ones shown at the image. Others may make your image look crumpy. Also pay attention to the edges of your ouline. To create a small round corner fr example, just delete the pixel in the very corner and it will work. Too much outline without any filling color will make your picture look like crap, so try to avoid this.
Now select the black shape you just created by ctrl-clicking your layer, choose Selection > Modify > Contract, enter "1" and hit Return and afterwards Delete. This created a nice black outline which will be our canvas for the colors. Just proceed creating shapes, fill them with nice colors, add some details and stuff. Make sure, to check your image in 100% zoom now and then, to check if it works as you want it to.
Keep in mind that a gif, what is, what we're saving this work as afterwards, supports not more than 256 different colors. So rather pick an already existing shade of your color than creating a new one.

Creating Gradients

Just because we're pixeling it doesn't mean the image has to be boring as hell. Some nice Gradients will make it more interesting and professional.
But how to create gradients when not using the Gradient-Tool (since it would not be very pixelatish, huh?)? Just create a basic gradient using 2-5 different shades of the same color. Then grab these colors again and start to add pixel outside of it's area.. when zoomed out, it will look like a nice gradient, enhancing the quality of your image. The more work you put into this, the better the result will be.

There's also a cheap trick to add a semi-pixel-gradient without having the work:
Just select the area you want to "shade" (for example by ctrl-clicking it's layer) and create a new layer on top. Then grab the Gradient-tool, change it to "Foreground to Transparent", pick your color and draw your gradient. Now for the cheesy part: Change the layers blendmode to "Dissolve" and you'll see that it looks nearly pixelated. Always remember: It stinks.

Adding Shadows and Lightning

Now the Image looks already pretty nice, but something is still missing.. light and shadow.
Nothing's simpler than that.
Just use your Marquee-tools to select the upper one or two pixel of an object and fill it with a slightly brighter than base color to create some nice effect in 100% view. Also add shadows below of any outstanding objects the same way, this time just use a darker color. Any windows in your image? Make sure to darken the edge-pixel of the inner objects a bit, so they look somewhat embedded.
To create a dropshadow of any object, don't use the Layer-Style. It will be blurred and thus making your picture not being a pixelimage anymore. Just pick a darker-than-background color and start adding pixel after pixel with your pencil.


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