This is a critique thread, but not like the usual ones. Here we will post art (either ours or not, respectfully) where we marvel at great cluster composition and/or offer better solutions for problems in the clusters. This thread is not about animation, palette choice, style or whatever else, it's strictly about great use of clusters.
For those that do not follow the Ramblethread
, a brief definition of "cluster"
- A group of pixels (more than 1 pixel) of the same color, making a shape.
You can call it whatever you like, pixel group, brush stroke, pixel shape, pixel form, whatever. Just as long as we know what we're talking about.
To understand what makes a good cluster (according to me, at least) either read the Ramblethread or follow this thread as it progresses and you'll figure it out. The purpose of this thread is to raise awareness of solid cluster usage for new artists coming to pixel art and old artists that want to branch out in what is often called 'new school' pixel art technique.
I'll start out with an examination of a sprite from Shin Megami Tensei for the SNES, which is from an age long past, decades before any 'new-school' even existed, or even the term 'pixel art' was floated.
This is such a wonderful sprite. I'm going to focus on a few well done situations and then I'm going to do an edit on a few problematic bits. After reading the 'positives' below, I'm going to ask you to be proactive: study the sprite in your image editor and try to fix as many cluster issues as you see and remove banding. Then compare to my own edit to see what we did differently and why.
A. Although the embroidery bands with the outline of the fabric, I think it's a fair trade because the fabric has great flow and the embroidery really adds to the holy warrior aspect of the sprite. The fabric convincingly is one three clusters. One is the big 'triangle' in the front with a taper towards and under the legs where just one single line width edge conveys the end of the shape. The complicated shadow under that single line width edge is another cluster, which bands a bit and can be cleaned up. The third cluster is the shadow of the fabric (right under the green "A") which also could be done with better pixel tech where it buffers into the primary cluster, but it's still very good.
B. The main thing I love about this sprite is the armor. Given the few colors used, there's some broken outlines here (right over the "B") which I can live with because the mind fills in the gaps and can see it's a continuation of the shadow of the kneepad cluster made out of three pixels above and to the left of the B. There are other solutions to this, but I can roll with that.
Right under the B we have a pretty brave cluster combination. The highlight of the edge of the armor meets the shadow of the whole kneepad, which is a triangular cluster with a strong vertical line. I just adore this sort of solution and do it in my own pixel art all the time. Strong and immediately visible for what it is. The boots of the sprite do not fare as well and are a complicated jumble of shapes, I'll address that in my edit.
C. This is another armor edge which I love, look especially how the 45 degree cluster tapers with a darker red to round out the armor. Again, this sort of thing has been influential on me. I can even give a pass to the single red pixel right above the 'C' because the mind can see it's part of the buffer between the shadow cluster and the highlight cluster on top. There are more elegant solutions, still.
D. This whole thing has some banding, but it's been admirably dealt with on the whole. We have here the continuous, flowing and bending single cluster of the back of the loincloth fabric, and ON TOP we have two stands of clothing flowing over it. As you can see again there's a single pixel line going through them, darkening and lightening itself according to its volume and a lightsource. The only thing to do over that is to remove some banding and make the bends even sharper, I would say.
E. Again, armor and edge highlight. A foreshortened bracer works pretty well visually, I just love it. Only problem is an unfortunate vertical band where the edge highlight meets the shadow of the bracer. Also note that the two edge highlight clusters are the exact shame shape, which can be debated as a good or bad idea.
I am going to list some problematic areas now in vague terms and you should look to address them before reading onwards:
- open palm and hand over the wing
- the hair
- single pixels
- sword banding
- armor faux dither
Alright, got all that? Here's my take:
There's still problems, but I hope some of my changes make sense.
Now, what to do in this thread:
1. Detailed critique as in the above
2. Just post images with great clusters for us to debate on and study
3. Ask questions to disambiguate the term or various issues surrounding it
4. Post your own images just for cluster edits and critique
5. Debate theory
6. Have fun and learn and rub the bellies of pugs and french bulldogs