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Messages - Gil
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Yeah, he said 21 inch Cintiq

I like watching pretty pictures and having Mark Ferrari explain them :crazy:

Pixel Art / Re: Need some HELP with this spaceship
« on: April 15, 2016, 08:13:20 am »
I wrote this in another thread on the topic of spaceships:


Okay, so first, the ship designs. For a shooter like this, it's all about silhouettes. Your silhouettes are pretty good, with the player ship having the most interesting shape. Your enemy ships could use a bit more variation, all seem to be different versions of triangular wings. Experiment with some shapes. Always start with silhouette for these if you can. Here's the player ship silhouette:

That's pretty good! As you can tell, the silhouette loses some of the details of the original ship, so you could spend some extra time here getting it right. A small edit here to make the lines a bit more sleek and to get the back of the ship to look less blocky might be all that's needed, but you could obviously spend hours on this step.


For my edit, I deliberately changed the different parts of the ship to be more blocky, to make the shading easier and more obvious. Also, it allowed me to show a bunch of tricks that were used in Dodonpachi, one of the legendary shooters you should certainly study. There's two threads about it on Pixelation here and here. Unfortunately there's a lot of broken images due to the age of the threads.

The basic design I used was this:

As you can tell, I moved the light source above the ship to make shading a bit easier, though I agree that the side lighting you use is a staple of shooters and very fun too. Basically, I made easy to shade geometric blocks and made sure that each flat plane is all the same shade. That's where you went wrong for example. A flat wing will be one shade of color, because every spot gets hit by the light at the same angle. This is true for global directional light sources like the sun, yours is more shaded like the plane is being followed by a spotlight, but even then it's not shaded correctly.

A cool way to do this step with new technology is to work with 3D renders here. You can design the ships in 3D, with basic shapes and flat shading (important!) and even animate them tilting and such and then apply the colors and detailing afterwards. Do notice that this requires some proper 3D knowledge to pull off (not a lot though). If you can't figure out the 3D, it's better not to go this route. Some relevant threads are here and here, though neither really follow the process I outlined. If possible, I'll try to get an example going, but I need some help on that part.

Notice that my background is not white or black. This is a trick we pixel artists use to make sure the palette isn't playing tricks on us. Cyangmou explains it better than I can here. In your case, if the ships are always displayed on a pure black background, you might be able to get away with a black background, but certainly not a white one. Trust us that this will negatively affect your colors. Which brings me to:


Color theory is complex. It's a science, it's an art, it's experience. There's tons and tons and tons of resources online, from specific pixel art theories to web-design articles, to paint mixing. All of them are relevant and interesting. One of our Pixelation members, Arne, is pretty much an expert on the subject. You can find some of his stuff here, here and here.

One of the things to remember is that there's basic colors, like "red", but there's infinite shades of red, ranging all the way over orange to yellow or over magenta towards purple. Never pick a pure red unless you know what you're doing, tint it slightly orange or purplish, make it dull, make it lighter, etc. Basically, color is build up from three values, hue, saturation and brightness. Look these terms up, play with them. I personally like to use very saturated colors, but you should avoid using 100% saturated colors as a rule (or at least be aware that you're using highly saturated colors). Greys are also very important. Grey is a color of infinite variety too. By completely desaturating your greys, you limit yourself to a single hue, which is bad. Though personally, I kinda like the effect of mixing very saturated colors with pure grey details, for machinery. For your enemy designs though, since the grey is not detail, avoid using the boring 100% desaturated grey.

I'm hoping that someone else might jump in to give more primers on color theory for you, as this is a complex subject, one that I am not a master at.


Dodonpachi style games like to use a lot of detailing. While improving your overall look, it's also very fun to do. I just subdivided a lot of the bigger planes, added some grey machinery, etc. Also, I used some of the yellow details to look like they're self-illuminating (the wing insets and the engine exhausts). I also added some brackets to bring back some of that wonderful silhouette that I lost when trying to simplify the forms. If you go with a more organic shape like your original, you can still put in a lot of detailing.

As a general rule of thumb of the detailing, I used a dark line to do the detailing, then put a light line next to it, to make the detailing "pop". After that next step is done, I just go in and do tweaks to make certain surfaces more rounded, vary some edges, etc. This last step is less important and will just provide a level of polish that comes with years of experience. The final polish is better left out than done improperly, though I do think that the extra curvature I gave to the wings is needed.

Here's a two-step example of the detailing, with the wing, which has that final layer of polish, next to it. Notice that I inset the yellow parts for extra detail and that the yellow is shaded in a way to suggest it's its own light-source (like it's slightly glowing). You could add a light blur on top of that, like you did with the red lights on your enemies, if you want. Keep the original image and palette clean though, so you can easily edit it afterwards. Adding a post-effect glow will ruin the pixels from being easily edited. I made sure to keep a clean 16-color palette for ease of use.

Here's an example with post effects for the glow (not a very good example):

Combining pixel art and post-effects like this is tricky, but fun. Remember: keep the originals clean!

Ages back, when I was starting out like you, I made these, which have a different style (but still contain some detailing), might be a cool comparison:

I disapprove of the checkerboard pattern shading (called dithering) I used on the enemy sprite's organic liver-type attachments. These days I wouldn't recommend that style of shading.

I hope this is helpful and a good primer for general pixel art and space shooters in particular. I hope it helps :)

Not sure what you're referring to here
I was just agreeing with the general tone of your post, that there's better ways these days to go about what he's trying to do. Again, that didn't stop the video from blowing me away :)

For him, the genre definition of PixelArt pretty much was what you could do in Deluxe Paint.
Yeah, that's it exactly, which is more of what we would call a "demoscene" mindset, than what most of us are trying to do, especially at more genre-specific galleries, like PixelJoint. That said, even for people that are looking towards that part of the experience, there's a lot of gems in this talk :)

Ai, we are miles and miles ahead of what he's doing right now, it's his older stuff that's interesting, not his workflow in Photoshop today, which I thought was rather cringe worthy. The resulting art is fun, but that workflow could be a lot better. He never claimed to be an expert on Photoshop though, in fact, he clearly stated that tool experience is very important to him.

Oh man, I love Mark Ferrari so much. He's right up my alley in more than just one way, thanks for sharing that talk.

I think his main point is very interesting: that the reason he was able to master the form was time+tools. That a tool, such as the latest greatest game engine is worthless, if no one is spending ten years mastering the form. You can see this on consoles, by comparing the graphics of a console release title to an end-of-life title.

That being said, Mark is very much a tools person, learning the nooks and crannies of tools to be able to produce art that looks better than what his peers are able to do with those same restrictions. This philosophy is completely the opposite of what a lot of people here and in the larger "pixel art" sphere are trying to do by trying to make art of a similar quality with as much restrictions as they can muster. The only reason Mark's art is even interesting to a lot of us, is that time factor, causing him to stay in the 8bit sphere for so long.

Personally I'm somewhere in between Mark's camp and the pixel art camp (I think what Tim Soret and Cyangmou are doing is more or less where I find myself going to). Not that any camp is "right", people should find value where they find value.

Pixel Art / Re: Beginner's Face [C+C]
« on: April 11, 2016, 06:36:17 pm »
I think that's a fine plan, I'd just add one more thing.

Skull --> Planes --> Muscles --> Fat (skin) --> Face

Knowing how facial planes work is kinda like the forest, muscles are the trees. Going straight from skull to muscles might get you lost. I also recommend looking up how fat tissue works, that's why I changed skin to fat. Just thinking about skin will make you try to wrap the muscles, while fat tissue will sometimes do weird things, so you have to study both at the same time. Alternatively, you could start studying the face as soon as you master planes and use fat/skin/muscles studies to better understand what you're doing.

Pixel Art / Re: Beginner's Face [C+C]
« on: April 10, 2016, 07:17:04 pm »
Biggest issue is the forehead thing Prism indicated. The eyes should be more or less halfway down the face. Overall, the issue is that you need to learn how to construct the skull to actually draw the face upon.

Pixel Art / Re: Naru Pixel Art
« on: April 10, 2016, 07:03:23 pm »
The AA you did doesn't work, it just looks blurry. In fact, in a couple of places, it makes the line even more jagged than it was.

Here's a small example of how to fix it:


One handy rule of thumb that you hear a lot: if you are AAing 45 lines, you are probably doing something wrong.

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