AuthorTopic: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art  (Read 8417 times)

Offline Akzidenz

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Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

on: December 13, 2006, 12:53:39 am
I have a few questions that I've been wondering about ever since I started to get to know what the pixel art community was. They basically boil down to my confusion about the values of retro gaming and older gaming vernacular. Obviously, many systems have restrictions on sprite size/palette/etc, restrictions on tilesets, and so on. But with the majority of the technology that can now be used to code games, it doesn't seem like there are as many (if any) limitations - but people continue to work as if there were.

Keep in mind that I understand that restrictions/limitations are still totally necessary on some platforms (GBA, mobile, etc). The questions are not aimed at any sort of art or graphic created with necessary or unavoidable limitations.

Answer if you'd like, I'd love everyone's opinion.

- What sort of value do you place on the ability of a pixel artist to work within a specific, optimized palette or tileset? And why? Do you think that a large part of being a successful pixel artist comes from being able to effectively use a minimal set of tools (palette/tileset/animation frames/etc)?

- If you were to play a game made up of beautiful sprites and animations and backgrounds and tiles - but that game's artist had obviously not worked within any sort of restrictions - would you consider it legit? Or beautiful? Would you consider it a joke or a waste of time? Would you be more impressed with a game that used half as many colors but was slightly less beautiful?

- What purpose do you feel that limiting or restricting one's options serves when creating a piece of pixel art that needs have none? Is it craftsmanship? Is it tradition? Is it overrrated? Is it necessary?
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Offline crab2selout.png

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #1 on: December 13, 2006, 01:35:29 am
Too much colours and AA = badly done what photoshop would do better. Everyone knows about this kind of art. face has 20 shades, super smooth gradiant, but they always look like poorly done photoshop

The limitations are part of what makes it pixel art.

Offline Ryumaru

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #2 on: December 13, 2006, 01:42:54 am
restrictions are definitely important. who cares if you can make an awesome sprite, if it uses 256 colors? i basically always stay with 16 colors, for what i do, ive basically never needed more. the mindset that less colors = less pretty is a false mindset.

Offline Helm

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #3 on: December 13, 2006, 02:21:14 am
Small palettes make for better animations unless someone is willing to animate a main character for 2 years. Good keyframing makes for efficient animation that doesn't need superfulous inbetweening. Smart tile usage means you get to reuse assets instead of drawing the whole thing. Useful selfi-imposed restrictions are the ones that maximise your capacity to make assets in good time-schedules to meet your deadlines.  They don't have to do with platform limitations anymore, they have to do with empyrical knowledge of how to make a game and make it as fast and good as you can.

That's about pixel game art. About pixel art in general, I enjoy restrictions because they're inherently tied to the Computer Aesthetic from whence this art-form came. In working with restrictions one finds novel ways to approach both his subject matter and his intention towards creating art. If he's just doing cg work, but in smaller resolution, then that's that, but it's no pixel art. Draw once in c64 hi-res restrictions and what I say will become clear.

Offline Darien

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #4 on: December 13, 2006, 02:47:12 am
I believe artists should be concerned with minimizing their palettes, using no more colors than needed.  I extend this philosophy to other art as well, such as fiction.  For instance, there should not be in a short story a paragraph that adds nothing to the story, and can be deleted with no loss to the integrity of the story.  Likewise, in pixel art, there should be no extra colors that add nothing to the image, and can be deleted with no loss of integrity of the image.

As Bruce Lee said (although it would be more appropriate to bring this up if we had the old banner):

"It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential."

Offline crab2selout.png

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #5 on: December 13, 2006, 06:08:38 am
There's something uniqe about the restrictions of pixel art too. Unique in computer asthetics at least. My impression with 3d is taht if you only have so many polygons for your sphere then you make your sphere with those polygons and in two years with 1.5 times as many polygons you then use your extra polygons to make it more sphere like. Its an evolving process that reduces this year's good art to rubbish the next. That art doesn't endure. Pixel art doesn't compromise like other computer asthetics. It is damned restrictive, but when someone make a ball with 4 pixels or 9 pixels, they make it that way cause they want to, not because they think its close enough. And the art endures. At least for us here.

EDIT: That Bruce Lee quote is awesome and so relevant. It'd be cool to have it up under the banner

Offline Akzidenz

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #6 on: December 13, 2006, 08:49:24 pm
(If any of this seems standoffish or stubborn, I apologize, I'm just genuinely curious and trying to psuh these questions a bit)

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Too much colours and AA = badly done what photoshop would do better. Everyone knows about this kind of art. face has 20 shades, super smooth gradiant, but they always look like poorly done photoshop

I'm not asking as much about smooth shading/gradients as I am about a broader palette. Let's say that you had a 100x50 sprite of some random character. That character's clothing has a wide variety of hues and shades - black shirt with a big rainbow graphic on it, multi-colored hat, some crazy plaid pants, multi-colored sneakers, a gold watch, a diamond necklace, a multicolored bag (I know this is ridiculous, but play along). The artist only uses 3 hues of each color, one base, one for highlights, one for shadows. They also use a couple of outline colors, and a couple of colors for AA. In the end, they create a sprite that uses 80+ colors, but it still is undeniably a piece of pixel art, created pixel-by-pixel. And (again, play along here) it's beautifully pixeled, beautfully detailed. Do you believe that, if they had limited themselves to 16 colors, and lost a lot of the color detail within the piece, the end result would've been better? Or do you think that you don't necessarily need a limited palette in order to qualify something as pixel art?

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restrictions are definitely important. who cares if you can make an awesome sprite, if it uses 256 colors? i basically always stay with 16 colors, for what i do, ive basically never needed more. the mindset that less colors = less pretty is a false mindset.

I'd pose the same question here. I'm not saying that something with more than 8/16/24 colors is automatically more beautiful - but what if you're able to fit in additional detail, smoother AA'ing, more accurate or vibrant color, by using 80+ colors in a small sprite? If the detail and visual impact of the piece would be downgraded significantly with a limited palette, and the limited palette would serve only as a reference to old-school video game vernacular, why not use a larger palette?

Is a limited palette a necessary part of creating pixel art? Or is it merely a style/technique to use when creating pixel art? Do you consider something like this:

http://hello.eboy.com/eboy/wp-content/uploads/shop/EBY_FooBar_35t.png

To be "legitimate" pixel art? It's certainly created pixel-by-pixel, and it certain draws on the same sort of vernacular that limited-palette pixel art does, but it uses a gigantic palette because there's no need for it to restrict that.

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Small palettes make for better animations unless someone is willing to animate a main character for 2 years. Good keyframing makes for efficient animation that doesn't need superfulous inbetweening. Smart tile usage means you get to reuse assets instead of drawing the whole thing. Useful selfi-imposed restrictions are the ones that maximise your capacity to make assets in good time-schedules to meet your deadlines.  They don't have to do with platform limitations anymore, they have to do with empyrical knowledge of how to make a game and make it as fast and good as you can.

That makes a world of sense. I hadn't thought about that.

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About pixel art in general, I enjoy restrictions because they're inherently tied to the Computer Aesthetic from whence this art-form came. In working with restrictions one finds novel ways to approach both his subject matter and his intention towards creating art. If he's just doing cg work, but in smaller resolution, then that's that, but it's no pixel art. Draw once in c64 hi-res restrictions and what I say will become clear.

So then, do you believe that a piece can't reference the "computer aesthetic" if it doesn't work within the strict guidelines that pixel artists of the past were forced to use? I definitely understand the idea of drawing upon that vernacular, but do you believe it's impossible to refer just as strongly to that sort of subject matter without imposing limitations on yourself? Is the idea of pixel art that inseperable to palette restrictions?

If one were to create a piece in C64 dimensions with 2x1 pixel ratio, but used an unlimited palette, do you think that the dimensions and 2x1 ratio would still qualify it as a legitimate piece of pixel art?

Say you create a piece of vector art, 10" by 10", that uses a limited 16-color palette. You then create a piece of pixel art, 100x100, of the same subject, that uses an unlimited palette but still is obviously done pixel-by-pixel (instead of, say, taking the vector art and compressing it down). Which is more "legit" as a piece of pixel art?

Is the main qualifier of pixel art its restrictions of palette/size/etc? Or instead, is the qualifier the visual effect of being able to see the individual pixels, the harsh square edges, the use of dithering, etc?

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I believe artists should be concerned with minimizing their palettes, using no more colors than needed.  I extend this philosophy to other art as well, such as fiction.  For instance, there should not be in a short story a paragraph that adds nothing to the story, and can be deleted with no loss to the integrity of the story.  Likewise, in pixel art, there should be no extra colors that add nothing to the image, and can be deleted with no loss of integrity of the image.

Why do you have a strong belief in minimalism? Why not extravagance? Do you consider Gabriel Garcia Marquez to be a mediocre author? What about Dostoyevsky? Do you feel that the importance of every word or paragraph or pixel or color is determined by the artist or the audience? Do you believe it's on the author or the audience to determine the significance of a tangent passage that seemingly has nothing to do with the story?

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My impression with 3d is taht if you only have so many polygons for your sphere then you make your sphere with those polygons and in two years with 1.5 times as many polygons you then use your extra polygons to make it more sphere like. Its an evolving process that reduces this year's good art to rubbish the next. That art doesn't endure. Pixel art doesn't compromise like other computer asthetics. It is damned restrictive, but when someone make a ball with 4 pixels or 9 pixels, they make it that way cause they want to, not because they think its close enough. And the art endures. At least for us here.

I'm sure there are 3D artists that hate unnecessary polygons, or prefer a retro style with specific restrictions - would you tell those people that their art is rubbish because it doesn't push the limits of technology? What would you think of a human model with very limited polygons, but brilliant texturing, lighting and animation?
que faire quand on a tout fait, tout lu, tout bu, tout mangé
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quand on a crié sur tous les toîts pleuré et ris dans les villes et en campagne

Offline AlexHW

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #7 on: December 13, 2006, 09:22:05 pm
pixel art isnt defined by useing a limited palette.
You can use as many colors as you like, but if you are working in a pixel-artist's way, the amount may be excessive for the specific means the colors are supplying. A picture of many things could be a picture with many pixel-art graphics, such as that eboy picture you linked
pixel-art is where the artist acknowledges the use of pixels and works closely with their properties which make pixels what they are.

digital artist dont usually think about the pixels, but rather they think more along the lines of the colors and blobs which they lay down.

if the pixel art loses the sense of the importance of the pixels which construct it, then I don't think it can be called pixel art. It is when the pixels hold importance to the nature of the work which defines it as pixelart.

also, what helm said is very true.. alot of pixel art's ability and natural tendencies for low color counts allow for easier animation. with limits you can manage the medium quickly and effeciently.

Offline Darien

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #8 on: December 13, 2006, 09:49:13 pm
The sprite you describe would be incredibly cluttered.  I don't think they would have lost a lot of detail if they chose their colors wisely.  And, as a sprite, you want the sense that it is one entity, for gameplay purposes, not an accumulation of several individual bits and pieces.

That eboy picture certainly is pixel art.  I don't think anyone is arguing that you need to conserve colors for something to be pixel art.  But although it is pixel art, it's not very pleasing to look at.  Only if you look at the individual details does it hold any appeal.  And of course, that's the goal of that picture, to be so cluttered and overly detailed.  It's something that's meant to be enjoyed by examining every bit and how much was crammed in.  It can be enjoyed in this way, but it's not very aesthetically appealing.

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Why do you have a strong belief in minimalism? Why not extravagance? Do you consider Gabriel Garcia Marquez to be a mediocre author? What about Dostoyevsky? Do you feel that the importance of every word or paragraph or pixel or color is determined by the artist or the audience? Do you believe it's on the author or the audience to determine the significance of a tangent passage that seemingly has nothing to do with the story?

I am a believer in minimalism because unneccessary components are, quite frankly, a waste of my time.  I do believe that the old-timey novels that pass the one thousand page mark could be improved if the authors didn't feel free to indulge in any whim of writing they felt like at that moment.  Of course, those old time writers could get away with worse writing, explaining a horse's geneology or some shit, because there weren't so many other distractions like radio or tv or movies that could lure the reader away.  As for determining the signfigance of a particular passage, that would clearly be the author's decision, as it is his story.  But I reserve the right to disagree with him, and all him a bad (or at least, careless) writer because of it.  Also if the passage is relevant in some obscure way that only the writer can see, then the effect is lost on the reader and may as well be removed.

But this is getting too much into literary theory, with which we are not concerned.

Basically my belief comes down to this:  if you say, why not use a larger palette?, it is your responsibilty to provide a purpose that shows that larger palette necessary.  If you cannot show that it is necessary, that is, you can't show that it adds anything to the piece, why would you add it in the first place?  You don't need to.  You are simply being careless.

Offline Helm

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Re: Palette/Size/Tile Restictions on Contemporary Pixel Art

Reply #9 on: December 13, 2006, 10:08:45 pm
(If any of this seems standoffish or stubborn, I apologize, I'm just genuinely curious and trying to psuh these questions a bit)

I for one did not consider your replies stubborn. I am glad this dialogue occurs as it is useful for a lot of people. Push it as far as it'll go.

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but it still is undeniably a piece of pixel art, created pixel-by-pixel. And (again, play along here) it's beautifully pixeled, beautfully detailed. Do you believe that, if they had limited themselves to 16 colors, and lost a lot of the color detail within the piece, the end result would've been better? Or do you think that you don't necessarily need a limited palette in order to qualify something as pixel art?

You ask a lot of questions about what would be pixel art and what wouldn't. All of these examples are pixel art. What you should be asking is, what makes for good pixel art and for bad pixel art. Now this is a matter of opinion (whereas the more base 'is it pixel-art or not?' can be answered pretty much uniformly by checking if pixel-by-pixel attention has been paid to the piece) but I believe personally because of issues of Computer Aesthetics, that as close you can get to ABSOLUTE CONTROL with your pixel art, the better you're using the medium. This is what pixel art is, and other mediums of art are not as easily: it's about control of everything. Your brush-strokes are made by ATOMS (pixels) which you can manipulate as finely as you like. Colors are completely opaque. Palette small and controlled. If someone can use an 80 color palette for a small piece of art and use the palette to its full advantage, he's still doing great pixel art for me.

But I'll turn that one around for you: I can draw that piece you're talking about using 32 colors. Why should I use 80 when I can use 32? Less time spent with near-identicals means more time spent on composition, detail work, so on. There's only a finite amount of time a brain is willing to dedicate to one piece of art. Pixel art methodology of CONTROL makes you utilize that time as effectively as possible.

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I'd pose the same question here. I'm not saying that something with more than 8/16/24 colors is automatically more beautiful - but what if you're able to fit in additional detail, smoother AA'ing, more accurate or vibrant color, by using 80+ colors in a small sprite?

Cohesion is beautiful. A different sort of beautiful. Using everything everywhere but not senselessly is beautiful. Making big things happen with small things is beautiful. Creating illusions is beautiful. Absolute control is beautiful.


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If the detail and visual impact of the piece would be downgraded significantly with a limited palette, and the limited palette would serve only as a reference to old-school video game vernacular, why not use a larger palette?

I maintain that for up to 320x240 pictures, no matter how crowded and multicolored the thematic piece is, you won't ever need more than 48 colors if you know what you're doing. It's simply a matter of getting to that level of skill.

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Is a limited palette a necessary part of creating pixel art?
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No. But is it for good pixel art? For me, yes.

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To be "legitimate" pixel art? It's certainly created pixel-by-pixel, and it certain draws on the same sort of vernacular that limited-palette pixel art does, but it uses a gigantic palette because there's no need for it to restrict that.

It uses a gigantic palette because the person that made this didn't even attempt to restrict it. Had he put in the effort, the piece wouldn't look as disjointed as it does now.

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So then, do you believe that a piece can't reference the "computer aesthetic" if it doesn't work within the strict guidelines that pixel artists of the past were forced to use?

No, I don't believe I can see the computer aesthetic in this. Can you? Can you see the computer aesthetic in this, however? One uses a bajillion of colors, the other uses 4.

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I definitely understand the idea of drawing upon that vernacular, but do you believe it's impossible to refer just as strongly to that sort of subject matter without imposing limitations on yourself? Is the idea of pixel art that inseperable to palette restrictions?

It is possible, like someone cutting square pieces of cloth and making a real paper mario out of them, but I think those are gimmicks, nostalgia-fueled fun things that people do, not art. Why work ass-backwards? Make pixel art. Here's your computer aesthetic.

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Is the main qualifier of pixel art its restrictions of palette/size/etc? Or instead, is the qualifier the visual effect of being able to see the individual pixels, the harsh square edges, the use of dithering, etc?

After all these years, we've come to a pretty strong and sole qualifier for what is pixel-art: if you paid attention to the individual placement of the vast majority of the pixels in your piece, then it's pixel art. That is all. The rest is for what I feel is good pixel art, others might disagree.