AuthorTopic: Windsong Sprite Revamp  (Read 14654 times)

Offline megane

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Windsong Sprite Revamp

on: May 06, 2008, 10:20:00 am
So, hi.

That aside, I made these for a faction in Wesnoth, but unfortunately the feedback I get in my thread there is generally of the ego-boosting, rather than the art-improving type.  Hopefully you guys will be a bit meaner.


I did these essentially from the center outwards, and it shows in the fact that the early ones are terrible (well, more terrible).  Magenta's for recoloring.  I marked the ones that stick out to me as being particularly unacceptable, and in general I'd like to completely redo the heads, hair, and shadows.
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Offline Ben2theEdge

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #1 on: May 06, 2008, 01:43:25 pm
The big thing is that they're too blurry. You're using what's referred to as "dirty tools" - the photoshop paintbrush with anti-aliasing for example. This is generally frowned on in the pixel art community, but for good reason: it's impossible to control and it makes stuff blurry. It saves you a little time because you don't have to mix as many colors yourself but the visuals take a big hit for it. When working at this scale every pixel needs to be placed with precision and intention. As it is, everything is very soft-looking and you're missing out on a lot of details, opting for basic shapes instead, because you're using tools that were meant for a much higher resolution.
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Offline TrevoriuS

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #2 on: May 06, 2008, 01:47:41 pm
May I partially disagree with you Ben... These tools give great anti-aliasing when using alpha transparancy in the engine. Also, it turns out quite nice when you draw at 200% - 400% size and then shrink it to the desired boundaries. However, after that a lot of manual retouchings may need to be made, and sometimes this may even get MORE time consuming, but it DOES result in nearly perfect anti aliasing.

Offline megane

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #3 on: May 06, 2008, 01:59:26 pm
You're using what's referred to as "dirty tools" - the photoshop paintbrush with anti-aliasing for example.
Nope.  No blurry tools here.  If they look that way, it's just because I suck.  These were all done with the hard-edged pencil tool; what you're seeing is just subpixel smoothing and the transparency anti-aliasing I do on the outside edges only, and those're done by hand with the pencil as well.  If you don't believe me:

Edit: if, however, this makes them look bad, I suppose I can stop doing it.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 02:12:12 pm by megane »
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Offline infinity+1

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #4 on: May 06, 2008, 02:59:02 pm
May I partially disagree with you Ben... These tools give great anti-aliasing when using alpha transparancy in the engine. Also, it turns out quite nice when you draw at 200% - 400% size and then shrink it to the desired boundaries. However, after that a lot of manual retouchings may need to be made, and sometimes this may even get MORE time consuming, but it DOES result in nearly perfect anti aliasing.

yeah, but you're not drawing at the pixel level. it's a shortcut, and the artist isn't creating the piece pixel by pixel. i strongly disagree.

and wait, how would the shadows and light balls so perfectly blending in the background of the forum? isn't that a sign of photoshop blur, and transparency? or am i off base here?
unless he's working on a canvas that color..
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 03:02:00 pm by infinity+1 »

Offline megane

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #5 on: May 06, 2008, 04:57:26 pm
...the shadows and light balls aren't done by hand, they're Gaussian blurs.  I figured it would be fairly clear which bit was the sprite and which the background elements (and for the record, the shadows are only blurred because that's how Wesnoth's official art style dictates it should be done).  Does adding transparency and a blurred shadow to something you laid down pixel by pixel somehow make it not pixel art? :-\

Let me repeat: I did these with the hard-edged pencil tool.  I'm failing to see how you're coming to other conclusions.
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Offline AdamAtomic

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #6 on: May 06, 2008, 05:11:51 pm
Does adding transparency and a blurred shadow to something you laid down pixel by pixel somehow make it not pixel art? :-\

Of course!  Now, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad GAME art.  However, just because you use the pencil tool doesn't mean you're making pixel art either - if you use the pencil tool with opacity, or just sketch wildly without any set plan or control, then the pencil tool is the same as any other "dirty" tool - the computer is doing some of the work for you!

But...as much fun as it is to quibble over tool usage, etc, the bottom line is even disregarding the blurred shadows and glows, these pieces suffer from many of the same problems that a "dirty" piece suffers from:

l1 - Lots of unnatural black shadows

2 - Wide shadows with no color identity/info

3 - Small details that SHOULD pop don't, because they are over-AA'd

4 - Very little cohesion between palettes (even in the non-shifting areas) - that is to say, straight, unmixed ramps

A limited palette is not so much a crutch as it is a boost in most cases, especially when you are working at very small resolutions.  In fact, many traditional acrylic and oil painters will only use a palette of 10-15 colors (with some washes) because this is an acceptable range of values for rendering.  Even without the blurring and edge AA it looks like you're using maybe 25 or 30 colors on a single sprite, despite the fact that you could easily use skin tones to highlight the hair, share shadows between the blue and gray areas, use teal to add eye color, etc etc.  While you may have executed all these things using the pencil tool, they are all hallmarks of sloppy non-pixel art and should be fixed!

Offline megane

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #7 on: May 06, 2008, 07:04:43 pm
Well, I tried doing it your way.  15 colors, of varying hues, and 1-bit transparency ('cept for the shadow, which is just set to %10 and not blurred).  Didn't change the structure much, but it looks better, aside from the fact that the jaggies make my eyes bleed.
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Offline AdamAtomic

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #8 on: May 06, 2008, 08:28:01 pm
That's actually MUCH harder to read than the original, I had to look for a long time to figure out what was going on there!  The face and torso are especially difficult to see.  Don't just mix your colors willy nilly - you have gits of gray in the hair, face, spear shaft, but they don't really make any sense, neither does the purple all over the boots.  Overall the image is extremely noisy and cluttered!

I think a good experiment would be to start by rendering the shape as simply as you can, using 4-6 colors (I like to use black, white, and 3 grays on a first pass), and just work on your basic shapes, lighting, priority, depth and readability.  Once the shapes are clear and you can easily see what it is you're looking at, then start adding in your colors and a smidge of AA if it suits.

Quick (and messy) paintover to show how with just 4 colors, all of the forms can be perfectly clear:



This is what you want to have before you start painting in colors; lots of trad artists do charcoal studies before they paint, this is similar to that.  You want to have a really solid idea of your lighting and basic forms before you start dabbling around with colors!

Offline EvilEye

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Re: Windsong Sprite Revamp

Reply #9 on: May 06, 2008, 08:56:15 pm
 Heh, welcome to pixelation. Mostly people here frown on anything that isn't done pixel by pixel with no shortcuts like smudging tools etc ( been that way since the old pixelation.swoo.net ).

 One of the reasons why I don't post my work here, most of it isn't done pixel by pixel.

 But anyway, it would help if you posted your sprites one at a time instead of in one big jpeg. Right now when I click on the jpeg to zoom in the whole thing gets bigger and the sprites on the right side are pushed off the screen.

 So far from what I can see the sprites look good as far as the general artwork.

 The colors could use some improvement. A lot of the coloring is unexciting and lacks depth. Besides skin and hair tones it seems to be just purple and grey.

 The shading is too blended IMO. It could use some contrast and not so much smudging.