AuthorTopic: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!  (Read 173961 times)

Offline Jeremy

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #200 on: August 01, 2017, 07:42:38 am
I feel comfortable with everything on the left broad definition side, less so with the right.

The spectrum shows highly controlled/intentional work in the 'pure' space, with less control as you go further out, but the two sides aren't all that equivalent, to me. I think the left is about lack of refinement, or 'finishedness'. Noise is a common signifier of sketchy work, but the attention to pixel-placement in cure's Incommunicado piece is obvious and far greater than much work that fits comfortably in the middle.

The right side is much blurrier ( :-[ ), and ranges much more than the left. You often see work using partial transparency for water/glass/other elements here the pixel-perfection is maintained, but new (imo dull, ugly) colours are generated outside of the control of the artist. Another example is Fessler's squirrel mockup, where the gradient is clearly delineated from the pixel art. I'm pretty comfortable with both of these types, it's really about whether the automated bits are unobtrusive. Things get messier for me when elements like glows, gradients, and shadows are integrated more deeply. I'm not a fan of detailed pixel work being disrupted, you often get muddy colours and unwarranted attention drawn to higher-resolution, unnaturally smooth elements.

It really is a case-by-case basis thing for me. I'm willing to be way more accommodating when the artist clearly has great pixel chops and is exploring the boundaries of the medium, than I am with somebody slapping a gradient on something out of laziness.

Offline Cure

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #201 on: August 01, 2017, 05:35:33 pm
I think the "pixelart feel" also has a lot to do with a certain amount of colors on a certain level of size.

I think color count is pretty key as well. More precisely, how the palette affects the technique, and vice versa. With a low amount of colors, you'll probably be doing more dithering, which exposes the pixel grid. With a large palette, you're delving more into AA and gradients, which is a more subtle value shift, so the grid and pixel relationships are less apparent. Even a relatively small palette could elicit a "I can't believe it's pixel art!", if you've got 10-20 shades of the same color, because that one long ramp allows you to create such a smooth image.

IMO that falls into the same 'meaningful decisions' theme that some people like to use when talking about this. That is, a gradient just looks like a gradient, if each shade doesn't have 'individuality'.

I agree, the individual identity created by very blatant relationships between clusters is key to the "pixel art look." Because I tend to think the borders between clusters are more important than the total number of colors, I did a little test where I tried to maintain the general cluster identities while throwing in tons of colors via gradual gradients:


Or another definition of resource appeared: development resources. The ability to make indie development effectively possible.

This is an important limiting factor that often gets eclipsed by technical concerns. It not only leads to very pixelly, low-res, faux 8-bit art, it also leads to gradients and glows (which I'm fine with in moderation, so long as the cluster relationships beneath are still bold).

The middle has the greatest number of reasons for why you would do pixel art for most applications. Going to the left noise, the reasons get fewer for why you would do any art like that. It sure can look very fascinating as an effect, and there can still be a very good reason for why you do it in some case, but in the greater scheme of applications, it can only be a niche. At its best it is a gimmick, at its worst its useless.

In general, I agree that the sophistication and applications of the right end of the spectrum (blur) are much greater than the left end (noise). However, in regards to pixel art, I think there are reasons to choose a slightly looser approach, namely the expressionist/impressionist quality it allows for. I think this heightens the creepy factor in Uno Moralez's work.

Most cases of application for pixel art require the clarity of the middle. It's what works best for most people, it's the norm for good reasons. Pixel art has the strongest identity and greatest use in the narrow part. Most people that want to create pixel art, will want to know how to create that. The defining quality of that organically rises from these greater interests.

I agree. I think that the "no single pixels" pure-cluster art is the dead center of the spectrum, the sharpest point, neither noisy nor blurry. But I think there are also advantages to buttery-smooth AA and even random dither. Some think that smooth pixel art might as well be created in another medium, but as AI said earlier, it "fits" the resolution in a way that other approaches cannot.

Eastward and Superbrothers are both very much traditional pixel games, despite having non-pixel effects and lightning on top. Dan Fessler's squirrel mockup is a classic example as well, and should be somewhere in the middle I think (...) Index painting would certainly be on the far right side, borderline with digital painting.

By the way, where does this sample with red mountains and blue forest comes from?

Good point. I originally made the chart thinking about the types of pixel art allowed at PJ, which is more likely to include index-painting than hybrid stuff. But I think the examples I chose (along with the Slain! game you mention) don't belong on the chart in any linear way, since they combine approaches from different parts of the spectrum. Maybe this is better:


The image with red mountains is by an artist who goes by cutlaska or captain-carrion (often just "carrion", but that name is already taken!).

"why pixel art?"(...)for me it would be crispness or sharpness.
I agree, and building on that:

(...)it's really about whether the automated bits are unobtrusive. Things get messier for me when elements like glows, gradients, and shadows are integrated more deeply. I'm not a fan of detailed pixel work being disrupted, you often get muddy colours and unwarranted attention drawn to higher-resolution, unnaturally smooth elements.

These are all good points. I'm fine with the soft glows in the bar scene on the right side of the chart because they don't obscure the intentional pixel placement below. It's just a thin film, the core of the medium is still there. This might be complicated if the underlying pixel art is more smooth or complex, but the effects often mesh well with simpler styles.

As for me, I have to ask myself "What distinguishes pixel art from other forms of digital art?" I think the answer is pixel-pushing, the act of moving individual pixels. The amount of pixel-pushing required for a work to be considered "pixel art" is debatable, but I think everyone agrees that evidence of pixel-pushing should form the basis of the work's aesthetic if it is to be called pixel art. The introduction of "NPA" techniques complicates our definition, but I think it's too dogmatic to say that every instance of these techniques disqualifies a work from being pixel art.

I think the pixel art aesthetic is maintained if:
transparent lighting or atmospheric effects are used over visibly pushed-pixels
stray pixels are used as an expressive or impressionistic dither

And lessened if:
the borders of pixel clusters become blurred and obscured
Individual pixel placement is largely incidental
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 08:43:20 pm by Cure »

Offline RAV

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #202 on: August 01, 2017, 08:37:37 pm
Well, I like what you got there.


I am a bit startled by the latest /r/pixelart discussions on Reddit, regarding rules on what pixel art is permissable. That's not the way I want to discuss the issue. I want to talk about potentials.

As it concerns PixelJoint, I was willing to grant them the freedom to enjoy their more narrow notion of pixelart. There are various arguments to be made how their definition plays along their particular  website design, and the long history of dedicated community. I was even willing to interpret its rules as that of a virtual Game Console: in the past, even though there was no official definition of pixel art, pixel artists were very much restricted by the rules of the given machine. Don't like the rules? your pixel art won't make it in. So that sort of tyranny of what is "allowed" never really changed. But what did change is how much sense the rules make. Rules born of physical reality, what you want to achieve, and the hardware and software you got for that, are easier to accept than just about any rules some guy comes up with for no particular reason. But even if we grant that in a way PixelJoint was a virtual equivalent to an Atari console, in terms of that there are clear rules in order to organize communal activities in a certain sense... there were still other consoles on the market with different rules... Don't like an Atari? Pick a Commodore. Pick what you like. Go to a different website. There better be a different website. With different rules. Certainly there is a market for that.

This is a question of scale. Scale changes everything. Some ideas work small, but completely fall apart in big. And PixelJoint's idea of purism is such an idea.
It simply cannot work in a large scale environment. It turns from fruitful dedication to pointless tyranny, and costs too much creative opportunity. Pixel art too needs a free market of diverse ideas.

In smaller environments, a higher clarity of the situation enables you to be closer. Sharing more values effectively enables you to work closely together on critical and sensitive things.
But in larger environments, a higher diversity is a natural given. The relations and rules must be more relaxed. The expectations and requirements on each other reduced, in favour of freedom.

And in addition, it should be taken into account what a place is made for: Educating about pixel art craft? Researching the market of pixel art? Showcasing pixel art genre? Working on a pixel project?
Depending on what the place is for, exposure to diverse art, or concentration on certain work, may take precedence in its mission.

In terms of what Reddit is, from design to scale, a very narrow notion of pixel art does not fit well. It did well for years without it.
For r/pixelart I would suggest a less centralized definition and planning, and more an Accumulator of diverse ideas in the genre.

In so far, if there really need to be rules for the reddit sub to protect it from totally devolving into a mess of nonsense, the thoughts you have given above seem like an acceptable compromise.
But I also like the technical solution eisha talked about, a sort of tagging that instead of completely removing things on search, just slightly fades the threads.

But well, the market will sort itself out anyway. People will go where the excitement is, on the fringes of "legality", be it social media, or new popular sites like ArtStation. where pretty much anything goes. And really, 99% of the pixel art games in the last 10 years do not follow purism. Even reddit won't change that. If Reddit takes itself too important, it will share the fate of any other former giant in a free market. Oh how deep fall the mighty, when they cannot keep up with the innovations and interests of the people.

Offline AshCrimson

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #203 on: September 29, 2017, 08:36:35 pm
I'm uh, not new to pixelart, but i am new to focusing entirely on clusters. I'm not sure if it works on smaller pieces like the ones i make, but i thought this would be the most appropiate place to show this:

AA Version: Left /Pure Cluster version: Right



Different coloured limbs are because i prefer to break them down into different colours.

Do cluster lend themselves to better visibility/readability at such small sizes? Or is AA-ing still a necessary evil? I remember reading a comment in either this thread or the other one, about how fitting so many colours into such small spaces can be problematic, but i don't have the experience that others have, which is why i ask.

Offline Ai

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #204 on: November 07, 2017, 01:27:19 am
Clusters are especially important as size gets smaller.
The exercise that Helm describes is only an exercise, purity of clusters is not the only contributor to readability.

The planes are generally better defined in the Pure Cluster version you show.  The AA in the left version seems to sabotage form (eg. the leg looks simply 'rounded', whereas the cluster version is more clearly a leg). At this scale, AA tends to create heavy rounding, which IMO should be reserved for things that are *really* round (as opposed to, say, upper arms -- which are easier to read if left blocky).

The general principle I follow personally is to forget about "AA", stack clusters from dark to light, and if the result could use a few AA adjustments (which, again, must be made in consideration of 'read', not in terms of 'reduce blockiness', because blockiness is not necessarily bad), then adjust a few pixels.

Even if you don't find the above especially compelling, I do want to point out that clusters are a far more fundamental aspect of art (pixel or otherwise) than AA,  and it's generally most helpful to devote a majority of your time to the fundamentals. While carefully limiting how much thought you put into 'technical matters' (AA, dithering, etc)
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #205 on: January 16, 2018, 02:44:30 am
Interesting discussion in this thread. I tend not to check up on this stuff much anymore because I've been generally disappointed at how hurtful people often are about their perceived necessity of these techniques that I had a part in shaping. But it's good to see new thought generated on the subject!

I think the linear ramp from oekaki to blurry-whatever is on one hand intuitive and clear as to what it means and therefore a useful tool but it still has a limitation in that I don't think clean and controlled, no-aa, no-dither, not a lot of single pixels work is necessarily in a middle point of the thought process of the artist that makes these choices. I think the 'middle' as it were is also a position of greater depth so - from my point of view, at least - we're back to a more three-dimensional example or perhaps a triangle. If the core of the work is of that 'depth' then it will withstand a lot of noisy nonsense on a more surface level, or a lot of blurry soft tools.

It is in a triangulation of that idea that I agree with you, Cure and concur that one can have very very controlled cluster work and then put all the lighting FX works on top of it and it will not hurt the clusters. Your example with the lady with the gradient hair is kind of brilliant for that, and it also has a historical precedent on the Amiga, where you have very pixelly pixel art and copper blitter backgrounds like in Enemy: Tempest of Violence or Lionheart.

That's why for me a strict definition of pixel art just judging by formalism is kind of a fool's errand. One first has to have the skills, the experience and possibly the intuitive idea of what tightly created pixel art looks like, why and how, and then they can take a loooot of nonsense on top without any problem, the thing is still cohesive and rings true. Just looking at the picture as if its a flat thing and examining every pixel (a 'machine pass' of 'is it pixel-art?' if you will) will not do, the eye will have to make creative judgement calls about where work went in and if it is enough to hold the whole thing together.

It's the same artist's eye that someone gets about oil painting as well. Bad oil painting seems off even if there's a few bits of the canvas where the brush strokes fell down sympathetically. And Good oil art is also apparent even if someone then took a picture of their canvas and photomanipulated it here and there.