Saturday, May 9, 2015

Pixel Art: Dithering

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Pixel art is the oldest form of digital art. You know those old Mario games? They used pixel art. Pixel art is basically any art that is manipulated on the pixel level. This is still used in many games, such as Pokémon. (The little tiny figures are definitely pixel art, I'm not so sure about the larger ones.) Because of the smallness of pixel art, it requires some different skills that make it work better for certain people than other art forms. The fact that you don't need even average motor control is a huge plus for me, as my finders don't seem to respond to my brain very well.
     For pixel art, the most important things are patience, an eye for detail, and creative use of color. You see, you don't get the gentle gradients that other art forms get. While technically you can use as many colors as you want, usually the style limits it. Ever heard of a 16-bit color scheme? That's very common in pixel art, and it means you only get 16 colors to work with. If you have white, grey, black, blue, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, brown, cyan, pink, and skin color, you only have three colors left. Even harder is an 8-bit, and the easier on is 32-bit. But I've found that sometimes you end up using less colors than you have available, especially if you don't count "transparent" as a color.
     Anyway, because of the limited colors available, a shading technique used in pixel art is dithering, which in appearance is similar to crosshatching.

     See the parts where the pixels are arranged next to the corner of a pixel of the same color? That's dithering. It can be hard to make that look good, but it works better when the image is smaller.

     It's not as blocky-looking now, huh? It's still kinda sandy, but I was actually working in 4-pixel clumps, so if I had done this pixel-by-pixel, it would look a lot smoother. Anyways, you use dithering just as you would shading, or to make a new color if you're working with a limited number. For example, with an 8-bit color scheme, you can dither black and blue to get dark blue. As long as the image is small enough, the colors will blend to the human eye, rather than looking sandy like the image above.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a short story contest right now, where your submission must contain a dangling participle. See the guidelines here.

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