How To Make Pixel Art In Illustrator | How To Make Pixel Art In Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

Matt Borchert

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How To Make Pixel Art In Adobe Illustrator Tutorial


In this video, I’m going to be showing you How to make pixel art inside Adobe Illustrator to create examples like what you see on my screen and to create pixel art in Illustrator, there’s actually a few different ways you could go about it, including I tried out a feature called pixel preview, but that feature wasn’t really ideal for building pixel artwork as it’s really meant for reviewing completed icons and things like that inside the tool to see how they’ll look. So I built a much better method for me at least using a grid that I created so in this video. I’m going to show you how to make your own pixel grid in order to make pixel art work that is infinitely scalable, which is a huge perk of doing it in Illustrator, and it’s also a lot of fun to go in and make with that being said. Let’s just get going so first up. You’re going to want to turn on a feature inside illustrator called Smart guides, you can go to view and then smart guides about 2/3 of the way down. If you see a checkmark, it means it’s currently turned on. If you don’t see a checkmark, just click it and it will turn on. Alternatively, you can hit control. U on a PC or command U on a Mac to turn on Smart Guides and also under the window menu at the top. There is an option for the properties window. Having the properties window open is just helpful. In general, so if you don’t see a checkbox there, just click it, and that will turn on the propertie’s window on your screen, which is right here on my screen so first up. What we’re going to do is build out a pixel grid because each one of these colored shapes is an individual square, which serves effectively as a pixel inside the tool, so here are two different examples of pixel grids that I have made inside illustrator, and I’m just going to walk you through how to make your own pixel grid because it’s fast and easy to do, and that will serve as basically the backbone of what you’re creating, so the first thing that you’re going to want to do is to go over to your toolbar and then go to the rectangle tool, which should be directly below the type tool, which looks like a tee, so just click that to select a rectangle tool. If you see a different shape there, just click and hold on that shape and then select a rectangle tool. Alternatively, you can hit M on your keyboard, which will select the rectangle tool as well and then you want to change your fill color to white and your stroke color to black. At least that’s what I’ve found to be most helpful and also hitting D on your keyboard should do that automatically, so once you have the rectangle tool selected and your fill color, white and your stroke, color black, just click, hold and drag your mouse while holding shift to draw a perfect square and this will serve as your very first pixel, and I’m just zooming in by hitting Ctrl + on a PC or Command + on a Mac, which is a helpful thing to know, and then what you want to do is use the black arrow, which is called the selection tool to select your square that you’ve made, and then you want to go over to the left. Hand side until you see your smart guides safe path on my screen. It says it in sort of a hot pink text might be a different color on your screen, but when it says path on that left hand side, click and hold alt on your keyboard or option if you’re using a Mac on your keyboard and then click hold and drag with your mouse to the right while holding shift, which will make it just move perfectly horizontally until you see your smart guides say Intersect, which basically means the two edges of these shapes are absolutely perfectly aligned. Once it does that. Let go of your mouse and then let go of your keyboard and then just make sure that you have your shape still selected, and if you clicked off, you can just use that selection tool to drag over it to select it again and then hit control D on a PC or command D on A Mac, which duplicates that shape out and you can do this as many times as you want individual pixels so to speak so this will serve as the bottom row of pixels, and at any point in time you can, of course, create more pixels. So if you get going and decide what you did was wrong, You can totally fix that or correct it later and now. I’m going to select over the entire group of squares I made using the selection tool by just clicking and dragging around it. And then I’m going to move it to the bottom of my artboard, and also I’m just going to zoom in and make sure things are lined up pretty well. It doesn’t actually matter too much if your artboard is perfectly filled in with these pixels. I’m just doing it to be a bit careful, so I’m going to scale this while holding shifts who also make it line up on the side there and then with the entire group of squares selected, so just drag over all those with the selection tool and then we’re going to do the same thing we did before, but do it vertically with all these selected so the selection tool on the bottom row until it says path click and hold Alt on a PC or option on a Mac hold shift as you drag it to make it go perfectly vertical and then do that until it does the intersect just like. I did before then you can let go of your mouse and then like we did before as well hit control D on a PC or command D on a Mac to duplicate these squares vertically, so this serves as the pixel grid that we will use to build out the entire thing. And if you very quickly want to add a bunch more pixels to work with you can just select the entire thing, shrink it down a little bit and essentially do the exact same step we did before, so go over to the corner until you see path, hold alt or option and then drag it over until you see that it’s perfectly aligned. It’ll probably want to snap into place, then you can let go and then just do the exact same thing vertically, so once you get the hang of building a grid like this, it’s extremely fast to do, and if you’re using smart guides, it’s pretty much always done pixel perfect, which is just a perk to using that, so now we have the overall grid of pixels, and if you find that the stroke of the pixels is too thick or too thin, you can highlight over everything, and then when you have the properties window up, it’ll automatically give you an option under the appearance section to adjust the stroke thickness, so you can either use a drop-down and pick something like this is an absolutely huge stroke, but I found using Point 5 point by just typing 0.5 and hitting Enter is pretty ideal for my needs as far as going in and building out pixel art, so I will zoom in quickly to show you how this works from this point. So each individual square now serves as a pixel for the artwork that you’re going to be creating and what I did as I was creating the pixel art is I would click an individual square and then go over to the toolbar and select the fill and just double click on that to select an initial color to start coloring with, And then as I would build out to the artwork, what I would do is once. I had my initial color kind of set that I was using. I would click on a square or you can click on multiple squares by clicking on the initial one and then holding shift and then clicking on multiple squares and then hitting I on my keyboard to bring up the eyedropper tool and then just I drop in that initial square or a pixel to very quickly select and then color these in. And, of course, the same goes for creating any new colors, so you can kind of decide what the color palette will look like for you in your artwork, and then once you do that, you can manually set it using the fill and then just click on individual squares, which are the pixels hit. I on your keyboard and then click on the one that you want to copy the color of, and then you can also hit V on your keyboard to select the selection tool and quickly go in and select other pixels. So I just do this in pretty rapid succession until I end up slowly, but surely building out my artwork, so essentially, the only keyboard shortcuts you have to keep in mind are V for the selection tool, and then I for the eyedropper tool and then holding shift when you have the selection tool active to select multiple squares at once, which is just a helpful thing to keep in mind, and then as far as actually building out the pixel art and some considerations as you can see here, I have my example image of Gandalf, which I used as reference for building out this art, and I am absolutely by no means an expert at dried pixel art. This was really my first attempt at drawing any sort of a figure. I think I’ve done some very simple type or like a coin in the past, But that was years ago when I did that so I would reference this image and try to simplify the overall shapes as much as possible in this case. I started with the face just to give myself some sense of scale, so I decided I wanted the eyes to be a single pixel, so you can see. Each eye is a single pixel there, with two pixels between them in order to create the distance or the gap between the eyes and once. I have that very simple first. Step ready to go. It became much more easy for me to go in here and actually start to try to scale this out and it might be helpful. If you just very rough block out to the overall scale of things, so figure out how tall you want the face to be how tall you want the hat to be or whatever is appropriate for the example that you’re working with, and by the way you can just click, hold and drag images right into illustrator. So if you have an image on your desktop, and you have your illustrator open, just move around the window a bit so illustrator isn’t taking up the entire screen and then drag that image right into the tool. It works totally great, and I’m gonna move over to my actual working example here to show this with all these pixels being totally live, so when it came to colouring what I try to do is keep the color as simple as possible without using way too many different colors because then it loses that really grainy pixel effect that you come to expect from like NES Games or Super Nintendo Games or whatever the pixel art that you’re referencing is, and I’ll also say if you do look at other pixel art as you create this, it’ll be super helpful if you can find other good examples, just don’t completely copy them because that’s not too nice to do to whoever made the original stuff, but I would pick a primary color, so I have this sort of beige color for the overall face color, But when I looked at this image, you can see there’s some shadowing right under the Hat. It’s kind of a low quality image which made this a bit more difficult, but I decided just to desaturate that beige color, a little bit to serve as a shadow and then also serve as a gap between the forehead and the Hat and when it came to the Hat, I just have a very few colors to make this thing happen, so I have my darker color for the shading. I have the primary color for the brim of the Hat and then a lighter color above that to serve as a highlight and help bring it off, and then I actually have another color above that to kind of show the difference in lighting between the brim of the Hat and the top of the Hat, which has a lot more sunlight going on. So it’s just about being pretty careful about the color as you select and trying to stick with fairly simple color palettes. I tend to work in threes most of the time for most of the things that I work on whether it’s pixel art or not. So in the beard, For example, we have this primary kind of mid-tone gray. We have a darker gray, and then we have a lighter gray for that, and then I actually have a fourth one, which was a highlight of the gray, which is almost white, but not quite so that was kind of what I was thinking. There is – in terms of coloration, And even when you think about setting up your pixel grid, it’s really important to think about. How many pixels do you want to work with? Obviously, the fewer amount of pixels you have the more rough and pixelated. Your artwork is going to look. So if you look at a picture of Mario in the very first Mario game, they were working with very, very few pics, which makes it super hard to make a recognizable image and also makes it very impressive. How recognizable Mario is as a character. So if you use very few pixels, you’re gonna have a harder time making a compelling image that’s readable, But if you do, pull it off, it’ll have a very impressive pixel art look and the example here. I have is sort of in the middle where there’s not too many pixels where you’re almost drawing or painting a picture, but there’s not so few that you’d have a really difficult time communicating some more subtle elements. Even something like a beard with very, very few pixels can be really hard to make it look like a beard, And if I had used two times the pixels here or four times, the pixel density here drawing this, which I think this image actually took me about an hour, cuz. I’m not very good at doing this. I took me a lot of time to figure out how to even think about drawing this. It felt a little bit daunting until I really started drawing up a face and getting this to start looking like something, but if I had twice or four times the pixels, it would have been a Herculean task to attempt to do this. So I’m glad I didn’t go overboard and try to make this way too complex and some quick tips to with the coloring that I didn’t cover before. When you think about creating pixel art, it’s important to have nice little breakups in the color, so instead of making the beard all a single color or even two colors, having these individual little pixels that just kind of stand out and serve as tiny little highlights within the image will make it look much more real in terms of how pixel art is. Obviously it’s up to you how you want to draw this and what kind of look you’re going after, but when it comes to the pixel art that I’m familiar with, I don’t think of doing it in big broad colors, because then you just have giant color blocks, and it doesn’t feel quite as alive and also as your coloring. If you find that, you want to change colors as we’re going along, for example, this kind of light desaturate of blue, I have you can just click on an individual pixel go to select and from select. You want to go to same and then from same, you want to go to fill color which will actually select every pixel in your entire illustrator document that has that color, and when I say every pixel, obviously, it’s every square, but then you can just double click on that. Fill, change it to something else. Like hot pink. If you want to make it look real weird. And then it does that automatically, so that’s a really quick and easy way to recolor things as you are making them inside this tool, and also as you’re drawing, you might see that this entire example, here doesn’t have any strokes around the individual squares, so you can draw with the strokes on. If that is a preferred way, it makes it very easy to tell you where each individual pixel is, and if you’re using some sort of a template to help you draw the pixel art, then the strokes will be super duper helpful, but also you can just use the selection tool or that black arrow highlight over everything and then select your stroke, so it’s in the front in the toolbar and then to the lower right hand corner, there will be a box that says none when you hover over it. It’ll look like a white box with a red diagonal line going through it. Just click that, and it will remove all the strokes and you might say well. How would you know where the thing is to color it in? If you’re actually designing it this way, but with smart guys turned on when you hover over any individual pixel or any individual square so to speak, it’ll just show you the bounding box of where that is, so it’s actually pretty easy to know where the individual pixels are as long as you have smart guides on, and that’s actually how. I went through and drew this image up above without having the strokes on and I would just reference that image pretty closely as I would draw this out and try to get it looking the way that I wanted it to look And, of course, for example, Ill. Just turn on a stroke on this above example. Right here, so you can see that if you are done, creating your pixel art, so this is the pixel art with the stroke on. And you don’t want the stroke to be there anymore. Just highlight over at all and then hit that number when the stroke is in the front. Like I showed you before to remove it, but that’s really the high-level overview of how you can go in here and start creating your own pixel art. I’d say just be prepared to spend a little bit of time playing around with it getting used to what it’s like to actually attempt to draw a pixel art and then use some sort of basic art concepts like using lighter colors to blend and add some sort of a shading or a highlight effect to the overall artwork that you create. So if you think about where the light source is so you might have a. Sun in the upper right hand corner. Just draw your artwork in a way that would reflect that art source, of course, if you’re using a referenced image that should give you some really good tips about how in where to do shading and highlights, and, of course, use some artistic Liberty, so that when you convert something from a photo into pixel art, it actually holds up and looks recognizable, But there’s one very final thing. I do want to cover before we end this video because when you try to export artwork that is built in a manner like this in Illustrator, which is a vector format into a raster format like a PNG or a JPEG or bringing it into Photoshop. You might run into some very slight problems, so I just selected all this and I’m going to hit Ctrl C on my PC or Command-c, and I’m asked to copy it. Bring it over to Photoshop and then hit control V or command V and paste it as a smart object and then just hit Enter, so we can see what’s going on here, so a visual bug that happens when you make vector artwork in a program like illustrator and then convert it over to a program like Photoshop is you might see some very, very faint outlines between each one of these pixels, and if I go into illustrator to show that these are lined up well, you can see that with each one of these individual boxes, they are perfectly touching each other, and if I hit control Y on a PC or command Y on a Mac, you can see that in the outline preview, so you might see some really faint gaps between your pixels that you obviously won’t want to see when you export your artwork, and there are a couple different ways of going about doing this. The one that I personally do when I bring something from Illustrator into Photoshop in Photoshop is essentially where I like to export artwork from its just force of habit, I just select that layer inside the Photoshop document and then hit control J on a PC or command J on a Mac to duplicate it and even duplicating it once removed a lot of those outlines. But if you do it about five to ten times, it totally removes all those individual gaps and makes this now smooth pixel art, so that is the personal way that I tend to go about doing this, and then, of course you could just select the top one in the layer’s panel hold shift, select the bottom one and then right-click or control-click. If you don’t have a right-click button and then merge those layers together or you can leave them. All live, smart object layers. If that’s how you prefer doing that and an alternative way of doing this inside illustrator, so you don’t have to even worry about doing that is you can click on an individual color so depending on how many colors you have, you can select each individual one and then go to select and then go to same and then fill color, so that’s in the top menu select same and then fill color, which will select them all and then just double click on the fill and in the color picker that comes up, there’s a hex code section. It’ll have a hash tag just highlight over the numbers and letters there and then hit control-c or command-c to copy it and then cancel out of that and then double click on the stroke and then in that same hex code area hit Control V or command V to paste and hit OK, which will then give all these fills a stroke that matches the fill so each individual pixel now has a stroke to match that fill, and from that you can go to your propertie’s window, and you just want to set the stroke to a very, very small number, so it’s essentially not noticeable, so I would suggest something like 0.25 point or even point, one point should be totally enough, so I’ll do 0.1 and then I’ll just select some boxes here to see how this looks as I bring it into Photoshop, so I made a point one stroke. I’m pasting that in here and all I’m looking for is any sort of a gap between these colors, and as you can see, there is no gap whatsoever when you build out your artwork like that. So that is an alternative way of solving that problem. If you prefer it that way, you would just do that for each and every color, and even when you start your document and you start building out your colors. You could just add that point, one point stroke to each and every individual pixel that you make so to speak and it would solve the problem before it even happens so totally up to you. How you want to do that, but I did think it would be helpful to walk through that process in case you run into that issue because it can be very frustrating, especially if you built out all your individual pixels in a way that you know, they’re overlapping perfectly that they’re all combined perfectly, and yet you still see that visual gap, which is kind of annoying but past that that’s really it for this video. If you do have any questions about this process or you want to get some feedback from other people that watch This video feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Maybe I can help you out. Maybe someone else can help you out or you can. Just give feedback about how this process went for you. And also if you found this video helpful, and you want to let me know that it was helpful. Consider hitting the thumbs up button to like the video and let me know that you liked it. It’s very helpful when you do that because then. Youtube is more likely to show the video to other people. And if you want to see content like this in the future, please consider subscribing. I do my best to keep creating new content, just like this with that being said, that’s the end of the video. Thank you so much for watching [Music].