Alright, you all know what pixel art is and more or less how it looks like. If not, then just think of ANY old game and look at it’s art and you’ll figure out instantly. Pixel art is what it is by name: art made entirely of pixels, and if you want to go ahead and make it, you are in for a treat and a challenge because pixel art, though apparently easy it is time consuming. It’s a process where you put each pixel in the frame, or you can cheat a little and just fill what you can fill, but that’s not important now.
If you don’t want to know how to do pixel art, you can just scroll down. I know most of you are going to scroll down anyway.
Good, what I’ll be covering today is turning a picture (or portrait in our case) into pixel art.
And please ignore the fact that it looks like a representation of a Vulcan, not a Human.
Now, going back, let’s start with the first step, and that is: sizing.
For starters, you want to know how big you want your art to be. For this example I chose 32×32 which may be very small but it’s good for icons and even some video games. Depends all on what you want to do. It is also good for practicing because going small could be hard in the beginning but once you go bigger you’ll find that you can fill up more details and make your pixel representations look more realistic.
Once that is figured out, just create an empty photoshop file and make it the size you want, as I said, I’ll go for 32X32 in this tutorial ( this means 32×32 pixels, please make sure they are pixels) and then insert the picture and fit it appropriately.
Afterwards, it is a good idea to save the main colours in the picture as swatches. In this tutorial I will skip this part but if you will be working for a product with a predefined set of colours, just save the colours you will need as swatches or a palette.
Next, we will create two layers: one to paint on and one to mask the differences between the picture and the pixel painting. You can also decrease the opacity of the picture to around 80-90% so that you can see easier where there are things to be modified but I believe this step is more efficient, just choose a colour that is outside your chosen swatches so that it can stand out. If you’re not saving swatches, just choose a colour that will stand out from the colours inside the picture.
Once we’re done with that, we should lock the original picture layer and then draw the outline. One thing to be careful of is to make sure that the outline is not very jagged. Try to make it smooth and you can bend the actual picture if you want, this is art, it does not have to be precise
Afterwards, start making the contours of the face. You can make the contour of the head entirely first and then make a contour of the hair. If you’re having dark hair then just fill it (aah, the joys of having dark coloured hair).
In the picture below I also put the eyebrow and the lips. Those aren’t that difficult, you just need a trained eye to spot them but if you alt+tab between photoshop and the picture in full size, you can spot better where to place it.
Next, we will start filling up the head with all the selected colours. Yes, that can be the most difficult, but if you frequently hide the layer your screening layer ( in our example the layer below the picture and the pixel painting) you will have less of a hard time noticing the differences. Then all you’ve have to do is check and see how much of the head is filled with colour.
Note: the eyes could be quite tricky. I have yet found a good trick for them at this small resolution but if I will, I will write it down in an edit of this post.
Once we’re done with filling the head with colour we should proceed to make the necessary refinements between the outline and the filling and then fill up the background. You may proceed as you did earlier with the head or you can be lazy (like me) and fill it up completely with just one colour, in this case, the colour that is usually found on the wall.
And there you go! A pixel portrait of yourself. If you want to shade it some more you could feel free to do so. You could even find more shades for a colour by simply burning or dodging it. This could enable you to shade it better.
If however you feel like there is still some more stuff to do, you can dither it. Dithering provides a gradient-like transition from one shading to another and could have a pretty cool effect. You will mostly find dithering useful if you go on to higher resolutions but on this small scale, it’s not very noticeable. I did however put it into the picture and you can see it’s example below:
And that is it. If you want you could also look on other tutorials, I really like the one by derek yu. You can access it HERE. He goes more into shading, dithering, even anti-aliasing and his tutorial is a very good read if you want to go into pixel art. Otherwise, there are plenty of other good tutorials on the internet so, feel free to try them out and go crazy!
Oh, and this is also for those who skipped the tutorial altogether: if you want to have me try out a portrait of you in vector art or pixel art, feel free to contact me.