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Creating Sprites

Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by serpx, Dec 24, 2019.

  1. serpx



    I've found a sudden jolt of motivation where I have interest in learning how to draw sprites. Specifically, my end game is to be able to draw sprites that mimic the Genesis or Sega CD style sprites in our favorite classic Sonic titles (Sonic 1, 2, 3 & K, CD).

    What suggestions would you have for someone that is starting from scratch with going from newbie to pro? How to go about starting?
  2. Aside from constant practice, I'd recommend the getting Aseprite. Best program for Pixel art I've used:
  3. Ritz


    Subhedgehog Member
    Pixel art is attractive to beginner artists because it looks easy, and it can be, but you're going to flounder with getting a good result if you don't have a strong grounding in the fundamentals of drawing and painting. There's no shortcut (I've spent the last 14 years looking). I'll try to lay out the shortest path you can take toward Sonic-quality level art:

    If you're a complete beginner, you need to spend some time drawing from life to develop your 2D perception and motor skills. If you're still in high school or college, any drawing course is good for that. If not, read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (I haven't, but people swear by it). Once you can accurately outline a still life, read Loomis. Fun With a Pencil is a good introduction to constructing forms from imagination (the Most Important Thing), Successful Drawing is an excellent primer on perspective and color theory.

    Next comes painting. The key thing about pixel art that people tend to overlook is that it's just low resolution digital painting (see also: Artstation, CGSociety)- an understanding of how light, color and texture work are prerequisites for rendering art with confidence, but pixel art is the worst way to learn that since good pixel art is all about inferring detail that isn't actually present. Studying existing pixel art will only teach you a particular solution to a rendering problem without providing the context by which the artist arrived at that solution. So:

    1) Get a tablet. Wacom only, no Huion bullshit. The 6" x 8" Intuos 3 that cost me $300 in 2006 can be bought used on eBay for $20 right now, it's the best possible value for your money.
    2) Learn Photoshop and/or Krita. Krita's free and is honestly way better for digital painting, but learning Photoshop will be a boon to your budding career as a professional artist (this is your new life) and will give you the most solid foundation since it's the template for every art program that came after.
    3) Once you've learned how to blend using a basic hard round brush with opacity set to pressure, go buy a fruit/vegetable and paint it as realistically as you can. This thread was my guide, although sadly most of the embeds are dead now.
    4) Have fun painting for a few years. For reference, I got into art with the intention of producing Sonic tilesets and it took me 9 years to return to pixel art with confidence. I got sidetracked, your mileage may vary

    All that remains at this point are some of the finer details of palette management. Art is 70% observation, so the most important thing that you can do right now is to download some tile rips (like here and here), zoom in and just really study them. I've spent HOURS vegging out staring at Chaotix at 400% zoom and it had a profound influence on my entire artistic identity. It's a particularly good starting point since you get to see the same scenes under four notably realistic lighting conditions.

    Oh and Pro Motion NG is hands down the best app for pixel art. If money's a problem, try Grafx2- it covers 85% of the same feature set, just with an ancient UI that eventually becomes charming once you get used to it.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2019
  4. Ritz


    Subhedgehog Member
    And now that I'm feeling nostalgic, I just remembered the first tutorial I saw that convinced me that art was something I could actually do. Still a good window for the process of developing a picture from scratch. Feng Zhu is even better for that.
  5. serpx


    Incredible -- thank you both for taking the time to share your perspectives. Ritz, your message and the details with it is SUPER helpful. Makes sense to understand the basics of art and applying it in modalities such as painting in order to confidently produce what the classic games have in sprites. And thank you both for taking time to send links to resources.

    I knew this wasn't going to be a simple journey, and am hopeful I have the endurance to someday feel confident of putting what's in my brain onto paper with satisfaction.

    Side Note: I checked out your twitter @Ritz and holy crap, great work! Definitely goals for me.
  6. Is there some kind of experience you had with Huion or technical knowledge that led you to this opinion? I'm not an artist, but I did buy a Huion tablet a while ago that I never ended up using regularly and now that I'm back home from college was considering learning digital art in my free time. Should I go with what I already have or try to get myself a Wacom?
  7. vexatious


    Do you mean imposing content used for the core's 6-bit vdp (aka Sega Genesis vdp), or specifically Sonic 1-2-3-k?

    If it's 6bit vdp stuff, there are too many ways to do it. You basically subsample and downscale from a full quality master. Just don't forget to oversample prior to conversion.

    If it's specifically Sonic 1-2-3-k, I think you need the "Lightwave" stuff. You might be able to by just learning nurbs and the like.

    There's other less expensive ways to sample sprites if you know your way with P.C. games. E.g. "Doom 3" works pretty well for making sprites; just record timedemo and replay it while recording. You'll need to use command line of these games. There's "Quake III Arena" too.
  8. Lilly


    United States
    Shang Mu Architect
    Seconding Ritz' recommendation of Krita! It's free, and only getting better at dealing with pixel art over time. I've been using it for my game project for the past few years, and I only occasionally switch to GIMP for its posterize tool; Krita's very intuitive, feature-rich and purpose-built for painting, and takes a lot of cues from Photoshop's GUI. I love using it to sketch and paint, even outside of pixel art. (It's also one of the first apps to release with HDR painting, if you have an HDR monitor!)

    Krita is also quite good at indexed painting, if you don't mind a little extra prior setup with your layers before painting; it's a bit advanced, to put it mildly, but it's worth the trouble! I can safely assume third-party extensions for Photoshop also do the same job, but if you're on a budget of $0, Krita's pretty viable for making video game art, if you don't mind it having a higher learning curve than say, Aesprite.

    Tutorial on indexed painting:

    Pixly and Pixel Studio on Android also exist, if you want to practice pixel art on the go! They're very full-featured apps, just a little less conventional to use, so it takes some practice to get the hang of them. (I cheat a little by plugging in a USB mouse with an OTG cable.)

    I read "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" years ago, and it was more of a philosophical book about drawing than anything else, like a 90-page pep talk. I didn't get any serious techniques out of it, just a different (but interesting!) perspective on drawing. Loomis is what you want!

    Loomis's book, Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, absolutely blew my mind, and I seriously need to get back into reading it and practicing its material. Rarely have I ever read a book while itching with excitement over its revelations.

    Depending on how recent your Huion model is, it should be comparable to Wacom's equivalent, if not better. Wacom's hardware costs obscenely more than the competition, (more-so if you want a larger drawing surface than the smalls) because they're a monopoly of sorts by having an established household name in the digital art world. While you do generally get what you pay for, you can get more drawing surface space for less with the competition.

    Of all my art friends, only two of them use Wacom tablets; modern XP Pen and Huion models are not giving them any problems, and I'm kind of jealous of how much fancier my friend's medium-sized Huion tablet is compared to the two small Wacom tablets I own. It has more buttons and features, while the small model I own, at the same price as his medium-sized tablet, ($90) doesn't even have tilt control.

    That's not to say Wacom's bad, these are really good tablets, and they will last you, but they are like the Apple of the artist world in terms of price-point. (They also sometimes lie about the specs of their models.) The price of their replacement pens are also ridiculous, they cost almost as much as a small Wacom tablet. ($70 vs $10-$15 from some other brand.) So, it's a little give and take with Wacom; lots of good, some bad.

    Personally, I've had an Intuos Pen and Touch for several years and haven't changed its nib once! (Once its irritating "paper-like" texture wore off from use, of course.) It also came with spare nibs I haven't even used yet. Also, I got the Wacom Draw a few years back, because it's more portable, and it only set me back $80; doesn't have an eraser end, but its build quality feels better than my older tablet! I don't regret my purchase at all.

    I don't feel held back by either of the two Small Wacom tablets I'm using, and the only reason I haven't budged from that brand is because unofficial Linux support is sometimes just as good as the Windows drivers. Your mileage will vary on alternative OSes with other brands. But if I ever want a larger drawing surface, I'm going to give Huion's medium-range models an honest try. If people's perception of Huion's hardware is from past models that left a lot to be desired, it seems that they've changed.

    tl;dr: If your Huion tablet works, it works; don't let the Wacom corporate shills tell you it's going to explode at random because it's not a Wacom.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020
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  9. Ritz


    Subhedgehog Member
    Not really, I'm just talking shit + going by anecdotal accounts of driver problems and software incompatibility issues which may not even be an issue today, I've been out of that loop for years. Just wanted to point out that Wacom deprecates hard without newer models really providing much additional value, and older ones frequently sell for dirt cheap.

    Although I am personally grafted to the brand: I chose the Mobilestudio Pro in spite of dozens of alternatives that are either cheaper or better specced simply for compatibility with the airbrush pen, which has since become integral to my technique. And yes, that means paying $100 for what should be a $25 accessory
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  10. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Classic Eggman art Member
    EDIT: Trash, please.
    Last edited: May 14, 2020