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- What is Pixel Art? (Pixel Art vs Oekaki Pixel)…

This Information Journal is a brief, short address to the subject stated in the title. Please make sure you make full use of the helpful journals and tutorials mentioned within the journal!

So we know what pixel art is. Great. But now how do you shade pixel art exactly? Can you just swipe your pencil tool over the image like you do with a brush tool in order to create shadows?


As we recall, real pixel art involves the careful and thoughtful placement of most, if not all, of the pixels in the image. So we need to know the correct way to add shadows and highlights to our pixel masterpieces, yes? Well here is one way to shade pixel art:


Dithering is when you pixel two or more colors in a pattern to give them a blended look. You can dither with any two colors and it will always turn out right if you do so properly. So, how do you dither? Take a look at this very basic and easy-to-understand tutorial by kitted on dithering basics:

DITHERING TUTORIAL - Basics by kitted

As you can see, the two colors are pixeled in a checkerboard-like pattern until they look evenly blended. This is a main distinction of dithering, and it is pretty easy to do. Also, you do not have to dither in straight lines either. As long as you keep the pattern consistent, you can curve your dithering to fit the object you are shading. Here a great tutorial by Sinister-Starfeesh on circular dithering:

Circular Dithering Tutorial by Sinister-Starfeesh

Here is a piece by ShoneGold that showcases different dithering styles:

Dithering Styles by ShoneGold

And here are some helpful tips from ToySkunk about regular and irregular dithering and the dangers of pillow shading:

Pixel Art Tips by ToySkunk

Pillow Shading

Beware of pillow shading! Pillow shading makes your pixel piece look flat and fake due to the center position of the light source. Many starting pixel artists use pillow shading without knowing it, and then wonder why their piece looks kind of... ew.
When adding shades and highlights to your pixel art, try to use a light source that shines from an angle or anywhere other than directly into the middle of the pixel. Doing this adds a touch of realism to your piece. Here are some handy pillow shading tips by nekkers :

Furc Port Tips: Pillow Shading by nekkers

And last but not least, here are a few other forms of pixel shading:

Manual Anti-Aliasing

Pixel Blending + Shading Tips by BluE3

Easy Shading

Easy Shading PixelArt Tutorial by LittleKai

And make sure to check out this helpful compilation journal by :iconprojecteducate:!

PE: Pixel Art TutorialsSo you have discovered the wonderful world of pixel art and want to create your own :la:  But you don't know where to start or what techniques you might need to learn.  This article will give you some tips and tutorials to help you on your way.  Some links in this article do go off-site, as a warning.
Do I need a special program?
No!  Something as simple as Microsoft Paint, Paint Shop Pro or the Gimp, all of which are free, are all you need to start with pixel art.  Well, that and a mouse/touchpad (and a computer ;)).  Photoshop can be used to pixel as well, but it is costly, so unless you plan to use Photoshop for a multitude of digital media, it isn't the best investment for pixel art.
Free downloads of MS Paint and Paint Shop Pro can be found here:
What are some useful Pixel techniques?
When it comes to shading, both dithering and anti-aliasing (often called AA-ing) are your best

If you find any other useful pixel art tutorials on dA, feel free to submit them to the group's Pixel Art Tutorials folder!
Add a Comment:
Fern5223 Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I like the pillow shading, thankyou so much!
Inemiset Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem :)
soreen Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Quite useful, thanks for bringing this to us :)
Inemiset Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You are welcome :)
infinipede Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Might want to put the caveat that dithering is to be used sparingly - generally only when working with a limited palette (to create the illusion of more colors) or when trying to show certain textures (rough stone, rusted metal, etc.)

I see way too many beginning (and even advanced) dollers and pixelartists who use dithering in pieces with a large color count because they think it'll make their shading smooth - it won't. Overdithering is also an issue in a lot of beginners' pixel art.

A good example of dithering used to create extra shades and colors: Helm's Spartan. [link]

A good example of dithering used to create texture effects: Larwick's Rust Mesa. [link]
TOBproject Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2012
This is a great collection. Thanks a lot! I'm going to have a look at all of them.
Shannah67 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This Is So Helpful!! :heart:
ClefairyKid Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012
Awesome work c: I'm looking forward to putting some more time into the article with all these concepts included :aww:
Inemiset Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you :)

And I look forward to reading the article!
Kairui-chan Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Student General Artist
I really like the one from Shonegold c:
Inemiset Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, and the skull one is the best in my opinion :D
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