Pixelart, spriting and animation technique sharing

If it doesn't fit elsewhere, it should go here
User avatar
Posts: 964
Joined: 11 Feb 2012, 02:08

Post » 26 Nov 2014, 18:11

Pixelart, Spriting and Animation Technique Sharing
I see a lot of great sprites on this forum, made by lots of different members.
Why not share our approach to how we make these sprites, animations and what not?
I want to encourage every spriter to share their methods, tools, styles and sources to help and teach others.
Also feel free to ask for help with your sprites, like questions on how to approach certain specific styles, animations or what not.
Please do keep in mind that this is not the Art Thread, you can showcase your finished sprites there, not here. This topic is purely for technique sharing.
Requesting specific tutorials is allowed, who knows you might get your answers. You're also free to leave small tips and tricks.

Some tips on posting your techniques/methods:
- Give your tutorial or technique a title that tells us what you'll be covering.
- It'd be greatly appreciated if you could put your technique/method in a tutorial-style layout for others.
- Images help explain things a lot better.
- When you're sharing a tool or program it'd help to leave a link.
- Try to make it easy to read for others.
- Some sprites could be too small to be clear, so double check if the image you posted isn't too small.

Quick Links:
Here I'll post links to the posts in this topic with good tutorials (not small tips) in them.
If I haven't added one and you'd like to see it here for convenience, don't be afraid to PM me.
- No links yet -

Here is a list of what people would like to see tutorialized for them.
If you have a request you can either post it here or PM me about it and I'll add it to the list.
- Jorichi's Request: "How to create a luscious and plant-rich tileset, using foregrounds and backgrounds as well"
- Jorichi's Request: "How to create good looking dirt blocks and stones/rocks (emphasis on it's shading/creating depth, making it feel less blocky)."

Do not forget to respect the work of the spriters that post their methods here. Don't use their content without permission in any case.

Well with that all said and done, I'll start with my animation method to get things started (boob-physics not included).
Jorichi's Character Animation Method:
I will start this explanation by assuming that you already have a design for your character. I will be using my character Becky as an example.
Usually a character sprite is designed in an idle pose, just standing. In order to start making proper animations like running
or jumping you'd need to either visualize the animation frame by frame or use a reference found on the internet (search
"running animation" on google images for example). Things like this really help:
The amount of frames shouldn't matter unless you limit yourself. I usually find the amount of frames through the references images
I found on a google search, I fill in the spots where I feel the need to add a frame.
Anyways, I break down the idle sprite I made into a "wireframe" (basically just an outline with some important lines here and there).
I make this wireframe out of strong and clashing colors so I keep an eye on every part as I animate it.
From Becky to the wireframe will end up looking like this:
Image Image
Using this wireframe I start making those running frames one by one according to the reference poses. I use paint.net with a plugin called AnimationHelper.
AnimationHelper allows me to quickly check the sprites in animation with the greatest of ease. I just select the first frame, set the amount of frames and the FPS
and I get immediate results. Check the animation every time you change something, to see if it still looks nice compared to the last one.
Keep an eye out on weird proportion changes or things like that, it will be harder to spot later on.
Touch it up where necessary until you are satisfied with the results and move on to the next frame.
Be sure to double check everything on different speeds, you'll find it easier to spot little flaws on a lower FPS.
Once you're satisfied with the results you'll end up having something like this:
Image Looks familiar, doesn't it?
In the AnimationHelper plugin's preview on 15FPS it will look like this:

Now that I'm satisfied with the wireframe, I'll start coloring it in as a naked sprite. I do this in order to get the shading right, making it easier for later when I add animation in clothing and such. But before I start clothing I add the eyes and mouth to add more animation to the whole thing:
Make sure to copy and past the wireframe and not color in the only thing you have right now, that way you have something to roll back to.
Also note that I changed the ears up a little, they move with the head just like the eyes and the mouth to give the sensation that her head is moving left to right a bit.
I also kept checking the animated preview to see if anything screwed up. With animations you better check every change you make.

At this point I add everything that doesn't need alternate animations. For Becky that is her boots, shorts and shirt (her vest is animated so I left that out for now):
Image Easy enough.
I changed the shading of the clothes a bit, but not much.
Also here I keep checking the animation if the boots, shorts or shirt didn't make any odd shifts or something.

Now comes the trickiest bit for Becky; her hair. Some characters will have a cape, scarf or hair flapping in the wind, so Becky's hair is a good example for such things.
I break down these animations into several steps. First I do the hair on the top of her head, the bit that doesn't do much moving around.
For such small movement in the lock of her hair I simply used a trial and error method. Flat coloring of these kind of things makes it easy to track their overall movement. I basically did the same for the bottom half of her hair and then shaded it. I tried to follow a wave pattern with the flat colored hair that follows the bouncing up and down of her animation.
The jacket I added in the second row is done by using a second layer. I drew it on that layer, pasted it down whenever I wanted to preview it and used the
undo function whenever I wasn't satisfied with the results (the AnimationHelper doesn't preview mulitple layers for you, so that's why).
The Third row is the final result after fixing all the flaws you guys pointed out in the art thread, thank you guys for that.
Feedback is gold.

So a little recap (if helpful at all):
1. Create wireframe.
2. Create animation using wireframe to get basic frames down with help of references, edit where necessary.
3. Color it in. Add small details to face if necessary. Lay down a basic shading.
4. Add colors and details that don't require any or much animation.
5. Add other bigger animations to clothing or hair using simple step by step techniques like using layers or flat colored objects.

So that wraps up my method of animations in characters. I hope you guys enjoyed it and I also hope it will come to use to some of you.

User avatar
Posts: 1401
Joined: 06 Mar 2012, 03:29

Post » 26 Nov 2014, 22:26

About the tutorials thing, I've been holding onto this link in my bookmarks for awhile.
Yeah it's similar to your running animation explanation, but this one is walking and I found it to be useful.
I'd love to talk about more or do a tutorial or something, but I don't think I can explain how I sprite things.
I'd love to look at what may become of this thread, though.

Edit: I didn't read the thick bold text about not posting other's tutorials with the lack of permission.

User avatar
Posts: 849
Joined: 15 May 2012, 18:35

Post » 02 Dec 2014, 15:44

Very Basic Shading
Here's my method for sprite shading. You'll go from something that looks like this:
To something that looks like this:
First you need a program where you can toggle the opacity of layers. In this example, I will be using gimp. You can download it free at gimp.org
To get started you need a pixel art image you drew.
I'm sure there will be a few tutorials on this so here's my little mascot guy you saw earlier.
Then, in a new layer, begin drawing on lines where you think the light would be darkest. In this image I chose under the t-shirt, below the crotch, along the inside of the arms and below the giant mascot head. I also added some dark teeth outlines as they looked better than raw black with the brightness of the teeth.
I then took the opacity on the shading layer down. In this particular case I set it to 38. As with most things in art, this is really going to depend on your own personal preference as to what looks natural on the picture.
Of course you could stop here but I want more layers of shading going on. In this layer I introduce directional light. In this case, as is common for me, it comes from the right. This means the left 'flick' of the t-shirt, the right side of both of the arms is darker, the crotch on the right hand side is darker because of the curve of the leg and of course the bottom and leg on our left side will also be darker. It's alright to go over your shading at this point, it will just give it more tones.
Since this layer is for the lighter shades, the opacity is less this time. It is now only at 16.
OK. So now we have added some shadows to the picture, let's work on some light parts. Now, in my experience, light doesn't make cloth shine as much as skin, especially if reptilian. So we're going to add these shines to the brow and cheek areas. The nose and chin also catch some shine but since this guy doesn't really have them, I left it out here.
Opacity time again. A nice 26.2 works well in this case. As I say, these should be done on a case by case basis. The darker the skin, the less opacity.
Now, just like the shadows, we do another layer of highlights to add tone to the sprite.
Once again turning the opacity down to a place you think looks nice
Well that's it. My extremely basic shading style, shared with everyone.