A Wee Bit’o Pixelling (Part 2)
So, enough about the software. I made a number of very small images (which are all shown in this article and appear here and there on this site) and one or two very simple animations. Predictably, exact pixel placement and color choice is stupidly important to this process. I found myself spending a lot of time placing a pixel, checking, tweaking and repeating. In fact, I spent more time tweaking little bits than I did laying in most of the rest of the image. Experimenting with pixel placement is where the magic happens and when it comes to perfect nipple placement, magic is important to have.
Whatever existing artistic skills I may have, I’m no animator so I blundered into the process pretty much blind. I started with the tail of my lamia girl. I wanted to have it waving back and forth at the tip. Not too much trouble there. Three frames and a little bit of fussing with the length. Pixel placement is even more important in animation because the movements are so small that sometimes you’d intuitively assume that a pixel should not move but when you see it in action it looks oddly static because that pixel is right on the cusp of the movement and represents such a large part of the image. This was another case where guessing and checking was important for me. Layers were also enormously helpful as I isolated the tale from the torso which made it easier to concentrate on one movement at a time.
Once I animated the tail it became really obvious how frozen the rest of the sprite looked in comparison. Therefore I moved on to the head. I decided to give it a “walk like an egyptian
” back and forth slide and this is where I learned another important lesson: moving big chunks of pixels together breaks the illusion of life. It looks mechanical and artificial. To offset this I added some sliding and pulling motion in her hair.
Adding animation to the image in several is important places because as each part is finished, the remaining bits stubbornly looked that much more NOT animated. The torso now bobs up and down and there is secondary motion to the hair and breasts. I learned about secondary motion from reading about animation in general. Richard Williams wrote a great book called the Animators Survival Kit.
Secondary motion is the movement in elements attached to the primary moving body. So, if I whip my head around, my hair follows, maybe it whips a little further when I stop my head and ultimately settles. Or, for a more relatable example, almost all breast animation is secondary motion.
Apart from that tiny animation project, which I probably spent about an hour on, I also pixelled up some MST3K fan art (I might have been playing Cave Story as well):
All in all, I have to recommend pixel art not only as an obviously valuable skill for the lone-gunman game maker but as a genuinely enjoyable hobby for people that just like to dink around on the computer. There is a strange doodly quality to it. Now that I think of it, its sort of like building in Minecraft — or, Minecraft is sort of like pixeling (voxelling?). Either way, grab a free tool and get to work!
PS: I don’t think I mentioned the awesome tool “Pixothello” in my last article as I wasn’t aware of it at the time. It’s a very slick tool with great “I wonder why this is the first time I’ve seen this feature” features.