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How to Make Pixel Art in Photoshop


Most of the time, we want images to have as much graphical fidelity as possible. However, we’re so accustomed to high-resolution everything that sometimes, going in the opposite direction can create a visual statement.

Pixel art is one popular example. To see what makes this artform effective and easy to make, let’s take a look at what exactly it is and how to make pixel art in photoshop.

What Is Pixel Art?

You probably assume that when it comes to images, higher quality is always better. And in 99% of cases, you would be correct. But there are a few instances where going low-fidelity might be in your best interest.

Take the case of Return to Monkey Island, a direct sequel to two cult-classic point-and-click adventure games from the early 90s. The series creator decided to update the art style for the name game, advancing it from its primitive roots, only to receive a torrent of backlash from fans. They demand pixel art, it seems.

And games like the Monkey Island titles are great examples of the style. It’s art explicitly meant to evoke the aesthetic for this kind of old 8-bit and 16-bit computers and video game consoles. Not only is it a charming and eye-catching style, but it plays on the nostalgia many people have for the pop culture of that time.

How to Make Pixel Art in Photoshop

So now that we know why you would use pixel art, let’s take a look at how to create it. As with any graphics, if you’re on a schedule then the best solution is to outsource the work to a freelancer. If that sounds like the right option for you, learn more about finding pre-vetted artists who would be happy to work with you.

But if you like the idea of tinkering around with the art yourself, let’s get down to making pixel art in Photoshop.

Open Photoshop and set up a new canvas with these settings:

  • Width: 500px
  • Height: to 500px
  • Orientation to Landscape
  • Resolution to 50
  • Color Mode to RGB

Click create. Open a picture of the subject you want to use by dragging and dropping the picture of the subject on your document. You can also go to File > Place Embedded. To get the desired effect, you may need to resize your picture.

First, use the elliptical marquee tool to make a circular selection of the picture. Then to cut out the selection, press Ctrl or Cmd + J to duplicate it in another layer. Now you can click the eyeball symbol next to the bottom layer to hide it.

Now we want to delete the leftover background behind the subject. The magic wand tool is the easiest way to do this.

With the background gone, right-click the subject layer, and from the Layers panel and click “Convert to Smart Object.” Now go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic.

And with that, you see the beginning of your pixel art. There are tweaks you can do to enhance the look, but this is the basic process.

Embracing the Retro Look

This method is one simple way how to make pixel art in photoshop. Once you get the basics down, you can start to experiment with the parameters and tweak the style to achieve the exact effect that you want.

But remember that pixel art is only one way that you can use graphics to make a stylistic splash. For more ideas on how you can make your blog or graphics stand out, be sure to follow our latest business and tech guides.

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