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Pixel art for Video games

The essential course for creating stunning pixel art graphics for video-games or stylish illustrations and designs
Marco Vale
34 students enrolled
English More
Learn the fundations for creating anything in pixel art
Create solid line work and stunning shading
Learn how to build video-game mockups for your games
Create create characters and animated them in minutes
Create tiles in the top down RPG style
Drawing pixel art in Isometric view, like an RTS game

Imagine how cool your game would look in pixel art! Stop imagining!

==== UPDATED 26th of December==== *NEW SECTION* – Color theory

This section was added by popular demand as something that was missing from the course. Thank you for you patience, I wanted to make sure everything was as good as I could make it. Enjoy!

In this course I’ll use my 10+ years of experience to teach you all you need to know to start making your own pixel art. You’ll go from zero to full speed in no time with simple exercises that will teach you the foundations as well as advanced concepts that help give your pixel art creations that professional look.

Featuring over 6 hours of footage, you’ll be able to follow step by step as I take you through the creation of some really cool pixel art!

You’ll learn:

  • Configuring Photoshop to draw in pixel art
  • Drawing lines and smooth shapes, such as circles
  • Shading and texture
  • The use of outlines

And once you get these concepts settled, you’ll learn:

  • Creating tiles and adding detail to tilled images
  • Creating sprites while using a tile grid
  • Creating tiles in the style of top-down RPG games
  • Creating characters in top-down perspective
  • Creating some medieval style hud elements
  • Working in isometric perspective

You’ll also:

  • create a CHARACTER
  • and ANIMATE it within minutes!
  • Learn about color theory

As a bonus round you’ll get a chance to create a unity project and actually see your character move and jump around on the screen just like if it was in your video-game

Take this course now and you will see your pixel art skill skyrocket!


Introduction Video

Welcome to my course!

Pixel art and its limitations

What is pixel art? how is it different from the other digital arts? have a listen as I talk and put some examples on the screen!

Creating pixel art - Lineart

Working with Photoshop

before we can confortably work in photoshop, lets take some time to learn the basic tools and some tricks to feel more at ease with photoshop it self. You'll learn how to create, duplicate and move layers. And also how to copy parts of a layer onto a new one, or onto itself.

Configuring the tools for pixel art

Using Photoshop for pixel art is perfectly fine, but give that its a very complex software with loads of features, we want to make sure that our tools are set specifically to work with pixel level illustrations

Creating lines

Drawing a line isn't just a matter of creating pixels next to each other. there are optimal line directions and optimal placement of pixel, to suggest a specific shape. In pixel art, every single pixel counts.

Creating circles

Since a circle is the smoothest shape you can draw, its also the most complicated one to replicate in pixel art, while still ensuring it doesn't look like something else. In this lecture, I'll guide you through the smallest sizes you can draw a circle in, and what are the best aproaches.

Creating Pixel art - Lineart
Drawing your first sprite - a Sword!

With the fundamentals or line and shape drawing, its time to draw your first sprite: A Sword!
We will create a simple shape, and fill it in with simplistic and flat colors.

Exercise - trace over a book drawing

Use this photoshop file to practice tracing over a drawing. Use the layer above all the others, and with the pencil tool create a line as clean as you can, over what YOU think, are the most important features on the drawing.If you are not using photoshop, you can use the png version of the file that you can find in the resources.

Conclusion section 2

Creating pixel art - Shading

Shading in the real world

Before we can shade in pixel art, we should look at some real life examples, and see how light affects different surfaces

Shading a sphere and a cube

In Pixel Art, everything is 2D. But how can we make objects look three-dimensional? We have to use shading. When we shade an object, we give it a sense of volume. there are a few rules to this. This lecture explains them by using primitive solids as an example.

Shading a pyramid and a cylinder.

After learning the most simple solids (Sphere and Cube) its time to have a go at another couple of simple volumes: A pyramid and a cylinder. These two new volumes follow the same rules, but have unique characteristics.

Creating an apple sprite - Shading

With the skill of shading, we now have the power to move into a three-dimensional object: An Apple. We discuss the apple's unique shape, and how it affects the shading.

Creating an apple sprite - Outlines

Outlines are one of the best ways to make objects stand out from the background. In this lecture we give a try to 3 types or outlining.

Creating an apple sprite - Texture

While still using the colors from the shading, we can add a layer of texture buy changing how we shade the volume. If instead of smooth shapes we take the care to add some variation to our transitions, we can suggest texture.

Creating an apple sprite - Bounced Light

Shading gives and object volume, and an outline makes it stand out. But how do we make and object seem to belong in a scene? We need to light it with additional light. In this lecture I should the use of bounced light, so help place an object on the scene

Revisiting the Sword sprite - Adding shading and outlines

With all that we learned about shading, we can now go back into our sword sprite and add even more detail what what we had previously, turning it into a fully shaded sword.

EXERCISE - Shading a chalice

Please use the file attached and shade it to make it look like a gold chalice with encrusted rubies.

Conclusion Section 3

Color Theory

Color Theory introduction

This lecture introduces the student to the themes and topics that will be discussed

Color Harmony

Color Harmony is a way to make sure you make good decisions when selecting colors for strong, bold designs that stand out.

Color Psychology

Colors can have an emotion charge, or a psychological meaning. This lecture explains the psychology behind some of the most popular color choices

Using color harmonies in mockups
Color Palettes

When selecting colors, the color count restriction or overall tone of the scene should influence the palette. This lecture shows a way to create color palettes that actually fit together

Color in shading - Part 1

Shading uses value, but color is also an important factor. This part 1 video is spent setting up scene for us to experiment with color and shading

Color in shading - Part 2

After we've set the scene, now is the time to make some bold decisions in color, using what we learned

Colors in materials - Part 1

Materials not only have difference in shading, but also in the way they show color. In this lecture we will look at some classic examples

Colors in materials - Part 2

Working with tiles

The basic concept of tiles

Tiles are by far the most used technique for filling the screen with a world. From Platformers to RPGs, tiles have always been widely used . This lecture serves as an introduction to the concept behind tiles.

Creating the base tile

With the concept sinking in, we can now go and make out base tile. This will be our main orientation, as it will provide size, style, color palette, volume and camera perspective.

Creating a simple background and adjusting colors

With a bunch of things established, we can move a little more forward with the mockup, by adding a background. In this lecture I show a really quick and simple way to create a background scene that will serve as a backdrop for the mockup.

Conclusion Section 4

Improving the environment

Aditional Tiles for variation

The game world will be made with all these tiles, so it would be nice to have some variation. Taking some of the lessons learned in previous lectures we add variation and depth to out mockup by adding variation in the tiles

Decorative tiles

Extra tiles will help solidify the game world, and make i more believable. This lecture shows how you can do it, and what problems you'll face, and, obviously, how to solve them!

Creating a pine tree

Since the world right now is only made up with terrain, its time to add some additional elements for decoration and scale.

Reworking the background

Its time to turn our attention to the background, and make sure that it also follows the rules of tiles.

Exercise - Building walls

Imagine your side scrolling game is set in a metropolis. see how little tiles you need to make a big building.

Conclusion Section 5

Creating a character

Creating the head

With out mockup now ready, we can start working on our character. There are a lot of considerations to take into account. We start by just creating the head, and with that we define the size, color, age, and sex of our character.

Creating the body

While the head provides with the identity of the character, the body provides with an attitude. Pose and shape will help convey a personality for out game character.

Detailing the body

Once we are happy with a body shape, we need to make it as interesting, easy to read and as recognizable as possible. For this we use shading techniques to help give a sense of depth and scale

Adding an outline

Just like we did with the apple and sword, we will also now use the same outlinning technique to help our character stand out. But while doing this, we must understand that it will have consequences in out workflow in the future.

Conclusion Section 6


The tools and basics of animation
Creating the base for animation

Now is the time to take our character from a mockup into a living thing. We do this with animation. Its no the most simple thing, but it is a key aspect of suggesting that the character is alive and ready for action

Breathing life into the character with secondary animation

Simple as it may be, we need to add more detail to out animation, for it to read well, and look more alive. In this lecture we go into the issue of secondary animation and how we can make something look more organic rather than stiff and robotic.

Animating a run cycle

Running animation is one of the most important to learn and master. They convey weight, speed and agilty. But before you can do one on the go, we first should learn how to plot and plan a running animation.

Completing the run cycle

With out animation planned out all we need now is to go in an fill the gaps. It takes time, but is so much faster once we have everything in place.

Animating an attack

Idle and running so far were animations with continuous frame rate. Each frame was on the screen the same time as the others. In this attack animation we see how we can make a frame be faster or stay longer on the screen, to change the animation dynamics.

Exercise - Character

This exercise was designed to let you not only practice your character drawing skills, but also develop the capacity to interpret a concept design, and try and translate that into pixel art.

Conclusion Section 7

Bonus Round - Importing to unity

Importing sprites into unity

In this lecture you'll learn how to save one image with all your frames, and how you import that image into unity and configure it for use in a video game situation.

Recreating the animations in unity

In this lecture we look into the animation panel in unity to rebuild our animations to work with unity.

Making it interactive with free scripts

Now that we have all our animations we can turn the player into a movable character with a couple of free scripts and some layer fiddling around. Find the attached resources to get the scripts and character sprite or follow the instructions on the lecture.


What is topdown perspective

Before creating terrain tiles, we need to understand what the "game camera" is meant to see and show to the player or user. So in this lecture we'll look at a 3d model and see how a topdown perspective is built.

Different types of techniques

Even though its hard to find names to call these different techniques of creating and using terrain tiles, I've created a selection of the four I feel are the most important and most used in pixel art.

Creating Path Tiles - Setting up the pieces

Creating tiles can be intimidating if you think about the amount of variations you have to make. So we start with the most straigh forward one: Path Tiles. We'll create a fundation for all the tile pieces we need.

Creating Path Tiles - Creating a usable pattern

With the most basic pieces created, we now have enough material to create the next pieces with ease, by just reusing parts. We do this to create the base pattern for out tileset

Creating Path Tiles - Adding Shading to the tiles

The main pattern is done, the road is very evident on the screen, but we can still add a little depth. We'll do that by creating a sense of relief on the road and grass

Creating Path Tiles - Trying out the tiles

Now that it's complete, lets take it for a spin, and see how it behaves. We'll build road using the tiles we created.

Patch Tiles - Understanding the pattern

In this lecture, we'll look at how complicated the patch tiles pattern can be. We'll see how its used, and find a solution for a much simpler pattern that will do the same job

PatchTiles - Creating a base grass tile

Before we do our patch tile set we want to create some base tiles for use later on. We start by making a standard grass tile

Patch Tiles - Improving the grass tile

After we got a base grass tile laid down, we want to improve on its look so that it breaks the grid effect and looks like grass

Patch Tiles - Creating the dirt tile

To go with the grass tile, we'll create a dirt tile as well, that we'll later use to make all the transitions

Patch Tiles - Creating the pattern

With our base tiles created we can go ahead and start putting a pattern together so that we can build our tile set

BlockTiles - The cliff side

Elevation is one of the main features of the block tile technique, so lets take advantage of that. Since we already have a grass texture and a dirt texture, all we need now is a cliff side texture to use as an elevation indicator.

Block Tiles - Creating the transitions

With the cliff tile created, we need not to make transitions from the grass tile to the edges of the cliff side. One those are made we can more effectively suggest height.

Block Tiles - adding a shadow

To further increase the effect oh height the ideal is to add a shadow to the tile set. in this lecture we go about doing that and what tricks you can use to achieve that

Block Tiles - Trying out the pattern

With the small pattern complete, we can take the tileset for a spinn and see how it looks like.

Exercise - River Pattern

With a grass tile and a cliff/dirt tile, it is fairly easy to create now a river pattern to add to the world.

Top-Down RPG Characters


Short introduction to the section.

Design considerations

In this first lecture we have a look at the considerations to have when designing a character for a top down perspective, especially if its going to be viewed in a small area. 

Basic Shapes Method

In this size of characters, the line art process can clutter the sprite. So most of the time, its better to avoid tracing over a complex drawing and instead define solid shapes.
Solid shapes provide a quick understanding of the model and its parts.

Shading Principles

This lecture focuses on explaining the shading method and the facial features.
Before we move on to shading the body, we get a notion of the reasons behind the type of shading methods.

Shading the body

In this lecture we go ahead and create more colors to shade the body completely. We use techniques such as cast shadows and outlining to give form to what was only flat shapes.

Creating and shading the side view

From the front view we create the side view and shade it using the same colors.

Creating and shading the back view

Creating the back view for the character is a matter of editing the front view and make sure the elements of the body are kept in perspective.

Front view walk animation

A simple 4 frame walk animation can be made just from moving the legs, but we add more detail to the whole body to really improve the animation

Side View walk animation

The side view is the easiest to animate, as the feet are very visible to the game camera. Still, we must worry about the perspective they are in.

Complete animations demonstration

After adding back a few details here and there, this lecture serves as a demonstration of what can be done with a few additions.

Student Edits

Alan Pauley - Chalice shading

In this lecture, I take Alan's work and paint over it to explain my suggestions.

Jason Brennan - Fish and candle

This lecture is an edit to the original artwork of Jason Brennan. He chose some very hard subjects to do in pixel art so the lecture is more about fixing what's done rather than showing a different aproach

Isometric pixel art

Understanding isometric perspective

Isometric perspective is based on keeping the same dimensions in all 3 axis. This has its advantages and disadvantages. In this lecture we look at some of the specifications when drawing images in isometric perspective.

Creating an isometric grid

If you are going to create an isometric world, you need to get yourself an isometric grid. This will help you line everything up, making sure parts fit into each other and that you always have a good reference of where your lines should be. On the resources you'll find the base for the isometric tile, if you don't want to create a base tile yourself.

Construction lines for an isometric building

In this lecture we start our isometric project: A tower with barracs. We first define the scale, position and shape of our building and place down some construction lines for what we will be creating afterwards.

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Working hours

Monday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Tuesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Wednesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Thursday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Friday 9:30 am - 5.00 pm
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed


Working hours

Monday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Tuesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Wednesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Thursday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Friday 9:30 am - 5.00 pm
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed