2D Sprites are the visual building blocks of almost all mobile games and the pixel art style that has become synonymous with video games is still a popular choice amongst game developers today. With pixel art and 2D sprites, you can quickly animate your game objects and create a dynamic viewing experience for your players.
Knowing how to work with sprites and pixel art has become an essential skill for all mobile game developers. Read on to find out how to make your own sprites and where to find resources for making your own pixel art!
Note: we have collected more free resources for game developers at the end of this site. Make sure to check these out as well!
What are Pixel Art and Sprites?
Pixel art is a digital art form where color is applied to individual pixels to create an image. The term Pixel Art was first published in 1982, although the concept had existed for at least 10 years before hand.
Pixel art is saved in file formats that use lossless data compression such as GIF or PNG format. JPEG format is not recommended as it uses lossy compression that leaves artifacts in your images.
Pixel art can be categorized into two main forms, isometric and non-isometric. Isometric pixel art has a 3-dimensional appearance even though the image is still a 2D shape.
Non-isometric pixel art presents one side of an object, such as the top or front.
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Sprites are animations such as characters or objects that can be used in your mobile game. They can be made from any imaginable image source and animated in a number of ways. They’re one of the most used visual components for mobile game development and have a long history within the game development industry.
A basic example of an animated sprite can be seen below:
Why Should You Use Sprites?
Easy Scene Creation
If you had to create every scene of your game as one image, it would make things a lot harder to edit later on. With sprites, you can add and remove visual elements as you please without having to edit any of the other visual components of your scene. This makes it easier to design complex game scenes and introduce new characters and objects for your players to interact with.
Sprites also offer a performance enhancement as it places less pressure on your game to repeatedly call multiple images to appear on screen. Instead, a sprite sheet is called and then a different part of it is displayed as desired. It’s much easier for your game to call an image once and display it in a multitude of ways, rather than repeatedly calling for new image sources.
How to Make Pixel Art with these 10 Tools
We’ve already covered how sprites work but now it’s time to start making them. To make it easier for you to experiment with sprite creation, you can use one of the pixel editor tools listed below. They’re all free to download or use online and can help you to create the pixel art for your sprite sheet.
PiskelApp is a free online pixel editor with an emphasis on sprite creation. It allows you to save your pixel art online and also has an import function so you can use it to edit your existing pixel art. PiskelApp has a simple user interface and is a great choice if you want to dive right into creating your sprite sheet.
Pixie is another fully functional online pixel editor. Although it’s not as well suited to sprite sheet creation as PiskelApp, it’s still very easy to use and is a good choice for anyone looking to let their imagination run wild. The white canvas is the standard starting point for this tool and encourages free hand drawing rather than rigid grid designs.
Pixlr is a slightly more advanced pixel editor in comparison to the previous editors with a large range of drawing tools. It offers the same online saving feature as PiskelApp but isn’t as well suited to sprite sheet creation. If you want to avoid the 16-bit style that PiskelApp encourages, check out this tool instead.
GrafX2 is a bitmap paint program that includes a number of tools and effects that make it especially useful for designing game graphics, pixel art and sprite sheets. It’s free to download and available on all major desktop platforms
GIMP is an open source image editor for desktop that can be used for everything from photo manipulation to creating original artwork. You can also use GIMP to create your pixel art and sprite sheets. Although there is a bit of a learning curve for beginners, GIMP is a powerful tool that can cater for almost all image editing needs. You can see a tutorial on setting up GIMP for pixel art here:
If you’re looking for a stripped down tool that lets you focus on creating great pixel art, you should check out PyxleOS. This open source desktop application is specifically designed for the creation of pixel art and it’s extremely easy to pick up and use.
LunaPic is an online tool with a number of capabilities for image editing. One of its many features is the ability to pixelate images, even photographs. You just need to upload your image, click adjust -> pixelate, choose how much you want to pixelate your image and there you go!
GraphicsGale is an animation graphic editor that’s available in both free and paid options. The free version still allows you to create and save pixel art in png format, which is all you need for your sprite sheet. GraphicsGale is an easy to use tool with a wide range of tools for image creation.
Paint.net is free image and photo editing software for Windows. This is a powerful tool with a great community behind it to show you how to create pixel art and sprite sheets. You can find many pixel art tutorials, such as the one below, on YouTube.
10. Make Pixel Art
Make Pixel Art is a fun online tool that lets you start drawing your pixels straight away. Although it might be considered a little basic compared to some of the other tools, it could be your best bet if you need to quickly sketch an idea or prototype an object or character for your game.
If you’d like to follow along with the next section of this post, you can redraw the plant sprite with one of the tools from above or else download it here!
How to Use Sprites with Felgo
Now that you have created a sprite, it’s time to test them on your mobile phone! For displaying sprites you can use Felgo, a cross platform game engine specialized for 2d games. Here is a code example that displays an animated pixel art sprite in Felgo:
import Felgo 3.0
import QtQuick 2.0
anchors.centerIn: parent // center it in the scene
width: 150 // width of the image in the game
height: 150 // height of the image in the game
frameCount:2 // number of frames in the animation
frameRate: 2 // how fast animation plays
frameWidth: 256 // width of 1 frame
frameHeight: 256 // height of 1 frame
source: "https://felgo.com/web-assets/pixelPlant.png" // path to the spritesheet file
Click on the Run button above to open this code in your browser and run it on your mobile device (iOS & Android are supported). You can change the source code in the web editor and see the effect immediatelly on your device with Felgo Live Code Reloading. See this quick video how you can use Felgo Live Reload to speed up your game development process:
Make Your Own Sprites and Use Them With Felgo
It’s important to set the frameWidth and frameHeight properties to be the size you’d like the sprite to appear in your game. you can use the component properties such as frameCount and frameRate to customize your animation.
Download Felgo Now and Create Pixel Perfect Games!
Do you want to create a game 60% faster than with other game engines like Unity, Corona or Cocos2D?
See Felgo highlights and the tutorials below how you can:
More Free Game Developer Resources
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- 19 Best Websites for Free Game Music
- 18 Best Free Sites for Game Fonts
- Cool Names for Games: How to Pick the Best Title
- 9 Useful Marketing Techniques for Promoting Mobile Games
- 21 Tips That Will Improve Your User Acquisition Strategy
- How to Soft Launch like a Pro
The Best Game Development Tutorials & Free Game Templates
All of these tutorials come with full source code of the games! You can copy the code to make your own games for free!
- How to create mobile games for different screen sizes and resolutions
- How to Make a Slot Game like Book of Ra Tutorial
- How to Make a Match 3 Game like Candy Crash Tutorial
- How to Make a Flappy Bird Game Tutorial
- How to Make a Doodle Jump Game Tutorial
- How to Make a Puzzle Game like 2048 Tutorial
- Free Card Game Template like UNO – Singleplayer & Multiplayer
- Tower Defense Game Template
- Platformer Game Template like Super Mario Maker with user-generated content
Game Development Video Tutorials
Thanks for reading & scrolling that far! 🙂
Do you know any other sites you like for creating pixel art?
Or would you like to see a game tutorial about a certain game you always wanted to develop but don’t know how?
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