Pixel Art Tutorial 2 – Photoshop Setup

I’ve talked about using Adobe Photoshop to paint pixel art, but many of you might not know how to set Photoshop up for this purpose.

There are a few things you need to do.

Firstly, in Photoshop under Edit>Preferences>General, change the Image Interpolation to Nearest Neighbour (preserve hard edges). This will ensure that when you scale your pixel art, Photoshop will retain the crisp edges of your pixels rather than blur the image.

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The second thing to do is in Edit>Preferences>Guides, Grid and Slices under Grid, change the two numerical values both to 4 and set the measurements to Pixels.

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Thirdly, ensure you have set your canvas size to a value that is divisible by 2, 4, 8, 16 and so on. That way you can paint in single pixels and still enlarge the image by 200%, 400% 800% and not lose the crispness of the image or integrity of the pixels.
I usually start with a canvas anywhere from 64px x 64px up to around 512 x 512px depending on what I’m making.

Also, when enlarging, I usually choose File>Save for Web and resize my image in there. Make sure if you do this that you choose Nearest Neighbour from the Quality option under Image Size.
Alternatively you can simply save your image at 1:1, bring it back into Photoshop, resize it manually and re-save the image.

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Lastly, before you begin to paint, make sure you are using your Pencil Tool and not your Brush Tool. This will allow you to paint with square brushes and hard pixel edged circle brushes. Also set your Eraser Tool to Pencil Mode.

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If you can’t find your square brushes, you’ll need to append (include) them. Click on the Brush Shape drop down menu. Click the Setting icon and at the bottom of the next drop down menu you should see square brushes listed. Click on it and then select Append. This will add them to the end of your current brush library. Simply select the brush you need and paint away!

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When I paint, I also choose to turn off Shape Dynamics, Smoothing and Transfer under Brush Settings. Instead, I increase and decrease the size of the pencil using the keyboard short-cuts Shift + (to decrease) or Shift } (to increase).

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That’s it!
Hopefully these tips have helped you. If so, I’d love to see what you end up creating. Pixel art is hugely therapeutic for me and I hope you get just as much out of it too.

Stay tuned for more tutorials coming soon, where I’ll go over things like colour palettes, scalable vector pixel art, GIF animation, sprite setups and more!

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