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Pixelart Sins 2 - Beginner Issues

By Cyangmou
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A little tutorial on some of the most common beginner mistakes in pixelart.


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Stardust-Dev's avatar
Stardust-DevNew Deviant
The anti-ailiasing tip really helped me in my game art! Thank you!
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist

No Problem. Glad that I could help you. If you do games, maybe check out my assetstore, there might be some helpful basics for you:

Stardust-Dev's avatar
Stardust-DevNew Deviant
Oh thanks, buddy!
SensibleChristian's avatar

Awesome tips.

Xiezisiji's avatar
XiezisijiHobbyist Digital Artist


Ca595's avatar
Ca595Student Digital Artist

this is really intresting

tjzombie89's avatar
Thank you! Just starting into the craft myself and these are really nifty and helpful!
Dinar87's avatar
Dinar87Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree with your examples on pillow shading (also the metal sphere looks lovely) but for me personally, I tend to ignore light sources somewhat and try to just focus on expressing the shapes of the objects I'm drawing. Do you keep in mind detailed light sources, or do you tend to shade things based on how they're shaped, mainly?
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist
Detailled to a degree.

Let's say I am not calculating the light like a 3D engine, because I think that is contraproductive in terms of overall volume and readability. However I try to be semi-realistic with the light and apply shadows where it also makes sense with the overall lighting situation. It's very stylized and I decide on a case by case basis how to treat the light.
Goodlyay's avatar
GoodlyayHobbyist Digital Artist
That properly shaded sphere is pretty sexy.
bore-d's avatar
bore-dHobbyist Digital Artist
omegalul i used to do shitty pixel art on newgrounds and i really should've followed that, i stopped pillow shading and shit but yeah
J4B's avatar
J4BHobbyist Digital Artist
OOh, neat to know.
OutcastsAndFools's avatar
OutcastsAndFoolsHobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you..just getting into pixel art.
AMK-Games's avatar
AMK-GamesHobbyist Digital Artist
Loving this series! I need more! :D
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist
it grows steadily since years and sometimes I go back and refine things.
Guilty-10-Games's avatar
Good to know, awesome work.
cyrad's avatar
I once had a cringe-worthy argument with someone who insisted that pillowshading was a "style" despite my attempt of explaining that it looks terrible and ignores how lighting actually affects objects.
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist
Pillowshading can be a style decision, even if it does look bad.
Goes for all of those things, that they can make up the style.

However it's mainly a decision which comes from having no idea how to treat light in drawing, but is super easy to apply and fill shapes and therefore usually is only used by inexperienced people or beginners.
To reach higher technical levels in art it's good to learn how to shade basic forms in order to be able to fill them with a different pattern which describes much more shape than pillow-shading does.
But if someone doesn't want to learn how to step up their game, it's also not "forbidden" to use it, it rather means they consciously decide to not experiment.
While I personally won't recommend it at all, we can't take away someones opinions.
Flying-Snake's avatar
Flying-SnakeHobbyist Digital Artist
I'v always seen pillow shadowing shown as here, with light going straight from viewer eyes.

But if such gradient was used with light positioned off-centre? Would it still be considered as pillow shading or just to big color count?
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist
Well on a purely technical level pillow-shading is an umbrella term made up to describe a couple of things observable when beginners do art.
For lines which lie next to each other and hug each other, sometimes referred to as "hugging" and shading planes with gradients towards the ends of the plane.

If you apply it with a gradient and move the center you have the color issue.
If you hand-apply it with let's say 5 colors, you still got the "hugging" issue and all AA problems which come with it.

The issue at the core is that there is no understanding of how light works, so while the definition is not incredibly detailled in those couple of bit-sized guides, the advice to learn hw to shade basic forms is the way how to get away from the problems.
Flying-Snake's avatar
Flying-SnakeHobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for clarification.
I asked, because most examples of pillow shading are like yours, with light coming from viewer eyes, and I assumed that it is basis of the problem, so I was bit confused when I read that colors are issue here.

Fortunately I didn't find that in my works :D
Cyangmou's avatar
CyangmouProfessional Digital Artist
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Ruyc's avatar
thank you, I'm taking a course of pixel art and this could really help
rangio-da's avatar
clever hints! I've seen that corel painter applies some dark outline at png files with alpha, works especially if you duplicate layers over and over.
but anyway, I don't have a pixelart relevant experience, just made some icons out of shrinked renderings. I'll try out some pixel stuff inspired by your nice works. thank you,
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