Grenfell Campus Intro Digital Imaging 2011

Class website for VART 2600/2601: Introductory Digital Imaging at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2011-2012

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Drawing with Pixels in Photoshop

As part of Assignment 4 (Pixel Art), we’ve been looking at art that uses pixels in some way. As you work on this project, you may find it useful to draw in Photoshop in a way that gives you control over individual pixels. Here are some things to remember:

  • Photoshop has many filters which you can use to ‘pixellate’ an image, including the Mosaic, Pointillize, and Crystallize filters. You can also reduce an image to a small number of pixels by using Image Size to resize it to a very small image.
  • You can use the Pencil tool to draw pixel-by-pixel. The best way to do this is to choose the Pencil tool, then select the 1px brush from the Basic Brushes library. The Pencil tool is better than the Brush tool for pixel art, as it will fill in individual pixels without anti-aliasing the surrounding pixels. Similarly, you can use the Eraser tool on individual pixels by selecting a 1px brush and setting the eraser mode to Pencil.
  • You can draw circles and other shapes as filled pixel areas without smoothed edges. To do this, choose a shape tool such as Ellipse, then click ‘Fill pixels’ from the context menu at the top (it’s the third option, and will fill in pixels instead of creating a path). Then uncheck the Anti-alias option.
  • If you try to enlarge a pixel-art drawing, Photoshop will try to resample the image, which disrupts the pixel-art effect. To avoid this, choose Image Size, then select “Nearest Neighbor” from the Resample Image drop-down menu at the bottom.
  • Photoshop will automatically show a Pixel Grid when you zoom in to work on a small image. You can turn this off by click View → Show → Pixel Grid. You can also turn on and off the regular Grid, and you can adjust colour and size of the Grid using Photoshop’s Preferences settings.
  • You can use the Window → Arrange → New Window command to create a second window for the image you are working on. This is useful when working on tiny pixel art images, as you can view your image at its actual size in one window while working on it in a second, zoomed-in window.

Vincent van Gogh's sunflowers, pixellated

This OSXDaily blog post details a couple of other techniques for creating pixel art in Mac OS, including a neat trick to use Mac OS’s Zoom feature and screen capture to quickly create pixellated versions of anything on your screen without using Photoshop.

There are also many web-based tools you can use to draw with pixels or voxels (3D pixels):