Mountains from Mole Hills

Friday, 6 February 2015

Today I'm going to take you step by step through the design process I use when making tiles, using the new and improved Mountain tile as a showcase.

Step 1 when making any new artwork is always and forever: gather reference. Google Images, Deviant Art, studying how other games you like did it, whatever floats your boat. Maybe some people's imaginations are just that good to just go at it, but I always look at at least something before starting.

Once you've nailed down what you're shooting for, for pixel art my first step is usually to draw it in full size to get the forms down the way I like it before resizing.

It only takes a few minutes, but making this basic artwork at 512x512  helps me get started when I'm having trouble visualizing the appearance I'm going for at 16x16.

Working with my standard square brush I use for most everything, I paint out the mountain shape as it will look tiny.

Next, I take my artwork and shrink it down to the size it'll be in game. It won't look like what you see on the right yet though, as after being shrunk, Photoshop or whatever program you use will likely apply some kind of filtering to it. What I do at this stage is go (in photoshop) 'Image > Mode > Indexed Color.'

In this menu, you will be able to force your artwork to meet certain constraints, in our case, to use the existing palette I've made already. 'Palette: Local (Perceptual)' and 'Forced: Custom...' will allow me to load in my palette, which it will make the image match as closely as possible, and will resemble the image to the right.

After forcing it into my palette, you may notice the mountain artwork is a bit flat and drab. In pixel art, every single pixel plays a great deal of importance to the overall appearance, so I take some time now to clean up the compressed artwork into a better looking template for Mountains.

Once I've become satisfied with how the Mountain tile looks as it does on the left, we still aren't finished; it is a few sizes larger than 16x16, and is entirely stand alone. This Mountain will serve as a base and frame of reference for all the 16x16 mountain tiles I will make in the future.

Tada. Using the base Mountain, I stretch, squash, repaint, and remake until I've reached the artwork you see on the right. The mountain is 3 16x16 tiles wide and currently 4 16x16 tiles tall.

It's still missing a great deal of the variations required to work in any possible configuration in the tilemap, but using the Mountain template from before, I'll be able to identify the missing pieces and draw them into place for use with no effort while keeping the overall appearance consistent.

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