Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating an 8-bit illustration, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Voiceover] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. In this movie, I wanna go over creating an 8-bit illustration. Everybody who works and design knows what a pixel is and this is all about replicating that aesthetic of artwork. 8-bit pixels, I grew up in a generation of computer games and graphics that started out in 8-bit glory and this shows a set I did years ago. I did this a little over 10 years ago and it was for a company out in Japan called Bandai and it was artwork uses little avatar icons but they purposely requested that I create these as pixel-based characters.
This is simply a TIFF image that I have placed into illustrator here but it was the final art that I game them. It actually was considered hi-res art for production and offset printing but it was 72 DPI and it worked because there is no anti-aliasing. Everything is 90-degree angles and it's kind of the exception to the rule when it comes to developing final artwork. Now, I'm gonna demonstrate that really quickly just because I do find it unique.
So, here is just one of those icons and I'm just scaling it up. And you can see that it doesn't degrade the image because it is 90-degree angles on these and they're all pixel-based. I create these in Photoshop not Illustrator but I want to show you how to pull off this style of illustration in Illustrator. It's actually very easy to do and it's a whole lot of fun. I enjoyed doing pixel-based icons and illustrations and it's basically what I started doing as my own type of artwork when I first jumped on the Mac years ago back in the 90's and I started creating icons so I didn't use Illustrator to do it back then, I used Photoshop and it was a lot of fun.
But to pull off this style, what's gonna help you is to find some graph paper. I'm gonna zoom in on this and you can see this design, this is just a happy little flower, pixel-based design, but I used graph paper because the graph paper itself is setup in a grid and I can just draw those shapes to line with that grid and this is representing each of the pixels that's gotta give that that look and feel of an 8-bit graphic. There are no curves in 8-bit graphic.
Everything is 90-degree angles or if you wanna put it in a simpler term, squares and rectangles. So, that's what we're dealing here with. Now, here's the beauty of this. When you scan you drawing in, you want to setup a grid size. In this case, if I click on this one and I go to Transform you can see this is nine points. Well, we're gonna now turn on the Snap to Grid so we're gonna go to view and we're gonna go down, I always forget where this is at, there it is Snap to Grid right there, we're gonna click that and we're also gonna turn on the grid.
So, we're gonna right now, it's not hidden, 'cause there no check mark by it but we're gonna click on Show Grid and what I've done is I've just aligned my sketch on graph paper as close as I can to the grid size. The reason why I'm gonna do this is gonna be evident here as I show you shortly but we're gonna first select our drawing. We're gonna set this to like, I don't know, let's try 20% and that looks good and we'll go ahead and we're gonna lock that layer.
And on this layer, the same layer that we have, this 9x9, we're gonna start drawing our artwork. So, I'm gonna zoom in here and once again, we have snapped the grid on and we have the grid turned on and and grid aligns with our sketch so we can use this to guide our building. We're gonna take the rectangle tool here, just a simple rectangle tool and notice how this snaps. See how it snaps to each coordinate. I can't go in between 'cause it's snapping to the grid, it's snapping to the nine-point grid and this is all we need to do to start building our shapes.
So, we're gonna do this, just like this. This is how fast it goes, it's not hard at all. You can see how fast this type of building goes and it's just simply following what you've already determined in your sketch on your graph paper in order to create your artwork. So, you can see how fast this goes and because we have the snapping capabilities turned on, we don't have to drag anchor points or worry if it's aligning.
It's aligning with the grid right now because it's snapping to it. And our drawing is just simply telling us where to place these pieces and the grid is doing all the precision building for it. So, I'm not gonna go through and do that to everything but that's how I'll build all these content and when it's all set and done, I end up with this base art just like this. And it's the same build methodology I used and so all I'm gonna do now at this point is I'm gonna start coloring it.
So, I'm gonna go ahead and turn in a tonal family here and I'm gonna go to View and I'm gonna go Hide Grid because that kinda impedes visibility in my opinion if you're not building anymore, you can go ahead and turn off. If you don't mind it, you can keep it on. I'd like to turn off. We can also turn off our sketch now that we have our base is built and this comes down to coloring. So, these are the tonal families I've worked out on coloring so I'll just select the various things I wanna color, use eye dropper, I'll color these that color, maybe the outline of the flower itself is orange and maybe all of the petals, the outline color is blue, and then this being the stem.
So, we'll go ahead, we'll color this dark green and this is the dirt so this will be brown, and let's see, I'm not sure what to color. Then we'll color these yellow for right now and I'll go ahead and color the mouth orange as well. So, that's all I'm talking about in terms of starting the basic color. Now, we'll wanna go ahead and build the insides of these colors if you intend to fill it with other color.
Once again, you'd use the same principle with the Snap to Grid turned on, you can create all the inside colors you want, and all you would have to do at that point is you just have to fuse these together. So, if I created, for example, these inside shapes of this petal, then I would just select those shapes, go to path finder and go unite in order to fill it and that's all I'd do with all the other shapes. So, when it's all set and done, I end up with my base artwork looking like this, and this is a lot of fun.
Now, what's really gonna breathe life to these, give it a little more dimension and character is by adding simple shading and highlights. So, here's all the shading on this. And all I've done is I've used the same build methodology with the Snap to Grid and I've just found the color use, in this case, since the petals are white, their subtle shadows would be light blue, and that's what these are to make up that. I have the fills of lighter green in the tonal family then the darker green, and then just a subtle darker for the shading on the leaves, on the stem, and the same principle and approach is used on the ground as well with the dark brown, the base brown and the shadow brown.
And then the highlights are the easiest of all things. This is just taking white and creating these shapes and then adjusting the opacity. So, on this green, I have 40, if I go down to the dirt, that's 40 as well, but if I go up here to the cheeks here, I've taken those and made those white and those are 60%. I've also done it to the eyes to give that illusion of a highlight. So, that's how I would handle highlights and shadows on an 8-bit illustration like this but the finishing touch on this is what I call hotspots.
This is where the light is hitting the hottest on the subject matter you're creating. If I turned those on and off, these are just little areas like on these leaves, this point, then just on a few areas of the face but it really adds a lot, adding those little hotspots in. Now, I chose to do white petals but you could also go colors. So, this just shows how color would work if we made them purple for example, so, whatever color you wanna do as well but this allows us to do highlights on those petals as well.
So, let's take a look at one other one. This is a hand, this is usually where I start, it's black and white. I'll determine a color value. In this case, my tonal value for this is showing here and it's at this point that I'll just select these and then I wanna start coloring this, and I'll use the tonal families I've assigned to color it. In this case, this skin color, we're gonna use a darker tone for the outline. I'll select this shirt part, and since it's a white shirt, the outline's not gonna be dark but it's not gonna be white either, it's gonna be a light blue, and then I want his suit to be a dark blue.
So, these are all the base colors. I'll select the inside of this which I've already created and I'll make this the lighter tone of the skin value, and then I'm gonna turn on these other layers, this is shading that shows how I've added simple shading in areas of the tonal's values of the skin, and of the shirt, and of the jacket. I've added the highlights in, you can see it starting to breathe dimension to it. Give it shape, give it form, and then those little spots of hotspots that really bring the character to life.
Now, you can use this style on anything. I used it most recently on editorial illustration for a gas and oil investor magazine and the article for the editorial was on the falling prices of barrels of oil. And immediately when I thought of that, I thought of Donkey Kong because I just thought of barrels and how the gorillas throw the barrels down and it made me think of Donkey Kong, like, oh that's a great one, it's survival mode, it's like a game, they're trying to stay ahead of the curve and the art director I was working with was my age so I knew he'd relate to Donkey Kong and he just freaked, he goes, "Oh, this is perfect." And so, this was the illustration I created for that and I used the exact same methodology to pull this off.
It's vector-based so it's easy to work with, easy to handle. But there's one other aspect I wanna show you and that is, you can use the methodology for an 8-bit and combine it with other methods. I'm showing my Drawing Vector Graphic courses specifically the isometric course. I could take this illustration and if we go to actions, and I go project to the right and I click on that action, and this projects it to the right for isometric, this gives me a basis by which I can then go ahead and add some fun dimension to this character using just this simple palette, shows you an example of how I would handle the dark blue aspects of this character but to give it an overall dimension like this which really makes this style a whole lot of fun when you can add dimension to it.
Now, this is a very simple one. You could get a lot more complex with 8-bit especially if you do an isometric aspect to it. I just want to show how you can combine these styles and methodologies to discover new ways to use 'em. I did my first 8-bit illustration back in the mid-90's. This style of illustration is both nostalgic and a whole lot of fun so grab some grid paper and let your imagination run wild because you can get a lot more complex with your visual narrative than I did.
Give it a try and see what you come up with. Thank you for watching DVG Lab and until next time. Never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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