photoshop creative

Create pixel art

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
August 30, 2017

Discover how to make a retro pixel cafe with the Marquee tool

1. Set up the grid

Create a new document with File>New. Create it whatever size you want, at 300ppi if you’re printing it, then hit OK. Go to Edit>Preferences>Guides & Grids. Set the Gridline as every 1cm, and with 10 subdivisions.

2. Create pixels

Create a new layer with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N. Select the Marquee tool (M) and zoom in. Click at the top-left corner of a grid square and drag out the Marquee to fill exactly two of the squares. Release the mouse and fill it with black by pressing D, then X, then Cmd/Ctrl+Backspace.

3. Make a master line

Repeat this twice, starting at the top-right corner of your rectangle, creating a pixel diagonal. If you make a mistake, hit Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect, and redraw your marquee. Duplicate this layer with Cmd/Ctrl+J. Position it at the top right again. Repeat until you have a long line.

4. Flip the line

Select all of your layers, Ctrl/right-click and select Merge Layers. Double-click this layer and name it Master Line R. Duplicate with Cmd/Ctrl+J. Select the new layer and hit Cmd/Ctrl+T. Ctrl/right-click the line and click Flip Layer Horizontal. Apply and rename this Master Line L.

5. Sketch your design

Now that you’ve laid out the angles, create a new layer and select the Brush tool. Using a small brush with medium grey, roughly sketch some guidelines for your full drawing, moving the master lines around as an angle guide with the Move tool (V).

6. Position diagonals

Turn off visibility of your master lines by hitting the eye next to the layer thumbnails. Duplicate Master R, turn on its visibility and position it on your sketch where needed. Zoom in to make sure it’s lining up with the grid. Use the Marquee tool to delete unnecessary length.

7. Add in more diagonals

This is a long but important step! Keep duplicating and positioning major diagonals, either from the master lines or the new shorter lines that you create. This quickly generates a mess of layers. When you have completed a section, select all the lines, Ctrl/right-click>Merge Layers and rename appropriately.

8. Make some verticals

When you have a lot of your diagonals in place, you can start joining them up. This is far quicker and much more fun. Sticking to the grid, draw a tall, thin Marquee box, joining the diagonals together where necessary. Merge the new lines with the appropriate sections.

9. Draw more details

Still using the master lines, start to add some of the smaller details, such as the window with awning, the door and some edging to the building. Keep merging and naming your layers to keep your workflow quick and neat.

10. Create guides for letters

Duplicate Master Line R. Use the Magic Wand (W) and click in the white space of the layer. Invert with Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I, select a red colour in the Set Background Color box, and hit Cmd/Ctrl+Backspace to fill the line red. Set Opacity to 50%, duplicate and create guidelines for some letters.

11. Make pixel letters

Using the guides, start to create letters. Each will be seven squares wide with a one-square gap between them. Use the image above as a guide – pixel letters can be difficult. Keep lines short and simple, trying to keep spacing as even as possible.

12. Add colour

Now for the fun part! Create a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and drag to the bottom of your layer stack. Using the Marquee tool, draw big boxes that you can fill with colour – Cmd/Ctrl+Backspace will fill your selection with your background colour. Keep diagonals parallel to the black lines.

13. Fill all the colours

Continue making new layers and filling them. By keeping the lines and the fills separate, you don’t risk colouring over any lines, and it enables you to be a little bit messier. Don’t forget to add shading with a tone slightly lighter and one slightly darker than the main colour.

14. Add chairs and tables

Using the same methods as for drawing the building, draw a simple table as above. On a new layer, draw a simple chair. Duplicate the chair, hit Cmd/Ctrl+T, Ctrl/right-click and pick Flip Layer Horizontal. Move the second chair to the other side of the table.

15. Apply final details

Create a new layer and add colour to the tables and chairs. Duplicate all three layers (table and two chairs) and move this new set to the other side of the building. Add details such as brick work and floor tiles using similar colours to the fill.