Getting started creating pixel art – part 2/2

Behind the ScenesTags: , ,
Guestpost written by Poshun, inspired by his RealmEye tutorial
Read the first part here

In our previous article about spriting for Realm of the Mad God, we went over some commonly used terminology, software you can use to draw and render sprites, as well as briefly explain how sprite sheets are laid out for use in Realm.

This second article follows up on that topic, teaching you how you can use Paint.NET and Tuvior’s sprite tool to create an 8×8 player skin. Alongside that, we will also explain what resources you can use to improve your art, be it via referencing existing sprite sheets in Realm, gathering feedback from the community and/or using guides by experienced pixel artists.

Creating an 8×8 player skin

Drawing proces

For this example we will be using Paint.NET and Tuvior’s sprite tool.

After installing and starting up Paint.NET, you should be met with a screen similar to the one below: 

Some elements in your version of Paint.NET may look a bit different to the image above, but it should be mostly similar.

Starting out, you want to create a new canvas and give it a size catered to what you want to create. Because we are making an 8×8 player skin, the canvas will be 56 pixels wide and 24 pixels high.

If you were making an 8×8 enemy sprite, the height of the canvas would normally be 1/3 of that, because those only use one angle (as opposed to player skins having three angles).

Once you have created the canvas, it should look like the image below (the selection is just to showcase the size of an 8×8 cell, which is how the sprite sheet will be divided).

Making a sprite sheet on an empty canvas like this can be rather difficult. Tools like Aseprite have a customizable grid to help keep each frame of a sprite in the right place, whereas Paint.NET does not. To get around that, you could create another layer and use the one at the bottom to set up a grid/checkerboard pattern like the image below:

Right click and save the images below to use the template like in the image above. The pink one is to be used for 8×8 player skins, while the other one should be used for 16×16 player skins.

C:\Users\psclk\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\Grid template large.png

When drawing anything for Realm, it may be useful to use an existing sprite as a base to start with. For this player skin I’ll be using the default rogue skin as base. At the time of writing this, many people have used Atomizer’s website (frequently referred to as ‘Static Drips’) to get the sprite sheets used in Realm. A very useful resource indeed!

Here I use the select tool to copy the sprite for the default rogue skin.

I then paste my selection onto the canvas I showed earlier, using the layer sitting above the background layer.


The sprite sheet containing the 16 classes as of writing this document. You can save it to your computer to use as base when making your own art for Realm.

It is a comical example, but using the default rogue skin as base, I made the following changes to create a new skin:

  • He now has a hat
  • He has a black belt
  • His outfit is blue

Of course, those are not the only changes you can make. The canvas might be small, but over the years the community has shown that a lot is possible with it.

Making your skin work with dyes/cloths is possible, but this is not as important if you’re not already directly contributing to the game via the User Generated Content (UGC) group or if your contest submission is added to the game. More importantly, it may feel a bit advanced if you’re just starting out.

Important! Before you render the sprite…

Before you move on to rendering the sprite, you’ll want to save the image not as a .pdn (a filetype specific to Paint.NET) but as a .png. You’ll also want to remove the layer with the grid underneath your sprite before saving it for rendering. Make sure there are no partially transparent pixels in your sheet, or you may get an unintended result.

Rendering the sprite

You’ve your sprite ready, great! All that’s left to do now is rendering it. In our previous post we’ve listed some tools, but in this example we will be showcasing Tuvior’s software as it has a lot of general functionality.

If you haven’t already, you can visit the GitHub page where the program is located. Select the .rar file and extract the contents to a place you can easily access.

After running the .exe, you will be met with the following screen:

You’ll want to select ‘Load Sprite’ at the top left, then load in the sprite you just saved via Paint.NET.

After loading in your sprite sheet, select the appropriate preset to get the correct rendering settings. In this case, the 8×8 player preset. After that, press ‘Render’. If everything went well, your result should look similar to the image below.

The next and final step would be to save your image as a GIF. Once the GIF is saved, you can share your creation with the world!

Improving your art

If you’ve made it through all the steps, congratulations! You’ve just created (your first?) piece of pixel art usable in Realm.

This next segment of the article will be dedicated to handing you some resources you may use to continue exploring pixel art, whether it’s for creating Realm art or something else.

Finding art to reference and enjoy

There are many ways to study how to improve your art. What you should learn next depends on what you want to draw I think. One day I might see a drawing and wonder ‘wow, how did they make those colors?’ and then I make it my goal to practice coloring, until I feel like I learned something new, at which point I can then apply what I learned in my future works.

Because of this, I recommend you go out and find cool pixel art you enjoy looking at. It’ll give you an idea of what styles of pixel art looks good, giving you something to reference and work towards.

If you’re making sprites for Realm, that could mean searching up existing Realm sprites and examining how the artist made the shape, colors, shading, etc. work. Just note that because of Realm’s lengthy lifespan that the art styles may vary, especially when you compare the old art with the new.

Learning from the best

Of course, just looking at existing pixel art may not immediately make apparent what makes it ‘work’, so to speak. Thus, below I’ve listed some experienced pixel artists who’ve written guides you can use to find more focused advice on different things related to pixel art: 

Pedro Medeiros (who’s worked on Celeste) with a nice guide for beginners. You can also find a lot of bite-sized, animated pixel art tutorials on his blog

Cure with a very in-depth guide on what pixel art is and isn’t (as well as all the technical details!)

MortMort with a great video guide for picking appealing colors for your pixel art.

Cyangmou with a tutorial on outlines and shapes.

These are just a few snippets of the artists’ works that don’t necessarily reflect just how skilled they actually are. I recommend checking out their works to see how far pixel art can be pushed as an art form.

Gathering feedback

Pixel art is not a creative process that you have to go through alone. In fact, the longer you work on a piece, the more likely you are to develop a certain blind spot for errors. Asking others what they think about your art is a great way to spot errors you wouldn’t have seen yourself, helping you improve faster.

Depending on who you ask, they may state that they aren’t an artist and therefore can’t give you useful feedback. I don’t think that is true. While they may not be able to point out the technical aspects of your art, they might be able to judge other things (such as proportions or posing). For that reason, I recommend you gather feedback from both experienced artists and non-artists alike.

Above all else, don’t let criticism demotivate you! Generally, people are spending their time to try and help you. If it’s overwhelming, I personally find it really helpful to just take in the feedback and reflect on it the next day.

If you’re creating art for Realm, you may gather feedback via the official subreddit, the #creative channel in the official discord and/or the RealmEye forums.

Closing words

That’s about all I got for today’s post. It is really difficult to condense all information about pixel art (Realm-related or not) into one guide, but I hope this article has helped getting you started out. Happy spriting!

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