If you’re looking to create retro-style video games, cartoons, or other content that requires pixelated graphics, you may be looking for the best pixel art maker software.
However, choosing the right software can be time-consuming, so we’ve compiled a list of pixel art makers that allow you to produce incredible sprites, GIF animations, and pixelated images.
In this article, we’ll cover what pixel art is, its use cases, and the best software to create them.
What is Pixel Art?
Pixel art is digital art generated through graphics editing software and modified on the pixel level. What makes pixel area unique is that the individual pixels act as building blocks that make up an image.
Each block is intentionally created with the proper placement of pixels. Together the pixels make up the entire piece.
As a result, the visual style looks strikingly similar to mosaic art, cross-stitch, and other embroidery techniques. You can use many editing tools to create pixel art, allowing you to draw artwork on a pixel level.
Pixel art is typically low-resolution graphics from arcade video game consoles and 8-bit and 16-bit era computers.
Moreover, other systems like graphic calculators and displays have limited capabilities for the colors available and a maximum number of pixels. The resolution is reduced to a point where you can visually see every pixel.
In the past, the hard edges of pixel art were the only form you could create. But the advancement in computer graphics allows us to see lifelike images.
Nowadays, pixel art references the unique retro-style graphics that are a callback to the early computer graphics.
Many makers are at your disposal to create everything from abstract art to detailed portraits. You won’t need advanced training to use these platforms, just creativity and imagination!
Learning to create pixel art is still important if you’re a graphic designer. It’ll teach you how to flex your creative muscles while staying within the boundaries of technical limitations.
Learning to create such art entails understanding how to come up with innovative solutions to fulfill demanding requirements.
Use of Pixel Art
Despite the limitations, the demand for pixel art is growing. Even with the innovations of 3D CGI and vector graphics being a norm in our society, the pixel art market has expanded to many application possibilities.
From Super Mario to Space Invaders, pixel art is popular in the gaming industry. It was only deployed in video games in the past, but now it’s used in other applications.
Here are its various use cases:
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): Tokens are an excellent way to capture the feel of a game. There are entire marketplaces to buy and sell NFTs. As a result, they have quickly turned into collectibles. Pixel-art is a retro-style art that offers nostalgia to specific audiences, which is complementary to NFTs.
- Video Games: Modern pixel art isn’t just replicating the technical limitations that were previously held. Instead, today’s video games have taken the pixelated flavor and expanded it to a larger screen resolution. This allows for greater visual complexity without sacrificing its retro flavor. Some go as far as to combine 3D animation & graphics with pixel art textures to create a unique hybrid of both.
- Merchandise: As mentioned, pixel art is a nostalgic thing. Attaching pixel art to any modern art creates a retro feel that instantly makes something stand out. Whether it’s clothing, key tags, or other items, you can incorporate pixel art into any merchandise design.
Pixel art isn’t dead, and many communities still appreciate the devotion it takes to master the same. Learning how to create pixels will make you a better designer, which translates to other facets of your artistic career.
Whether you create pixel arts as a creative outlet or plan to monetize your work, building them will make you immediately stand out from the crowd.
Now that you know what pixel art is, it’s time to discover some tools to help you create a masterpiece.
Pixilart is one of the best pixel art makers for design enthusiasts and game creators. It offers a full range of features, from basic to advanced. For example, it allows you to create pixel drawings, GIF animations, pixel texts, and export sprites.
There are also a lot of intricate tools like working with multiple layers, adding animations, and changing brush sizes. Despite its clean interface, there are advanced features comparable to many of the paid solutions out there.
What’s unique about the software is that they provide plenty of inspiration for artists to work off of.
For example, you can use the same color palettes as other artists. This lets you take inspiration from other artists and make your masterpiece.
Besides being a pixel art maker, this software is a social platform where pixel artists come together. You can do challenges, contests, or join groups.
Pro Tip: Challenges are a great way to take specific limitations and rules to test your artistic capabilities.
Piskel is an online pixel editor allowing users to create pixel art and animated sprites. Since the editor is online, you can easily save and access your files on your browser without downloading or buying expensive tools like Photoshop.
It has a simple and clean interface making it a great option if you’re looking to dive right into the sprite sheet. You gain access to all the functionalities needed to create pixel art, such as building animation, producing static images, and exporting sprite sheets.
While it does lack some advanced features, Piskel primarily appeals to beginners who enjoy the minimalism of the software. This no-clutter program prevents new users from getting confused by all the high-tech features.
Note: There’s also a downloadable offline tool compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux platforms.
Pixel Art to CSS
Pixel Art to CSS is an online art animation and drawing web app that makes it easy to build custom pixelated artwork.
You’ll get CSS code available on your website by combining the power for keyframes and box-shade CSS properties.
Additionally, you can easily download your work in various formats such as animated GIFs, static images, and sprite-like images.
Pixel Art to CSS provides an intuitive editor with a wide array of features such as modifying animation settings, customizing your color palettes, and saving and loading your projects.
Most tool features are self-explanatory, making the pixel maker suited for beginners.
You can find various brushes, erasers, adjustments, and color palettes on the sidebar. What’s more, you can toggle around to create your desired artwork. Lastly, the tool lets you adjust the pixel size and duration time, which is excellent for simple animations.
With Aseprite, beginners can create catchy animations without getting confused by different settings. Drawing lines and shapes becomes more accurate and smooth thanks to the pixel mode.
It comes packed with all the functions required to master the art of creating pixelated images, such as onion skinning, exporting animation frames, saving projects as GIFs, and more. A free trial version of the software is also available.
For example, the onion skinning feature lets users add frames above and under the one they are creating. This option makes creating pixel art much faster. It also offers sprite sheet exporting tools which are ideal for game developers.
Furthermore, you can generate repeatable tiles for games like shading tools and platformers to provide a more 3D aesthetic to your pixel art. The timeline editor helps you create animated sprites so that you can easily see the changes you’ve made.
Lospec Pixel Editor
The Lospec Pixel Editor is a free online program that allows anyone to create pixel art. With its beginner-friendly presets and intuitive interface, you can quickly get started in minutes.
It lets you choose different color palettes from their drop-down list, custom image sizes, and other tools.
While the tool doesn’t have all of the features advanced desktop editors have, it has all the basic options you’ll want, such as a pencil, pan, fill, zoom tool, and eyedropper.
It even has preset options to get the desired art effect you’re looking for, like Gameboy Color, Commodore 64, and Pico-8. You can even build multiple layers of pixelated art, which can add depth and realistic features to your art.
Whether making a simple 8-bit art or looking to build assets for a game, it’s worth experimenting with the Lospec Pixel Editor.
Note: The editor comes with a library of tutorials to help users understand the basics of creating pixelated art.
Dinopixel is a straightforward pixel maker that allows you to build your pixel drawings quickly. Unlike the other tools, Dinopixl allows you to add different models or letters to your piece.
For example, certain presets such as Mario, Stormtrooper, Batman, Yoshi, Dino, Space-invader, Nyan-cat, and others help you build an excellent pixelated artwork. This lets you add cool images to your existing piece.
Or, if you already know what to draw, you can grab the pencil tool and begin your masterpiece. Everything is easily accessible through the sidebars.
You’ll find tools such as:
- Background colors
- Color palettes
- Zoom feature
- Grid dimensions adjuster
And much more…
If you need some artistic inspiration, there’s an entire gallery of pixelated artwork created by other users. This can give you ideas on which artwork to create next.
Pixel Art Selfie
Unlike the other pixel makers on our list, the Pixel Art Selfie works differently. It’s specifically designed to create pixelated selfies. These pixelated selfies can be printed onto a board where you can create unique wall decor for your home.
You’ll start by choosing the format, such as the number of tablets (or pixels) you want, and upload a photo. Once the picture is uploaded, you can select the color palette and rotate or adjust the size and layout.
Now you can print the artwork and add pins onto each pixel, so you get a cool pixelated effect on your wall art.
This art tool isn’t necessarily designed to make gifs or video games. However, it can instantly turn a photo into its pixelated version, a feature that other tools don’t have.
Pixaki is a pixel art studio app for iPad. It has a spotless and modern interface and works great with the Apple Pencil.
What makes Pixaki great is the over layers of animation. This means that every layer has a timeline. You can add many frames and layers, giving you more depth to your artwork.
Most basic pixel makers only allow you to draw your pixelated art. However, with a timeline attached to each layer, you can create an entire pixel art animation.
For example, let’s say you build an entire city backdrop. You can have a plane moving across the landscape as animation while having the remaining backdrop still.
Instead of only having block pixels, you can create isometric art. The tool lets you create various angles and other shapes and have them filled with color. Draw a rectangle, straight line, or ellipse to draw practically anything you want.
The bulk actions feature lets you select multiple frames or layers and apply adjustments quickly. Later, you can preview your animations by simply sliding the timeline to see your canvas update.
It’s no surprise that pixel art generators are everywhere these days. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a master artist or designer to experiment with it since you now have access to these incredible tools.
All the tools mentioned in this article are free-to-use, meaning there’s no reason not to try them out.
Whether you plan on creating a mobile game, an NFT, or retro images, these pixel art makers can help you build your pixelated artwork.
You may also be interested in some best tools to create animated characters.