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Custom Bead Sprites - Tutorial: Pixelating by Hand

 
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DoctorOctoroc
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:41 am    Post subject: Custom Bead Sprites - Tutorial: Pixelating by Hand Reply with quote

There are a considerable number of people who have asked me about my custom bead sprites, that is those that are based on game characters with no actual sprite art (such as Soul Calibur, Tekken, or other 3-D games). I've put together what is not so much a tutorial as it is a step by step of me re-drawing a non-sprite image. I hope this can give you insight into my process, and I'll try my best to explain it to you.

The first step is to find your image. My brother's birthday is coming up, and he was a huge fan of the Danger Girl comics by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell, so I decided to make him a huge Abbey Chase bead sprite.



First, you need to resize the image, unless of course you want to make it this big. Below is the resized version on one layer, with the background containing my checkerboard grid of 29x29 squares, each of which represents a pegboard. This makes it easier to bead later, and provides a good way to gague how large the final piece will be. Just from this image, I know the bead sprite will be just under 2 feet wide and 3 feet high. The image below is at 300% zoom.



The next step is to create a new layer above the resized image on which you will draw your sprite, starting with the outline. I find it easiest to draw the outline in a color unlike any color in your image, so you won't be confused as to where you are drawing. I used red for this example.



The basis of where your outline is drawn is based on a number of factors:
1) Which "shapes" are you outlining? Generally, the overall shape of the figure will be outlined, along with edges of clothing, hair, and any part of the character that overlap others, like her left shoulder, which overlaps her two hands holding the gun. Also, for a line-drawn, comic style image like this one (verses a 3-D rendered one), you may choose to include details in your outline. Those on hr back, are a good example of this. Folds in clothing, as well, may be part of your outline.
2) What are the attributes of the outline? How heavy or thick a line is will determine whether it is single width, a double, etc. For example, looking at the line on her back that runs down the middle, the bottom is heavier than the top, so when I drew the new line, I increased the density of the pixels.
3) Is the line curved? With straight horizontal or vertical lines, it's easy, since pixels naturally line up straight. When lines are at an angle or generate curves, there are tips to making the line smoother. Notice the line which curves out from the left side of her lower back, and around her butt, how many pixels are in each segment as it gets closer to the peak of the curve - they become less and less until they progress one pixel at a time diagonally, which makes a 45 degree angle. This is common sense to most of us, but something to keep in mind.

After your outline is drawn, you can fill it in black. Choose your fill tool and make sure the anti-alias, all layers, and contiguous options are all turned off, then fill one section of the outline and all areas will be filled. If you turn contiguous on, filling will only reach the areas adjacent to the section first filled in, but since you want it all filled, you turn it off. Temporarily hide the layer containing the reference image so you can see how the outline turned out.



So far, so good. Now it's time to pixel in your "shapes" with the interior colors. If you haven't already, create a palette containing all your available bead colors. You can have this palette image off to the side to pick colors from as you draw.

The best technique is to start with either the darkest in the shade of colors and work your way up to the lightest, or vice-versa. This way, you can better gague how much area each color will cover so you can have an even distribution of shades. For this image, however, since it is drawn in a more cell-shades fashion, there will be color transitions with cover a lot of area for a few shades, and very thin areas for others. A good example of this is in her shirt, where the White meets the Periwinkle Blue, and there is a smaller amount of Grey separating them, for a smooth transition over a small area.

There is no easy way to learn how to pick which colors go where, but the general idea is to draw with like shades that appear in the reference image below your drawing layer.

I started with her shirt for this example. which you can see the series of images below illustrating the addition of each color - first with Dark Grey, then Periwinkle Blue (damn these bead companies and their lack of grey shades!), then with white to finish it off.




Let me note here, that as I draw a new color in each step, I will replace previous colors, and parts of the outline as I see fit. It helps to have your original reference picture out as well so you can glance at that to check overall appearance against your pixel progress.

The next area I decided to color in was the blue part of her pants, and the non-sole parts of her boots, as they have the same coloring as her pants, as well as her gun and gloves. Starting with Dark Blue and working up to Toothpaste, I also threw some Dark Grey into her belt and gun, as well as some White into her gun as well.




Next up, I drew in the green area of her pants. The lightest area was White, which I drew in to the last image below along with the Pastel Green.




Feel free to zoom out and back in as you work, so that you can check your progress. Also, hiding the image reference layer is a good way to double check for areas you forgot to fill, as well as hiding the drawing layer can help you figure out how much of a general shade in the reference image you've filled.

Next up, I filled in the soles of her boots, which contain mostly Dark Grey, Periwinkle, and a bit of Grey, as well as White for the brightest highlights where the soles meet the sides.



Now we can really see this custom sprite coming together, as we've filled in all the areas below the belt, and her shirt. The next step is her skin, which she is showing a good bit of, but not as much as Sydney Savage Wink




That was fun, right - especially around the eyes and mouth, right? I know, it gets tricky, but with practice, you'll get it. Just continue to use the reference layer as a guide to where to draw your shades - it's not called the reference layer for nothing!

I drew the eyes and the lips for this next step, since they're both small areas. I made some slight changes as well to the surrounding colors of skin I drew in the last six steps as well.



Next stop, the Hair! Blondes are always tricky, colorwise, because there are no Dark Yellow bead colors available. I generally start with Dark Brown and work up to Butterscotch, then on to Yellow and Pastel Yellow. For light blondes, I would just go with a series of Browns, including Beige and Creme into the lighter shades. Just be careful if this is the case, since your skin is limited to the same general color palette.

But for Abbey Chase, with her really yellow blonde hair, we can go with the initial color scheme. the difference between this coloring and previous ones, however, is I started with the lighter colors. Once again, it doesn't matter which you start with, light or dark, as long as you start with one and work your way to the other.




That was almost as much fun as the face. Now you're just one step away from the finishing touches!

The final step is to re-color the outline. You can actually skip this step if you're satisfied with the jagged black outlines, but I'm going to focus in on one area I already recolored while coloring in the areas. If you look at this edge compared to the rest, it looks a lot better right - smoother? That's what we call anti-aliasing. Rendering software for 3-D modeling programs use this to blend edges of objects with the background, and anything that falls behind the edges in the rendered scene. Unfortunately, we have to do it manually, since we have a very limited palette.



Okay, so what's the technique? Basically, your recoloring is based on the following principles:
1) The color of the shapes within the outline. Notice the area I've highlighted above - the line is recolored with shades of green, just like that area of the pants within. Depending on how light or dark the adjacent shades are, you will recolor with darker or lighter shades, but the outline will always be darker than the interior colors.
2) Weight of the line. Once again, how thick or dark the outline of the original reference image is will determine the darkness or lightness of the shade you color the outline with. The line outlining that area of her green pants is a medium weight overall, so you will recolor with a shade or two darker. If it was heavier, the shades would be darker, and if lighter, so would the shades be lighter shades.
3) The color of neighboring areas. When two areas of different colors meet, generally, you will want to stick with the color of the area overlaping the other, like the case of her pants overlaping the color of her skin on her lower back. In some cases, however, you may have to choose between the two, or find a happy medium between the two.

I started with the shirt outline. With the outlines, you want to start with the darker shade everytime, and recolor every secition of the outline which will be lighter than the original black. So, for the shirt, I started with the Dark Grey, then Periwinkle Blue, and lastly Grey. Usually, you will color the outline with the next darkest shade, or a few shades darker, but in many cases, you may be extending the color just inside on to the outline.



It may be difficult to see the progress between these images since the shades are so few, but for the rest of the outlines, there will be more shades to work with. The difference, however, is in the final piece. Trust me, this recoloring of the outline, however tedious, is well worth it.

Next, I recolored the rest of the outline around the pants, using blue and green shades. This is more noticable, especially around the right thigh area, which is recolored with darker green shades. I also took care of her boots, including the soles.



Moving on down the line, i recolored the outline of the skin (which is very clear, especially around the lighter areas, like her left arm), as well as her gun and hands.



The next set of images shows the recoloring of her hair, which can be tricky around the areas where the hair overlaps her face, since similar colors are used. Just use your best judgement for this.



Finally (yes, almost done!), I did some touch up, mostly on her back, with the various lines.



And we're finished! Below are the final sprite compared to the original reference picture. Not bad, huh?




I hope this step-by-step was helpful. I would recommend starting with something a lot smaller for your first sprite, but be my guest.
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Crausse
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this amazing tutorial Doc. This should add some real originality to our forums. Thanks for helping us grow as both pixel and bead artists.
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DoctorOctoroc
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's the finished version:


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Crausse
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All I have to say is THANK YOU ! ! ! !













Still need to work on shading, but just really wanted to thank you for the tutorial ;)
BTW, this pertains to my post in my Member Section. She is Espada Number 3 - Neliel Tu Oderschvank (Nell)
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HighlyFlammableMan
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

...Dear God...you guys are beyond me, I'll just stick to my screenshots.

Amazing..both of you.
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Crausse
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HFM, I can never do stuff like you do. I don't have the patience to do an entire screenshot. That's hardcore. Thanks for the compliment ;)

Edit: Another Update ! ! ! Still working on shading though...


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DoctorOctoroc
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's coming along very nicely C-Note. Can't wait to see the finished sprite, and the bead version as well!
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Oobgarm
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man, if this was 1992, you could have made a killing digitizing artwork for SNES and Genesis games.

That's incredible work there.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good introduction, let me know so much about your information
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