It’s art, and it’s pixels.

But isn’t all art, projected digitally from a screen, composed of pixels? What makes pixel art special?

When we look at pixel art, many of us associate it with video games, as that is where this style of art largely originated from. Classic games from back in the day, such as Pac-Man, have used pixel art. During this time, it was necessary to create these kinds of visuals, as the technology could not support more complicated characters and environments on the screen. The limited colour palettes and canvas sizes meant that pixel art was the only way to create video game visuals. Over time, pixel art became bigger, more colourful and more detailed. Eventually, video game consoles were able to create images that would be large and intricate enough that they could not be consider ‘pixel art’ anymore.

Screenshot of Space Invaders (1978)
Screenshot of Dragon Warrior (1986)
Screenshot of Super Mario World (1990)

Despite technology coming so far, pixel art is still popular, both in art pieces and in new video games. This brings up the question of, why do many of us gravitate towards pixel art now? Technology has come so far, so why stick with this style rather than move on to highly detailed drawings or 3D models/art?

Firstly, pixel art is an aesthetic. As we mentioned before, classic games used pixel art to create some nice artwork. This history of video game art gives pixel art a feeling of nostalgia or familiarity to many gamers. It is a purposeful aesthetic choice, in many cases, to evoke certain feelings to the audience. Secondly, the limitations of pixel art makes for an interesting art medium. It can be fun for artists to play with a smaller canvas and create images that are more compact. It really is a medium that works those creative muscles in your brain. Finally, pixel art just looks nice. What better reason do you need?

Screenshot of Stardew Valley (2016)
Screenshot of Blasphemous (2019)
Screenshot of Dome Keeper (2022)

As for my experience with pixel art, I enjoy it very much. I grew up with pixel art games, like Pokemon, so I associate pixel art with good memories and good games. I’m not a very experienced pixel artist myself, only having dabbled in it a handful of times, but I find making pixel art to be a very interesting experience because of the limitations and the different approach to making art compared to what I am used to. I recommend Aseprite for anyone who wants to make pixel art themselves. Below is a short pixel animation I made while figuring out how to use the program.

Original animation by me

One response

  1. I can relate to your article and how pixel art style does bring back some nostalgia when playing games. With it also being a stample style within video game creation. With some of the best title games from each year utilizing this style.

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