With the vacant white walls of your barren apartment looming above you, it might seem expensive to find posters, prints, or other solutions. Maybe you’ve got the cash, but can’t find any piece that represents you best. Aside from a Maya Angelou quote on creativity and a Doctor Who Starry Night TARDIS print in my room, it’s hard for me to find pieces that add a touch of personal flair beyond what can be bought in a Walmart or on a generic poster website.
As a huge gamer, so much of what I identify with exists behind a screen. Nailing a perfect jump in Mario and catching the newest Pokemon are feelings not much typical wall décor can replicate. How do you take something small and virtual and turn it into a piece of décor? With this tutorial, you can take your favorite sprites from gaming’s early eras and make some awesome unique additions to your space!
So, what do I mean by ‘sprites?’ In 2D gaming, a sprite is a single picture that represents an object in-game. It’s as simple as the blocks in tetris:
Each of the blocks that falls into place in Tetris has its own sprite, made up of individual pixels. These pixels all have their own color values that give the appearance of shading. See the three white pixels in the corners of the Tetris pieces? Those give simple highlights to add a shine to the pieces. A set of sprites together in one image like this is called a sprite sheet. Take Yoshi and Baby Yoshi in this sprite sheet below:
See how the varying shades of green shadow on each pixel of Yoshi’s back, baby yoshi, and the egg? This creates depth in a small space. It’s a limitation of the technology these games were developed on. However, sprites also make for easy DIY as well!
For this project, I sampled two different video tutorials already found on Youtube:
Taking inspiration from these videos and my own idea on an 8-bit sign, I hunted around with two ideas in mind. The first was this sign I put together myself in a pixel paint program:
It features a favorite phrase I use on the daily inspired by a quote from the eternally sassy Bianca Del Rio of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It might look fuzzy and low-res as 22×22 pixel image on a computer, but that’s the beauty of this project – taking something ephemerally small and turning it into art for your wall!
For the second, I wanted to paint my favorite Pokemon, Snorlax! His sleepy, chubby lethargy just screams inspirational.
Before starting out, you should definitely know which sprites you want to paint, that way you can shop smart and only buy what you need. Here’s a list of materials:
- Pieces of 12”x12” corkboard.
- Acrylic paints.
- A ruler
- A black pen or sharpie
- An exacto knife
- A paint mixing tray
- Mod Podge
For your project, I’d recommend ordering the corkboard from Amazon and buying as much as possible at Walmart. I purchased my corkboard from Michaels originally and the measurements of the corkboards were off, which affected my final projects. Measuring pixels in sprite art like this is an exercise in precision, especially if you’re doing a more complicated piece.
So, how do you find sprites to paint? If you have a game in mind already, the Sprite Database (Insert Link: http://spritedatabase.net/) is a great place to start searching for your sprites. Once you’ve found a sprite, follow these steps to find out its measurement. I’m using a Mac so I used Preview to get my measurements. If you’re running Windows, Microsoft Paint should be able to do the exact same thing.
- Open your sprite or sprite sheet in preview.
- If you found a sprite sheet with different sprites on it, zoom in and select the one you want using the selection tool. Make sure the selection is only around the pixels you want to paint. Then, crop it.
- Once you have your cropped sprite, go to Tools -> Show Inspector. This will pull up attributes about your sprite.
- Check the ‘Image Resolution’ section. It will give you the measurements if your sprite in pixels.
Once you know the dimensions of your pixel art, you can begin!
- Using your ruler and a pen or sharpie, draw out a grid onto your corkboard. Knowing the dimensions of your sprite will allow you to calculate your measurements. Snorlax’s original sprite was roughly 80×80, divided by 12 inches, makes .15 inch-sized squares.
- Once you have your grid, sketch out the outline of your sprite so you know the where to paint. You could also go ahead and cut out your sprite before you paint it, but I thought it’d be easier just to
- Before you begin painting, make sure you have your colors mixed. For Snorlax, I needed a black, dark blue, medium blue, lighter blue, tan, and darker tan. Preparing them in advanced will keep you organized as you paint.
- Painting should be quick and easy! Follow the details on your sprite to get every pixel painted in – it’s pretty much adult paint-by-numbers.
- Using your exacto knife, cut your finished piece out! Be very careful in this step – smaller pixels means more precise slices to get a clean a cut as possible.
- Seal it with Mod Podge for that shiny finish!
In his video tutorial, Leftwich also recommends gluing cardboard behind the back of your finished pieces for longevity, but my corkboard pieces felt thick enough to stand alone without it.
Once the Mod Podge dries, you’re done! You’re now the proud owner of your very own corkboard pixel art from the renaissance eras of gaming!
Because my corkboard wasn’t the exact size as advertised by Michaels, I ended up downsizing on Snorlax and painting just his head alongside my ‘Not Today Satan’ sign. For my first time painting in quite some time, I think they turned out great!
My finished sign:
Snorlax’s finished head:
And one more, together:
Snorlax, serving pixelated realness!
No matter what your idea might be, follow these simple steps and you can replicate just about anything pixelated in acrylics and bring your favorite games into your space.