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    • Pixel Hall of Fame

      Jordan Burroughs is quickly becoming one of the greatest athletes of our time. He's already won 4 world championships and an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling. He's only 30 years old.

      When ASICS asked me to celebrate him with a pixel art piece, I jumped at the chance. This is one of my favorite pieces, and I think Jordan liked it too (he posted it on his Instagram!). I'll go over how I made it and what the particular challenges were.

    • My first goal was to come up with a composition. After looking at a lot of photos, I decided I wanted to get him in the ring, head on. I thought it would be cool to put the viewer in the shoes of an opponent, as if they were about to square off (and probably get pummeled!).

      I used several photo sources for the pose: the torso from one, legs from another, and the head from a third. I studied some photos of wrestling arenas from the olympics to get a sense for what the background should look like in general. Here’s an initial photoshop sketch of the scene.

    • I set up my canvas in Photoshop at 262 x 367 pixels. This may seem like a slightly off aspect ratio, but it was chosen so it could be printed on 16 x 20 inch white paper with margins around the sides. After setting up my canvas, I carved out some of the basic shapes in pixels.

    • Pixel Hall of Fame

      Gradually, I started adding more detail to the figure and the background by using pixel dithering to achieve definition and dimension. Dithering is when you "checker" the pixels in order to smooth one color into another. This is a useful technique that allows you to use a limited color palette and still achieve dimension.

      Limiting your color palette is important in pixel art. Old video games weren't very powerful and could only use a limited amount of colors. While that was out of necessity back then because of technological limitations, contemporary pixel art tends to adhere to these traditions. If you have too many colors or "steps" between one shape and another, it ends up just looking like a blurry photo instead of sharp, clean pixel art.

    • I continued to add highlights and shadows to the figure until he felt solid. Next, I needed to tackle the floor beneath him, which was challenging since it was just a flat color.

      In a match though, there would likely be multiple light sources on him, which would cast crazy shadows in all directions. I had to simplify and approximate what this would look like in pixels. I cheated a little and used some soft brush gradients, but I added some pixelated shadows immediately beneath his feet to ground him in the scene.

    • Finally, I added some final details to the figure, and a crowd to the background. I put some white margins around the piece for printing and added some footer information. Here’s a mockup of it in a nice gallery frame.

    • I just checked out your notch stuff!! I could see me hanging a piece of your art in my house someday! Your Jackie Robinson comp is amazing!

    • Thank you so much for detailing the process! I see pixel art and wonder, "how'd they do that?" It's such an interesting lo-fi-but-surprisingly-hi-fi style.

    • That’s a good way to put it! It’s a fun and interesting challenge to walk the line between lo-fi and hi-fi. Part of the appeal for me is trying to make a piece transcend the lo-fi limitations and look like more than the sum of its parts, but not too much... otherwise it starts to creep into vector illustration territory. I still want it to clearly be made of pixels

    You've been invited!