In this series of articles, I introduce you some basic techniques and art knowledge needed to represent and conceive nature in a pixel art game. In case you have missed Part 2, you must read it first for a better understanding of the following parts.

In Part 3, we will talk about One by one foliage technique and two different ways to design Grass, and by using the same methods, we’ll be able to do Bushes as well. We’ll also keep talking about the fundamentals approached in the previous parts. Do you remember the end of Part 1 of this series where we’ve built our first tree? Today we will deepen the topic, and I’ll show you how to create even more natural detailed leaves, and get a much prettier result with your trees, bushes, and grass.

I’ll have to assume you already choose your software, and your desired resolution to work. For the purpose of this tutorial, I chose a 32×32 style, because it is very common and maybe will suit your needs.

Lesson 1 – One by one foliage

Let’s start with two layers, the first one containing a trunk, and the second one a circular shape at the top of the trunk, like this:

Now, I want you to imagine you’re a gardener, and you want to model that tree with your tool, in our case, the eraser! Start modeling your tree by formatting leaf chunks, erasing the circle from outside to inside, always thinking about leaf shapes. Don’t rush, make the leaf chunks one by one and if you make a mistake, just undo and and try that one again, get a satisfactory result like this before you proceed with the next step:

When you’re ready, build a gradient on your shape, by dividing it into vertical sections like that, to simulate daylight coming from above:

Blend these sections together by making the colors invade each other area. Remember to think about leaves shapes.

Now you’re going to design your foliage with more detail, making leaves one by one. The secret here is to think in a 3D perspective, the lighter colors can help you make the leaves pop-up and make them look much closer to our eyes. You can make the leaves by invading a brighter area with the darker color from below, creating the leaves shape in the process.

Make the lighting of the trunk part, and add an outline to your object to make it feel solid. Remember to make a gradient progression on the outline too, its top needs to be lighter than the bottom part. Pay attention to your leaves, see if you can improve something here and there, avoid lonely pixels so your art doesn’t look noisy, and your result will look next to this:

Here you can see a preview of the entire process:

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”

Bob Ross

Repeat the process (or edit what you’ve already made), remove the trunk and the outlines from the bottom part, add some fruits, and you will have a fruitful bush:

Lesson 2 – Simple grass design

Here I’ll teach you the basics about grass and show you how to design your first grass quickly by using pre-made shapes.

First of all, create a tile with a dark color, because the grass style I’ll teach you goes from dark to light colors. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’ll use a 16×16 tile, but you can make one up to 32×32 with what you will learn on this tutorial:

Since we are working with a very low resolution, we don’t have many options to represent grass. Use the shapes below to start designing your first attempts.

They are widespread in a lot of games and easily identifiable by eyes. You can edit and mix these shapes, and by training with them, you will understand how to design your own, even in higher resolutions. Look at these shapes of grass tufts, they are formed by the middle part and the edges. Color them, don’t forget your highlight, and your result will look very similar to that.

After you choose your design, you can optionally outline them to make them pop even more, using the same principle of Lesson 1. Make the outlines lighter at the top and darker at the bottom. Here’s the result:

Lesson 3 – Leaved grass style

This is a different approach on how to build your grass, it’s a technique I developed to draw leaved grass for top-down games. If you practice Lesson 1 and understand the basics of Lesson 2, after reading this lesson, you should be able to draw any kind of grass you want!

In this approach, I like to first draw a horizontal T shape to connect my leaved grass on it. This will act as the base of the grass tuft:

Now we can connect some leaves, preserving the T shape.

Can you notice how that shape now looks like the middle part of a grass tuft, shadowed by the leaves?

Now, let’s shadow below our leaves:

Finish your grass by adding some highlights, preserving the previous color in the middle, to express the division that leaves usually have. Here is the finished result:

and a gif to help you recap the process:

Final considerations and tips for exercising

I’m happy to see you reading one more part of the series! I hope you liked this tutorial, let’s keep going and get a little bit better every day!

To exercise, I’ll ask you to draw a lot of trees, bushes, grass tufts, with different sizes. Mix all the techniques approached on this tutorial. Look for some photos on the internet to use as reference and try to represent them, and don’t forget to use multiple simultaneous attempts technique for an intensive practice.

I wish you luck with your journey, see you in the next part of this series!

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