In this series of articles, I introduce you to some basic techniques and art knowledge needed to represent and conceive nature in a pixel art game. In case you have missed Part 3, you must read it first for a better understanding of the following parts.
In Part 4, we will talk aboutsome techniques I use to express sky, sun, and clouds on my art. To demonstrate what you can do with these techniques, I’ll pixel art a landscape.
I’ll have to assume you already choose your software, and your desired resolution to work. For this tutorial, I’ll use a 336×192 canvas (images at this tutorial are resized to 200% so you can have a better look at them).
Step 1 – The gradient
I use a lot of gradient progressions on my art, and to start our landscape, I couldn’t forget to use a gradient for the sky as well. Pick two bluish colors, a lighter and a darker one, and make a gradient using the gradient tool available on your software.
If the software you use for art has no gradient tool, you can download premade gradients at the internet, or even download another software just for that purpose.
Here’s my result:
Step 2 – Horizon line
The horizon line is an imaginary line that determines the height of the observer’s eyes in relation to the earth’s line. For a better understanding, you can search on the internet for some landscape images. Try to observe how the image change based on the horizon line and how different the images look because of that.
Can you notice that in most photos and paintings, the horizon line is somewhere between these two points below?
To help you decide where your horizon line will be, try to imagine first how much land you want to represent. Do you want to make a lake or maybe put a bridge in the front of the observer? You need to position your horizon line in a way that provides you enough space to represent what you’re about to paint.
For this tutorial, I’ll go with option 2, because I want my sky to consume most of the canvas, and I don’t plan to paint a lot of land.
Step 3 – Land
Above my horizon line, I’ll draw some land. You can draw mountains, grassy areas, or any other terrain.
Get some reference to guide you with the shapes of your land, observe how land is perceived from a distance. They usually have a lot of smooth curves, going up and down, and sometimes abrupt ones.
You can start with some very perfect shapes and use the eraser to model them to make them more natural. Just imagine that you are having fun with play dough, take the necessary time.
After you achieve the desired shape, start adding some colors and more depth to the land. You can get some tips about the techniques I use in Part 2 of this series. Polish it until you get satisfied with the result:
Step 4 – Water
Water is an excellent opportunity to express the beautifulness of the sky. For this piece of art, I chose to fill with water everything below my horizon line, because I plan to use that water to add some reflections.
To make the water, I delete everything below the horizon line, create a duplicate of the background gradient, and paste it right below the horizon line. Then I apply a darker blueish color on a layer above and reduce the alpha, to make it blend with the gradient.
Here’s the result:
Step 5 – Sun
By setting a sun in your landscape, you can change the mood of the scene.
I start by a big white circle with low alpha, then I add tinier yellow ones inside of each other, and finish by adding a white circle again in the middle.
When adding the sun, if you’ve decided to draw a sunset while following this tutorial, try applying a new layer filled with orange over the existing sky and water.
If necessary, repeat the process with the mountains to give it a color that matches the sunset, and voila!
Step 6 – Clouds
To help the scene composition, we can add some clouds.
I’ll teach you how I make them:
- I decide the shape and paint it using a round brush.
- Then, I divide them into circles, to apply the lighting.
- I highlight the circles.
- I connect them back together.
- I apply a shadow under the cloud.
- I polish the shape, highlights, and shadow, and apply the outline.
Tips: When you’re confident enough, you can skip some of the steps, going directly from the shape to the highlights, then the shadow, and finally, the polishing. Try not to use obvious colors like white and grey in every situation, they won’t always work. Clouds should have a lighter outline in comparison to the base color.
Here are the clouds in the scene, with reduced opacity to make them blend with the sky:
Step 7 – Reflections
You can add a lot of detail to your scene by adding reflections to the water.
Create new layers, copy your objects above the horizon line, and paste them in these new layers, below the horizon line, flipped vertically. Reduce the opacity of these layers to make the reflections blend with the water.
Thanks for reading one more part of the series. I hope you were able to achieve great results with these techniques. You can always play with your art for better results, don’t hesitate to try something new.
I advise you to try to remake some high-quality photos in tiny pixel art, doing your best to capture the essential things, like the lighting and colors. The best way to improve is to practice, and always remember that you are capable of anything. Follow your dream, peace.