Wednesday, 6 March 2013

8 bit drawing

I grew up playing the NES with great games like Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Blades of Steel and 8 bit art holds a special place in my heart.
Here are some great examples:

Seeing the amazing things people can do with pixels never fails to get my creative juices flowing. I wanted to make a Mario Bros. themed video featuring my brother and I, in honour of some of our travels, so I scoured the web for a way to create 8 bit avatars. I found, a promo-site for Linkin Park's 8 bit rebellion. It was pretty good. I made versions of my brother and myself and then tweaked them in paint since there were only preset skins to mix and match on the website. I found some screen shots of old NES games and added us in. Check it out.
I have now officially caught the 8 bit bug. I modified my avatar further and made an 8 bit blog header and blog button for ICTyler. I was playing around last night and thought that maybe a dedicated 8 bit drawing program existed somewhere on the internet. I searched a bit today. There was a program called PXLPNT, but its domain is for sale now, so I think it's gone belly up. However, I did find, a site made by @jennschiffer.
Fittingly, it provides 8 preset colours and lets you save your work, already in a fancy frame. You can also add custom colours if you know their hexadecimal codes. After making a few calculations, I estimate the pixel size in the final product is 25 by 25 actual pixels. It's a good size, especially if you consider how small the picture would be if you were actually drawing with a 1 by 1 pixel brush. This is a great site to play with 8 bit drawing; however, I wanted a larger canvas for some of the projects I was working on.
So, I figured out another way: Microsoft Paint! The best part of that is everyone, well everyone with windows, already has it. The new version of Paint does not include a square brush, but it does have a square eraser. The eraser is technically not an eraser at all. It just paints your secondary colour whenever you click. It just so happens, that we often leave our secondary colour the same as our base canvas colour. By modifying the secondary colour I have an easy 8 bit painting tool. Unfortunately, the eraser does not snap to predetermined squares, like make8bitart does with its brush, so you have to be careful when drawing. I use the largest eraser setting to make a large square, but it's up to your preferences. Paint lets you chose canvas size so you can make your 8 bit drawing as large or as small as your heart desires.
Here's how it looks speeded up 12 times as I make my 50th picture for my Picture a Day project:

If you're inspired to make 8 bit art by this, using one of these tools or something else, send me the link in a comment or tweet me @Tyler_JL. I'd love to see what you come up with :)


  1. I will definitely be toying with this over the next couple weeks. Oh the good ole days with Blades of Steel

  2. Hey T-man - glad you enjoy make8bitart! I'm actually working on a full-screen, frameless version. I'm hoping to launch it in the next month or so, so stay tuned!