Pixel artist

An example of pixels. The image looks smooth when zoomed out, but when a small section is viewed more closely, individual pixels can be distinguished.

A pixel artist is a graphic designer who specializes in computer art and can refer to a number of artistic and professional disciplines which focus on visual communication and presentation.[1][2][3] Similar to chromoluminarism used in the pointillism style of painting, in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary and intermediate colors, a pixel artist works with pixels, the smallest piece of information in an image.[4] The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones. Pixel art is often utilitarian and anonymous.[3][5] Pixel design can refer to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.[6]

Common uses of pixel design include print and broadcast media, web design and games.[1][3][7] For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as shapes and color which unify the piece. Composition is one of the most important features of design especially when utilizing pre-existing materials or using diverse elements. Pixel artists can also be a specialist in computer animation such as Computer Animation Production System users in post production of animated films and rendering (computer graphics) images like raster graphics.[8][9][10]

In the 2000s, pixel artists such as Tyler West, Stephane Martiniere and Daniel Dociu have gained international notoriety and artistic recognition, due in part to the popularity of computer and video games.[11][12] For instance the E3 Media and Business Summit, an annual trade show for the computer and video games industry, has a concurrent juried art show, "Into the Pixel" starting in 2003.[12][13][14][15] Jurist and Getty Research Institute curator Louis Marchesano noted that most of the works were concept pieces used in the development of games.[13]

Pixel artists are also used in digital forensics, an emerging field, to both create and detect fraud in all forms of media including "the courts, politics and scientific journals".[16] For instance, the Federal Office of Research Integrity has said that the percent of allegations of fraud they investigated involved contested images has risen from less than 3 in 1990 to 44.1 percent in 2006.[16]


Computer art started in 1960s and by its nature is evolutionary since changes in technology and software directly affect what is possible. The term pixel art was first published by Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegal of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1982.[17] Adobe Systems, founded in 1982, developed the Postscript language and digital fonts, making drawing painting and image manipulation software popular.[18] Adobe Illustrator, a vector drawing program based on the Bezier curve, was introduced in 1987 and Adobe Photoshop followed in 1990.[18] Adobe Flash, a popular set of multimedia software used to add animation and interactivity to web pages, was introduced in 1996.

In the 2000s, pixel artists have been employed increasingly in video games and, to a lesser extent in music videos. These artists have remained somewhat underground until the mid-2000s.[19] In 2006 Röyksopp released "Remind Me", illustrated completely by pixel art, which the New York Times cited as amazing and hypnotic.[19] (See video here .)


Imagine the smiley face in the top left corner as an RGB bitmap image. When zoomed in, it might look like the big smiley face to the right. Every square represents a pixel. Zooming in further, the individual pixels can be analyzed, with their colors adjusted by adding the values for red, green and blue.

A pixel artist is one of the new media artists that employs technology while also utilizing traditional media and art forms.[2][3][20] They may have a fine arts background such as photography, painting or drawing but self-taught designers and artists are also able to accomplish this work.[2][3] They are often required to employ imaging and a full range of artistic and technological skills including those of conceptual artists.[20][21]

In digital imaging, a pixel (picture element) is the smallest piece of information in an image.[4] The word pixel is based on a contraction of pix (for "pictures") and el (for "element"); similar formations with el for "element" include voxel, luxel, and texel.[22][23] Pixels are normally arranged in a regular 2-dimensional grid, and are often represented using dots, squares, or rectangles. Each pixel is a sample of an original image, where more samples typically provide a more accurate representation of the original.[24] The intensity of each pixel is variable; in color systems, each pixel has typically three or four components such as red, green, and blue, or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Neuroplasticity is a key element of observing a many pixel images. While two individuals will observe the same photons reflecting off a photorealistic image and hitting their retinas, someone whose mind has been primed with the theory of pointillism may see a very different image as the image is interpreted in the visual cortex.[25]


Pixel art outside the virtual domain using mosaic tiles by Invader

The total number of pixels (image resolution), and the amount of information in each pixel (often called color depth) determine the quality of an image. For example, an image that stores 24 bits of color-information per pixel (the standard for computer displays since around 1995) can represent smoother degrees of shading than one that only stores 16 bits per pixel, but not as smooth as one that stores 48 bits. Likewise, an image sampled at 640 x 480 pixels (and therefore containing 307,200 pixels) will look rough and blocky compared to one sampled at 1280 x 1024 (1,310,720 pixels). Because it takes a large amount of data to store a high-quality image, computer software often uses data compression techniques to reduce this size for images stored on disk. Some techniques sacrifice information, and therefore image quality, in order to achieve a smaller file-size. Computer scientists refer to compression techniques that lose information as lossy compression.

Modern computer-monitors typically display about 72 to 130 pixels per inch (PPI), and some modern consumer printers can resolve 2400 dots per inch (DPI) or more; determining the most appropriate image resolution for a given printer-resolution can pose difficulties, since printed output may have a greater level of detail than a viewer can discern on a monitor. Typically, a resolution of 150 to 300 pixel per inch works well for 4-color process (CMYK) printing. Drawings usually start with what is called the line art, which is the basic line that defines the item the artist intends to create. Line arts can be either traced over scanned drawings or hand drawn on the computer itself by the use of a mouse or a graphics tablet and are often shared among other pixel artists in diverse websites in order to receive some feedback. Other techniques, some resembling painting, also exist, such as knowledge of the color theory. The limited palette often implemented into pixel art usually promotes the use of dithering in order to achieve different shades and colors (when necessary); hand-made anti-aliasing is also used for smoother purposes. A pixel artist will exponentially increase the zoom of whatever they are working on to make adjustments as needed and then view the results until desired changes are achieved.[6]

See also


  1. 1 2 Stacey, Patrick; Andrew Brown; Joe Nandhakumar (2007). "Making Sense of Stories: the development of a new mobile computer game". IEEE Computer Society; 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'07). Retrieved 2008-08-05. "On reflection, he said that 'I would have preferred to have brought in a more professional pixel artist.'" PDF version
  2. 1 2 3 Wiedemann, Julius (2007). Taschen's 1000 Favorite Websites: Style Surfing. Taschen. ISBN 9783822825860. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Middleton, Chris; Luke Herriott (2007). Instant Graphics: Source and Remix Images for Professional Design. Rotovision. ISBN 9782940361496. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  4. 1 2 Rudolf F. Graf (1999). Modern Dictionary of Electronics. Oxford: Newnes. p. 569. ISBN 0-7506-4331-5.
  5. Currie, Nick. "Design Rockism".
  6. 1 2 Hall, Branden; Christian Cantrell, Mike Chambers, Phillip Torrone, Andreas Heim, Glenn Thomas, Steve Leone, Craig Kroeger, Fred Sharples, Bill Perry, Robert Hall, Markus Niedermeier (2002). Flash Enabled: Flash Design & Development for Devices. New Riders. ISBN 9780735711778. Retrieved 2008-08-05. Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  7. Swanepoel, Kevin; The One Club. One Show Interactive: Advertising's Best Interactive and New media:. Volume VI. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 9780929837215. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  8. "So You Want to Be in Pixels: Glenn McQueen". PBS/Nova. November 2000. Retrieved 2008-08-05. (Interview with Glenn McQueen)
  9. "So You Want to Be in Pixels: Ellen Poon". PBS/Nova. November 2000. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  10. "Picture Revolution: Special Effects". McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour. 12 February 1998. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  11. Snider, Mike (16 July 2008). "More Video Game Art is Now Museum Quality". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  12. 1 2 "Into the Pixel: Submission Qualifications". Into the Pixel. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  13. 1 2 Marchesano, Louis; Davidicus (18 July 2008). "Into the Pixel video game art". BBC. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  14. Ted Backman; Jeremy Bennett; Tristan Reidford (2009-07-09). "Advisor". Into the Pixel. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  15. "The first concept art from Half-Life 2: Episode Three". GamesRadar. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  16. 1 2 Dreifus, Claudia (2 October 2007). "Proving That Seeing Shouldn't Always Be Believing". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  17. Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegal, "ACM president's letter: Pixel Art", Communications of the ACM, Vol. 25, Issue 12, Dec. 1982.
  18. 1 2 Wands, Bruce. (2006) Art of the Digital Age, Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-23817-0
  19. 1 2 Pogue, David (15 September 2006). "Art, One Click at a Time". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  20. 1 2 Adams, Cameron; Mark Boulton; Andy Clarke; Simon Collison (2007). Web Standards Creativity. Friends of ED. ISBN 9781590598030. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  21. Remo, Chris (28 July 2008). "Interview: Nokia's Scott Foe - A Member Of The Reset Generation". Games On Deck/Think Services. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  22. Foley, James D.; Andries van Dam; John F. Hughes; Steven K. Feiner (1990). "spatial-partitioning representations". Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice. The Systems Programming Series. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-12110-7. These cells are often called voxels (volume elements), in analogy to pixels.
  23. Foley, James D.; Andries van Dam; John F. Hughes; Steven K. Feiner (1990). "surface detail". Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice. The Systems Programming Series. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-12110-7. This approach is known as texture mapping or pattern mapping; the image is called a texture map, and its individual elements are often called texels.
  24. Edwards, Teon (August 2007). "NOVA scienceNOW: Kryptos". NOVA. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  25. Schwartz, Jeffrey M.; Begley, Sharon (2003). The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. Harper Perennial. p. 337. ISBN 0-06-098847-9.

Further reading

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