Pixel art first became a thing in 1982. It’s a digital art medium, and it focuses on building an image up based on its smallest building block, which are — you guessed it — pixels.
If you’re unsure what pixels are, they’re the smallest component of all things you see in digital media. Small dots make up every image that you see on any screen — computer, television, jumbotron, you name it. Those small dots are pixels.
Pixel art is art made with these little digital dots.
But if you grew up in the 90s, chances are you know this what it is, or at least would recognize it. It dominated fledgling gaming culture, not because of a preferred aesthetic, but because of technological constraints.
In modern times, though, the pixelated look isn’t one that we are limited to due to 8, 16, or 64 bit technology, but that’s how we remember so many great games looking which is fun to recreate. Fond memories make us want to recapture that retro style.
Nostalgia, as we know, is a bit of a craze right now. If something is 20-30 years old, chances are it’s experiencing a resurgence; if it was kind of cool two to three decades ago, it’s likely really cool now.
While pixel art may be perceived as old school, some, however, would argue that pixel art is as much part of our future as it is our past.
Below, you’ll find 10 great artists that make some amazing pixel-based designs. In addition, if you’re feeling creative, you’ll find a few places where you can make your own pixel-based art.
Great Pixel Artists
While he doesn’t do just pixel art, there are a few pieces on Mario Sifuentes’s page that definitely caught our eye. Check out his art, and you’ll see what we mean.
From pixel pizza to the pre-hispanic god Quetzalcóoatl, he has a few really cool pieces.
Looking at Gerardo Quiroz’s Behance page is similar to scrolling through screenshots of classic video games– great pieces just oozing with retro goodness. Some are animated, too! While it would be tough to frame something animated, it’s still great to look at.
3. JaeBum Joo
Do you like classic anime? What about Bob Ross? Well, you can look at 16-bit renditions of both on JaeBum Joo’s Behance page.
You’ll also see a Street Fighter-esque looking Freddie Mercury. Odd combination? Perhaps. But it’s still cool nonetheless.
4. Pixel Jeff
Pixel Jeff’s art is definitely inspired by urban life– particularly that of Asia. You’ll also find some movie-influenced stuff, as well as some places that could be straight out of a mythical tale.
Whether it’s modern cartoons or classic movies, there’s something on Karina Dehtyar’s page that has been reimagined to look like it belongs on the Super Nintendo.
Gustavo Viselner is definitely one of the more prolific artists on this list. He’s made art out of famous Marvel movies, as well as individual sprites to go with them. It’s pretty cool!
7. Mark Bern
This is a slight deviation from the artists who use the 16 bit aesthetic to pay homage to nerd culture. Instead, Mark Bern’s approach to pixel art seems reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. There’s no concrete line or design, just color. And they all look great– perfect for someone whose collecting inclinations are more avant-garde.
He’s got his own shop, and eBoy makes just about everything you can think of– toys, posters, even watches. His posters are of cityscapes, so if you want to have a bustling, cartoonish community on your wall, this would be the best choice, at least for pixel art!
9. Roman Gonzo
We hope you enjoyed that brief break from nerd-related pixel art, because we’re getting back to that topic with Roman Gonzo. Our favorite one on his Behance page is his pixelated Hulk.
10. Octavi Navarro
This is the last one on the list; Octavi Navarro’s page is great for pixelated landscapes. Whether you want something mythical, or an inside view of an old, old wooden ship, this is great to look at if you want fantastic pixelated art that isn’t tied to any nerd-related brands.
Make Your Own!
What if you’re just not in the market to buy some art; it could be that you fancy yourself an artist, and want to try your hand at making your own. Or it could be you’re on a tight budget and want to take art-making into your own hands.
If you want some help creating your own pixel art, you can check out this tutorial from Pedro Medeiros, which is the first of many from him.
Or, check out these free resources:
1. Pixilart (Free)
Pixilart is a free online tool you can use to practice your pixel art making. It’s free, and you can either save or delete your work. Bonus: They also have mobile apps!
2. Make 8 Bit Art (Free)
This is another variation of a similar idea that Pixilart had. It’s online. It’s free. So have at it!
3. Pixel Art Studio (Microsoft – Free)
Pixel Art Studio is a downloadable app for PC users. It’s also free, like the two previous ones. But it’s also not online, so you’d have something on your computer to reference.
4. Pixel Art Maker (Apple – Free)
Pixel Art Maker is the same idea as the previous choice, but it’s for Apple. You can download it on your iOS for free, and then make all the art you want.
Pixel Art is retro, and it’s cool — all the more reason why you should want to add some to your home decor, whether you buy some or make it. It should be something you enjoy looking at and make you think of all those great days playing those classic video games.
Just remember the following things, and you should be good to go:
- There’s a lot of free options to make your own custom pixel art.
- You can make pretty much anything look like it belongs in the early 90s or late 80s with pixel art.
- There are tons of great artists online that make it, so if you aren’t feeling creative, go ahead and buy some!