Vector To Pixel Art | Jake Fleming | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Basics

    • 3. Clean Up - Part 1

    • 4. Clean Up - Part 2

    • 5. Clean Up - Part 3

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About This Class

In this short course, you'll learn how to take your vector art from Illustrator to pixel art in Photoshop. Using this technique should reduce the amount of time it takes to arrive at great looking pixel art! Especially if you're already comfortable creating vector art.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Jake Fleming

Designer & illustrator


Jake Fleming has been a designer and illustrator for most of his life. He currently designs for the web at Appiphony. His passion for design and video games helped fuel the creation of Piasa Games, an indie game studio he co-founded with Corey Warning and Mike Blazek.

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1. Introduction: Hey there, I'm Jake for me. And welcome to my course. Vector two picks alert. In this short course, you're going to learn how to take a vector graphic that you've created an illustrator and pull it into photo shop and create some pretty awesome looking pixels and is going to amaze you how fast you can get this done. I've been using this trick for a little bit now, and it's really, really increased my output and reduce the amount of time that I have to spend on pixel art . So I can't wait to share the strict with you. And I can't wait to see how you use it and what you make with it, so let's dive right in. 2. The Basics: Okay, The first thing that you're gonna want to do is have a vector illustration that you want to turn into pixel art. If you don't have the vector illustration ready, go ahead. Make one. This course isn't going to cover creating the vector art. And she's going to cover translating that vector art into pixel art. In my case, I'm going to be turning this little cat person into vector art. Probably this purplish bush here and also one of these projectiles just to give you a sense for what's possible. Then towards the end, I'll show you that even a giant object like this can be translated into picks alert. So we have our document open with our vector art inside of it. Now, what we're going to be doing in this course is switching back and forth between pixel preview inside of illustrator. And if we do that right now, you'll see Not nice pixel art, which is to be expected, right? We've created vector art. We don't really expected to be crisp, jagged edges like pixel art. But one thing that we can dio is go up to Preferences General and notice that there's this option inside of our menu here called Anti a Liest artwork. And let's go ahead and uncheck that. Now if we go back into pixel preview, it looks a little different, right? And this is by no means perfect pixel art, right? It looks kind of crappy, but it's not bad. We could get a sense for what these characters are going to look like in pixel art. There are some things like these Goshen Blur effects that I don't really come across through the anti alias artwork. Okay, so let's turn off our pixel preview. So I'm just going to copy and paste this into a new document. So I don't have to worry about messing with any of the other art. And this is an arbitrary, heightened width. Um, I know this is bigger than the character that I'm working with. One thing to mention is it works better if your heart is sort of small. So my characters bounding box is around 70 by 50 and that is pixels. So if we were to scale this up, you still get like, the pixel art effect. But it looks kind of weird because our character so big. So if you have a very big piece of artwork, you might consider scaling it down. So as we can see, we have a pretty decent pixel art character here. You can do some things like move it around on the art board to see the changes. Where are pixels go? So you're not going to get a perfect pixel art character. You're going to still have to clean this up a bit. But as you can see, most of the work has already been done for us by just converting this to a pixel preview. Now you're probably wondering, OK, this is just a pixel preview. It's not actually a thing that I can go edit and photo shop because I'm just previewing it . It's nothing that I can save down. Well, actually, you can. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can actually just go ahead and export. I still use safer Web. I know it says legacy, but hey, I don't care. I like how it works So safer. Web. You'll see that our character is back to our anti a liest version, right, and that's not what we want. We want the hard edge pixel crisp version that we are seeing in our pixel preview. So this is really easy. All you have to do is go to this little box here that says, Art optimized. That's usually what it says Unless you've changed it, we're just going to say none. So there we go. We have our pixel preview version of our character, and we can save that down so we can say that and then open it in photo shop. So let's go ahead and do that. So I'm going to be a terrible person and say this to my desktop. Okay, so now I'm going to open what we just saved down on our desktop into photo shop. So now we can start cleaning this character up a little bit, and there's not really a whole lot to Dio. But before we do that, I want to show you another way of getting a character into Photoshopped so we can actually just copy and paste this in so you can choose pixels or smart object, A path shape layer usually want to pick one of these. If you plan on re sizing your image, you might want to choose smart objects that you don't lose inequality. Let's go ahead and see what pixels look like. So this is actually pretty decent looking. But I do want to point out that it doesn't look exactly how are part looks. An illustrator. The copy and paste transition into photo shop, for some reason, has changed. How are pixels were aligned slightly Now it's not the end of the world because they're not perfect to begin with. But if you I liked how this looked exactly and you wanted to paste this exact image in, I would either just save it out like we did before, or you can create a bounding box. So let me explain this a little bit. The reason that photo shop is doing some weird stuff is because it's positioning our new image into Photoshopped, based on its outer container, that the artwork is taking up. And since an illustrator our art is taking up kind of half pixels. So what I mean by that is you see that there's this pixel right here where the end of this claw is. But when we get outside of pixel preview, it actually extends a little further than our pixel is showing So Photoshopped. It's doing some weird estimation and calculations and repositioning things inside of photo shop and therefore are pixels are getting moved around a little bit. If you don't quite understand that, that's fine. I don't really quite understand it either. Other than I know, that photo shop is making some calculations that I don't really have a whole lot of control over. So if you want control over that weaken, make sure that you dio is create a bounding box for this thing that has no Phil and no stroke that is perfectly aligned to the pixel grid. So let's do that really quick. I'm just going to create a 48 by 48 pixel box. That's not big enough. So let's just make it as big as our entire art board going to center that to the art board and then remove the Phil and the stroke. And then I'm going to you a copy and paste both of those things into push up, and now you can see that if you focus in on this I right here, you can see that it's exactly the same as the one inside of Illustrator. So those are just a few ways of getting your art from illustrator into photo shop. Choose which everyone aligns best with your workflow. The fastest way is obviously just pasting it in. But you know, the surest way is probably creating this bounding box or saving it out as an actual file and then opening, and that's up in photo shop. 3. Clean Up - Part 1: is pencil. So pencil is going to make your erases pixel perfect. So what I'm gonna do now is I'm going to create a new layer and fill it in with a background color so that I can see straight pixels while I'm working on this. So I usually just choose a gray, uh, usually this 60% gray from the defaults watches inside of Photoshopped. So this helps me pick out little stray pixels of color that are sticking outside of our outlines. And this is just something that happens. Illustrator isn't perfect at creating pixel art. You still have to do some editing instead of photo shop. So what we want to do is clean up straight pixels like this as well as clean up our line work. So you'll notice things like this really sharp edge. This is kind of a kink in this arm here. I don't mind it so much because it kind of looks like a big forearm, kind of like a Popeye arm, But we want to clean up any unwanted, jagged nous. Though it is pixel art. You still have to do your due diligence to make sure that your line work is nice and clean . This part of the armed, for example. He's kind of wonky. I don't really like how it does. This kind of jet kind of looks like he has a tumor under his armpit. So let's take care of that really quick. I'm just going to grab this outline color with the I drop picker and continue this line with the pencil tool and then erased thes unwanted pixels. And now we have kind of this smoother curve to the arm that looks a little more natural. So I'm going to do the same thing here. I'm noticing a lot of tension in this area, and the way that I'm gonna fix it is just go through and take away a couple pixels and now this looks a lot better. So one thing I like to try to avoid, I can't always avoid is blocks of pixels where outlines are converging in creating this kind of weird blob at these ears, for example, I might try to fix this by extending this out a bit, and now we don't really have that spot attention anymore. We have this nice, smooth transition from one year to another, so I mentioned taking away sharp points earlier, and that's only if you don't want them to appear sharp. Actually, kind of like how? This year since we've left its sharp here, it looks like it's kind of pointed up and that if you remember, matches up with our vector illustration. This kind of swoops up a little bit. So I'm going to leave that. And we also want these claws to appear sharp so you can see that this pixel extends kind of over the outline of this claw here, and that makes it look sharp. So that's actually a pretty good trick when you're trying to make things look really sharp and pixel art is, you extend pixels past their sort of natural shapes Outline. I hope that makes sense if it doesn't happy to talk about that more if you have questions. So I'm going to clean up these claws now, which I think are actually probably the hardest part about this cleanup job just because creating sharp things in pixel art it's kind of weird. You don't have a lot to work with, so we're going to try to utilize that trick that I just talked about and this hand actually looks really, really decent. Um, I might take I might take a couple pixels away, Actually, just that one I think will do it. I might try taking this pixel away, too. Yeah, I actually, I really like that. We're gonna go with that. This hand is a little more difficult, but I don't think it should be too hard, so I'm pretty happy with that. Ah, So you might see me trying certain cleanups and then going back on it. Ah, lot of this is trialling air. Just because pixel art is so temperamental, the smallest change to one pixel can make a shape just look wrong. So you saw me try something out with that claw there. Didn't like it, so I backs based. I undid those actions until I was back to what I had before. Let's continue cleaning up these other cause groups. Okay? I think those claws look pretty decent. Let's clean up the pants a little bit again. These are very minor changes cleaning up the shoes now because they were getting lost a bit there. I actually like this shoe being slightly pointed, so the tail looks pretty good I might go back. Actually, there's a straight pixel here. I might try to clean this part up a little bit. It doesn't quite look like it has a curve here. I mean, it kind of does, but it could be stronger. I'm not sure. I think I like it How it is. I wouldn't change much about it if I changed it. So let's actually just leave it for now. What I do want to do now is clean up the head, clean up the face, clean up the mouth. So again, just cleaning up minor pixels to make these shapes a little more smooth. So this part does take a little more experience, right? If you've never done pixel art before, you wouldn't necessarily know how to make these little tweaks as efficiently as me. I'm by no means the best pixel artist in the world for even among the best. I just have been doing it for a little bit. So I have a better eye for what should be changed in what can stay. So this step will require some practice. Starting with Vector are in translating it from vector art from Illustrator into Photoshopped. We'll just get you off on the right foot, almost done cleaning up the head here, and then we're going to clean up the face and I think we're gonna be done with this character. So what I'm gonna do with the faces just erased the eyes because they looked pretty Jinky. And I'm going to redo them from scratch because there was a lot going on there. If we check back with our vector, right, you've got this eyebrow and then you've got these two eyes and everything is so close together that whenever we turn it into pixel art, that detail gets lost. So we might have to improvise a bit and change that facial expression slightly to make it work inside of pixel art. So before I do the eyes, I'm just going to you fix the mouth, and that looks pretty good. I'm happy with that and then our nose and it's a good idea to check back and forth between your vector are in your picks alert just to see if you're staying true to the art. If that's important to you, I am really happy with this character, so I want to make sure I get as close as I can with my picks alert. So you just saw me pull down this part of the mask to make it look more symmetrical to the other side right before it was weirdly before. It was kind of like this weird hard edge here, and I don't really like that. And I realized that in my vector art, it doesn't quite good down as much as I made it go down in the pixel art. But sometimes you have to deviate from the original in order to make it work in a photo shop. Then that's fine. So let's redo those changes that I made. Okay, and that looks pretty good. And finally, we're going to put the eyes in so I could leave like that, and I would be happy with that if we wanted to stay a little more true to the gangrenous of the cats, we might make his eyes look like they're closed, and he's straining or something. Pixel art eyes are hard. There's not a whole lot you can do at this scale. So getting a motion to come across through a small area like these eyes in this illustration, it's kind of hard. So take some practice. I am actually going to try to put this eyebrow in really quick and see. See? He looks kind of apprehensive. He doesn't really look angry like he doesn't That illustrator file right? He looks kind of like, uh, what's happening where we kind of want him to look really angry. So I'm going to noodle a little bit with these eyes and see if I can come up with something that fits our original better. I think that's pretty decent. I think it's pretty close to what we had before. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to call that done. I might spend a little more time on this face area if I was doing this for real, but I think that looks good. So let's jump back to our illustrator to our vector file, and we can swap between the two illustrations and they look pretty close. Umm, you might notice in doing this that there's some kinks that you might want to work out like still not quite happy with this tale, Um, in this arm, I think could improve. There's this weird kink here, so in this step. It's all about finding what the inconsistencies are and deciding whether or not you want to address them or leave them. In my case, I'm going to address them. So I'm going to clean up the kink in this arm. This one might be a little difficult, but we shall see. And I'm pretty happy with that arm now. Okay, So I'm not going to mess with that tail. Looking back at the original, I think it's actually fine. I think it looks pretty good. Um, if I wanted to get a better curve, I could noodle a bit more in photo shop. Or I could go back into illustrator, actually and try to get a better curve in there. So what I mean by that is we can duplicate this guy and I don't need these fills, so I'm deleting them. I just care about this tale here. So what we can do is actually just move around this curve and get something that is a little more to our liking. So maybe that's better. Maybe it's worse. I'm think I'm going to leave what we have. I think it looks pretty good. So just for reference, let's go back and forth between what we've done. So vector pixel, vector pixel Pretty cool, right? And it didn't really take us that long to get there. 4. Clean Up - Part 2: pretty cool. Let's do another one. So I'm going to hide our cat person. And let's go back to this file that I was working on. So we've got some environment art here. I am going to grab this bush. You'll see. I've got this Goshen Blur effect, too. Capture the glow from this crystal here. That Goshen Blur isn't really going to come through in our pixel art. It kind of does. But radiance are kind of a no no in pixel art. It's not to say that you can't treat radiant and pixel art, but just kind of this blurring of the edges isn't really in the pixel art theme and you'll get frowned upon for that. But if you like it, if you like that effect, go go for it. I'm going to try to avoid it. So what I'm gonna dio is grab all of this stuff and I want to take the Goshen blur off of it. - So what I'm gonna do now is I'm just gonna pace this directly into photo shop, and you can already see that this looks pretty dang good for not really doing anything right. Like you could probably put this in a game and it would be it would look pretty decent, right? You back up a little bit. That looks like a pretty decent Bush, but we can clean it up on. And so let's do that really quick. Let's go ahead and smooth these curves out. - So I'm just going through and I'm doing all of the things that we talked about in the previous video. I'm cleaning up stray colored pixels that are hanging outside of our outlines, and I am smoothing out kinks and going through and connecting any lines that are broken. But think about this. If I were to want to create all of this from scratch or from even my reference illustrator file, bring that in and try to like Tracy with pixel art. This would take quite a quite a long time to do. I tried doing that before, so I know that it does take a while. Um, this is so much faster. Even when I know that I'm not doing vector art. Sometimes all start with Vector art to bring it into photo shop later so I don't have to do these complex shapes inside of Photoshopped pixel by pixel just because it it's pretty tedious sense. It's hard to get right. So I apologize for this blue color. It's very bright against this purple color. I think this blue colors actually purple. I'm not really sure. That's kind of in this weird, uh, purplish blue state that vibrates. I like that color a lot, so I use it quite a bit. Um, but I apologize because I know it's sort of fluorescent on the screen. Okay, We could probably spend more time on this and noodle around, but I don't think we need to. I think this is pretty good to go. I'm really happy with how that looks. And it didn't take us long. It all took. It's like less than five minutes. So we've got her. Bush got her cat person looking pretty good. Let's try a projectile so you can already see that this is gonna look pretty cool when we bring it into Photoshopped. And there's one additional trick that I want to show you with this projectile. So I'm going to actually paste this in as a smart object so that we can resize it. So now we have it in photo shop and its pixelated. That's what we want. But it's kind of wonky looking here, you know, we've got sort of these straight pixels happening and senses a projectile. Maybe that's fine. It's kind of this weird energy projectile that is a bit chaotic, so maybe that works to our advantage. But if we don't like that, there are some things that weaken due to correct that. So I don't know if you caught what just happened, but I just resize this projectile one pixel up to see what would happen. And it actually has a really awesome results here. So it's fixing that pixel, that straight pixel that was here and here. So if you take a look, these are the two pixels that I'm seeing that are out of place. Resize that up. It's gone so we can even make it longer if we want. So something weird that happens when you, uh, stretch it a bit too far. Since you're stretching things and it's anti a liest, let's actually take a look with it, not anti a liest. So when we're stretching this since this line here is becoming bigger than one pixel, all of these lines that were re sizing are becoming like two pixels wide instead of one pixel. And that's why we're getting all of those borders increasing in size. That's not what we want. Okay, so that looks pretty decent. I'm noticing some inconsistencies here and here. Right there. Not quite symmetrical. Maybe that's okay. Um okay, so that's pretty good. Did you amount a bit to see what that looks like? So just like we cleaned up all of the other stuff, we could go in here and clean things up, make it symmetrical. If we really want this to be symmetrical, the best solution would be to So this is a vector Smart object. I'm going to flatten it. If we really want this to be symmetrical, We could just cut it in half spinning on which half you like the best. And I'm going to duplicate that layer, flip it vertically, move it down and merge those two layers together. And now we have a perfectly symmetrical projectile and then go in here and fix what we don't like. I'm seeing a couple things that could be improved, okay? And I'm actually really happy with how this looks. And again it took us no time at all. So we've got a character, We've got some environment art and we've got a projectile. Didn't take us very long at all. 5. Clean Up - Part 3: So what if we were to bring a giant asset into Photoshopped? What would that look like? Well, it would act pretty much the same. There would be probably more cleanup. But, um, that's just because it's a bigger object. But let's take a look at what happens. So like a mention before things like Goshen blurs will not really translate well to pixel art. So I'm going to get anything. So I'm going to get rid of anything that is a Gaussian blur. And if you don't know what Gagosian Blur means, it just means it's like this feathering on the edges of these shapes, and we can still keep those shapes. But I'm just going to turn off the Goshen Blur. So I've got some blend modes on these shapes here, Teoh. Give it this kind of red hot effect. I'm not exactly sure what's gonna happen when I bring this into photo shop. We shall see what we need to do, though, is make this art board bigger so that we can fit our new so we can fit this giant automobile on it, and you'll notice the's files are very, very small. Um, so my image was only 96 by 96 pixels and working at a very small scale, and I do that for pretty much every illustration that I do just because I really like the small constraint. And if I need to move into pixel art eventually, it's not a headache. I don't have to resize everything. So I would recommend working at a pretty small scale if you're working inside of illustrator, even if you're almost 100% certain that you're not going to G 02 picks alert. So let's choose smart object just because make sure that if you do use smart object that you uncheck anti alias and you'll notice that I didn't make my image big enough, it's so when I pasted this in my image, size is only 85%. I need to be 100% and then I'm going to increase the size of my canvas a bit more so I can fit this entire illustration on there. Now. I'm not going to go through and clean all of this up. There's actually not a whole lot that I would clean up. There definitely is some stuff, but you can see that We didn't even do anything to this. And it looks pretty good. So it's a really great jumping off point for getting into picks. Alert, Right? This would take me a really long time to do all from scratch and pixel art. If you're comfortable with creating vector shapes inside of Illustrator, try creating an illustration like this in Illustrator first and then bring it in and cleaning it up either way is gonna take you a decent amount of time. But this is a pretty good shortcut that I found and that I've been using recently too. Get the best of both worlds. All right, that's it. Thanks for taking the short course on turning your vector art into pixel art. I hope you found it useful, and I can't wait to see what you make with it.