Surviving A Pixel Art Forum - The 9-step program

written by Aleiav

Pixel art is a considerably new art-form, which tends to attract people who are considerably new to art. People fall into art through dolls, making icons, making sprites, etc. and are often unaware of the artistic atmosphere that goes on in many communities. While some communities don't have this type of artistic atmosphere, Pixel Joint is one of the forums that do. And for those of you who are new to it, it may require a little adjustment. But with this program, hopefully you can transition into the art world easily.
Step 1 - Self Awareness as an Artist

Art means different things to different people. Unfortunately, art on the internet isn't often respected by most people as much as art hanging in a museum. Whether a piece is stored in a frame or on a hard drive, it's still art and it still needs respect.

Part of that respect includes recognition of copyrights. When someone makes a piece of art, you don't have a right to edit it, take it, use it, display it, sell it, etc. unless they give you express permission. It sounds really basic and obvious but many people don't know this at all and see fit to take other's works and write their names on them, put them up on their MySpace, attach it to their emails, and so and so forth. Most of these people just aren't aware that they are infringing on copyright. But others purposely take other's art, change colors, add things, and then claim the work as there own which is known as plagiarism or "ripping". In fact, there are communities of people who do this in pixel art and think it's okay. While you're welcome to have any ideas about that you'd like, editing other's work without permission is completely untolerated at Pixel Joint.

As an artist, one has the responsibility to others in their community that they will be on the lookout for plagiarists and rippers. As a new artist, you may not always be correct about your assumption that someone may have ripped, so if you believe someone has, before you publicly out them, you might want to ask a friend from the community or tell the administrators of your board. Although artists are constantly on the lookout for plagiarists, we're all human and make mistakes, so we try as best to prove that someone as ripped something before going making accusations.

Step 2 - Awareness as a Pixel Artist

When you make a form of art in a serious manner, there are a lot of things that you should be aware of as far as the history and the development of pixel art. Lucky for you, you don't have to study the ancient history since pixel art is relatively new. But there are some things one should know about the artform.

For one, pixel art began as a very minimalist art form mostly in early games. Since the early game consoles didn't have much in the way of storage space or graphics, only few colours could be used. Even though game systems now are much more advanced when it comes to graphics, a pixel artist who uses very few colours to make an interesting dynamic work of art is much more respected than someone who has used a million. When a pixel artist chooses few colours for a piece, the choice of specific colours as well as the application of those colors (via shading) matter gravely. When a pixel artists chooses and uses few colours, their artistic abilities shine. Pixel art which doesn't use many colors isn't necessarily looked down upon but most pixel artists worth their salt will always challenge you to work with less and less colours.

Secondly, pixel art, in order to call it such, MUST BE in the end, pixel art. While the definition seems simple and easy to grasp, there's much debate over the combination of pixel art and non pixel art in pieces. Pixel art, in order to be called that, must be laid pixel by pixel (exception in the case of fill or line tools with no anti-aliasing). However some people, for the purpose of making games in some cases, combine pixel art sprites and scenes with non pixel art backgrounds. Some people believe that this doesn't take away from the "pixel art" status, but others disagree.

Another lively debate is the status of dolls as pixel art. Dolls are basically human figures that mostly involve the use of bases (human figures drawn by others or themselves) where dollers draw clothes and other things over the bases. Some dollers use pixel art techniques but others use tools such as dodge, blur, etc. These tools make those dolls not pixel art by definition (while some debate that, the use of tools on ANYTHING regardless if the base is pixel art makes the piece inherently not pixel art). However others think that only dollers who make and doll on their own base using pixel by pixel techniques are pixel artists and other dolls made with bases not of their own is more like a collaboration than an actual work in it's own. Doll bases are not to be confused with lineart. Lineart is usually just the outlining of a figure/scene, whereas bases are colored and shaded. Regardless of your position on either one of these debates, it's important to remember that in order for a piece to be considered pixel art, the pixels must have been laid by hand, pixel by pixel.

Being well informed about all different types of pixel art such as sprites, isometric, non-isometric, etc. can be helpful as well. These definitions can be found in your basic tutorial. One of the most famous and helpful tutorials is "So You Want To Be A Pixel Artist" by Tsugumo -->

Step 3 - Taking your art both seriously and not seriously

One of the biggest problems with most n00bs is that they don't take their art seriously and they take it too seriously. Confusing? Allow me to explain.

Take your art seriously enough to improve it. Take it seriously enough to devote yourself to a single piece longer than 10 minutes. Take it seriously enough to devote yourself to a single piece for days, weeks, or months. Take it seriously enough to hear what other people think about it. Take it seriously enough to make changes, redo things, forget things, perfect things.

Don't take your art so seriously that you get offended if people don't like it. Don't take your art so seriously that you refuse to take suggestions on how to change or improve it. Don't take your art so seriously that you don't think you have anything more to learn about art. Don't take your art so seriously that you don't care, don't listen, don't change, don't grow, and take critique personally.

You should want to improve your art and take it seriously in that aspect, but people who tell you what's bad about your art aren't trying to hurt your or personally attack you, they're trying to help you.

Step 4 - Learn and embrace the differences between dolling communities and pixel art communities

I feel that this topic needs to be mentioned and the differences between the communities should be clarified for all. I've been a frequent participator of both communities and so I've seen it from both sides of the coin.

Dolling and pixel art are like cousins. Not all dolls are pixel art (some are made with tools), however. And the communities and their atmospheres are very different.

The first thing a person must be aware of coming from the dolling community to the pixel art community is that many pixel artists do not look kindly on dolls as an expression of art. This is because many people who make dolls use bases made by other people, already shaded. To pixel artists, this makes a doll, in some instances, a collaboration more than a piece one makes for oneself (obviously if you made the base, it's different). Also, if one has a form already shaded, an artist doesn't have to think about light source, colour choice, and other various aspects that they would have to think about if they had to shade and draw a figure all by itself. Because one doesn't have to think of these, many pixel artists see using bases (unless completely edited or changed) as a shortcut or easy way out. Pixel artists would prefer people to use reference pictures or line art with no colour or shading added in than use a fully shaded base.

Some pixel artists don't like dolls because of the atmosphere of the dolling community. Dolling communities are based more on friendships and social interaction. They have contests, give gifts, host sister sites, etc. with the priority of making friends. Which is not to say pixel artists don't want to make friends. But pixel artists would say, make art and then make friends. So when one posts their work in a dolling community, it's mainly for showing it to friends and receiving a "Good Job" from all fellow members. Whereas, pixel artists post their work in pixel art communities for the purposes of critique. They want others to show them how they can improve upon their work or better their technique. Each person is welcome to evaluate the benefits of the different goals of both communities. For some people, improving upon one's art is much more important than making friends. But for others, making friends and restricting arguments are a better goal. You may decide for yourself which one is more important for you, but you should be aware of the differences in goals in both communities. Because many pixel artists value art improvement and critique and because so little of it happens in the dolling community, many pixel artists look down on dolls and dollers because they feel they have no desire to improve upon their work.

If you are a pixel artists going into the dolling community, be aware that the levels of sensitivity are much higher in the dolling community. Because the purpose of a dolling forum is friendship, any critiquing words may not be considered unfriendly and not conducive to the atmosphere they wish to achieve. Even the softest critique by pixel art standards may be considered harsh by dollers who never receive critique unless asked for, and sometimes barely then. Critique is often accompanied with a compliment for fear that any criticizing words may create tension and hostility in the community.

If you are a doller going into the pixel art community, be aware that most often than not, it is what it is and unless someone is outright calling you a name or using language, they're likely not trying to hurt your feelings at all. It is rare to find a pixel artist using critique as a way of "getting back" at anybody for anything. In fact, you'll find that pixel artists who don't like each other much can find a common peaceful ground in critique and helping one another improve artistically. I would advise you not to join a community unless you whole heartedly absorb step three. When one makes excuses for their work's problems or doesn't take the critique of others seriously, that is often as offensive to pixel artists as critique can be to dollers. If you don't take it seriously, to them it means that you don't care about improving your art at all and you disrespect the knowledge and time that those who give you critique have spent improving themselves and commenting on yours.

Step 5 - Give what you want to get

Behaving on forums isn't much different from behaving in life. Except often times text has it's own way of interpreting itself to other people, so be sure to clarify your intent if you feel your words might be read differently.

All in all, just don't act up. Don't double post in topics, call people names, and if you treat people with a decent amount of respect, you're likely to get the same in return.

Do you want people to take your work without asking or critiquing? No. So don't do it to others. If you used a photo, say you used a photo. If you traced something, say you did. Eventually someone's going to find out you're not what you seem to be, and then you're just going to get crap in return.

Do you want people to accuse you of stealing with little to no evidence? No. We understand that you take art seriously, but you don't need to elect yourself judge, jury, and executioner of any new forum you have. If you suspect someone of ripping, report it to the administrators. You don't want to be embarrassed, especially if you didn't know what you were doing was wrong (and some honestly don't), so don't do it to other people.

Give an honest, clean effort and people will respect you more for it at the end of the day. If you give people crap in the pixel art community, they'll more than likely just throw it back at you.

Step 6 - Critiquing for the sake of critique

You don't have to be a master of art to know where an eye should go. Just like you don't have to be a doctor to know when your nose is runny. Art has the benefit of being in your face. You can see what's right and what's wrong. There are of course, varying styles, but usually people push for more realistic forms, smooth animations, and well shaded objects. An eye drawn too close to the nose isn't a style unless you're Picasso and the arm just so happens to be on the head. It's not a style, it's an error.

And don't be afraid to point out errors. Even if you're new to it. You may not know how to explain the problem well or even how to fix it. But every voice counts and people are posting their work for others' opinions. Everyone has a different way of looking at one thing. Maybe you'll notice something that others might have missed. So don't be afraid to post your opinion, even if you don't know how to fix it exactly.

And elaborate, elaborate, elaborate. One of the biggest problems on pixel art forums is that people get so used to critiquing, they forget to explain themselves. So always try to explain what you mean by "that eye looks a little wonky". How does it look wonky? It may seem very obvious to you but not obvious to the other person. Hopefully, if it was obvious for them they would have fixed it by now. Remember, some people don't know what a kayak is. Always explain.

However, DON'T use your critique as an excuse for being a jerk to others. We do want people to be honest, but there's a difference between being Frank and being Dick. So if you feel the need to be snarky and rude to people, keep it out of critique. Nothing spoils a good artistic drive than critique soiled by ulterior motives.

Step 7 - Be honest with yourself and others about your work

We all take improving seriously in pixel art communities, but we are all also human. And even the biggest engines run out of steam.

But don't leave people hanging by a thread and wasting their time posting critique and edits if you're not seriously going to apply yourself to what you're posting. When someone posts something in a WIP forum, depending on the state of what's posted, people tend to expect at least one edit of what you're posting. But if you're done with a piece, sick of looking at it, and won't look at it for the next month or so, try to avoid posting it. And once you've edited your work and you're done with it, say so. Nothing frustrates people more than frequenting a WIP topic for progress and having it completely abandoned without warning or when 5 people have posted critique and edits and someone says "Oh I'll work on it whenever".

People aren't going to get their undies in a twist if you don't want to work on something anymore, so long as you come out and say it before people waste their time commenting and editing your piece when they could have done it for others who are willing to spend the time going back and editing their piece. As a favour to you, the poster, and the whole community, be honest with how much time you're going to spend on a piece.

You should also be honest with yourself about how much time you already have spent on a piece. Drawing something, copying it, pasting it, and mirroring the image takes only half the time that drawing the other side would have taken. While you may have spent a great deal on one side, you know that you took a shortcut by mirroring. So if you respond to someone by saying you worked really long and hard on it, realize that yes, you may have worked hard thus far, but not as hard as you can. If you're honest and you say you didn't spend that much time on it, but you're going to go back and fix it, people are much more likely to take you seriously than if you make excuses for your lack of work or skill. Everyone started out as a beginning artist. No one came out of the womb making killer sprites. So there's no shame in being unskilled. But there is shame in trying to make up for it by saying you worked long and hard on something. Be honest with yourself. If you don't have much experience, you don't have much experience. It's nothing to be ashamed of. You've got to start somewhere.

Step 8 - Make pixels, not excuses

When people give you advice about how to improve your piece, they don't really care why your art is the way it is. That's irrelevant. When you post your work, it's automatically assumed that you want to improve and that you're going to take suggestions seriously. When you respond to suggestions with reasons why your work looks the way it does, you're making excuses. You can explain yourself, sure by saying something like, "I'm not really good at shading hair", etc. But always be sure that if you're going to explain or give reason for anything, that that's not ALL you give.

It doesn't really matter how or why something looks the way it does. The point is that it doesn't look right. And if you think it does look right, you wouldn't bother posting and asking for help. You're welcome to disagree with someone in terms of their advice, but making excuses for errors doesn't do anything but make you look lazy and frustrate the person who's trying to help you. Instead of posting why the figure's arm looks the way it does, just spend that energy fixing the arm. Pixel art takes a lot of time, so why waste any of it?

Step 9 - Enjoy it, for pete's sake

For many, pixel art can be a career. Albeit a very varying career, but a career. But for a good 80% of us, it's a hobby. And hobbies are supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Yes, we want you to take your art and critique seriously. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun, make jokes, or enjoy yourself. If your intention in getting into pixel art is to bored or frustrate yourself to tears, then don't. Most people in the pixel art community are serious, and yet very light hearted and laid back. We only really get pissy when a person decides not to take any advice, necroposts, or spams. And even then we're probably making jokes about it.

A lot of new pixel artists take everything really seriously. They make posts about leaving the community or about coming back, they ask people not to shoot them for making a new topic, they freak out of their topic is locked, they ask if people like them, they try to create fifty different challenge ideas at a time, etc. Just take it slow and mellow into it. If someone makes fun of you, they probably don't mean that much harm and they probably won't enjoy you bringing it up two weeks later in your three paragraph long goodbye posts that will eventually get locked anyway.

If you are chilled out and calm about coming into a forum, you're more than likely not going to encounter much resistance to blending right in. Sometimes pixel artists may seem elitist, but really, we just don't want fifty people coming into redecorate at once.

We want you to take your pixels seriously, but not personally.

Follow these nine steps, and surviving a pixel art forum should be both easy and rewarding. Good luck!

Posted by pixelblink @ 9/6/2007 11:14  |    26


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?Chris? (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/16/2007 18:33
Wow ceddo is at this site

Was a good guide and helps since im new

Bob_Jones (Level 2 Peon) @ 9/9/2007 16:18
Very good article.
also, inkspot = douchebag

Stickman (Level 7 Sheriff) @ 9/9/2007 09:55
Very useful article for newcomers. I would of liked to have seen something like this when I first joined this site.

Lawrence (Level 10 Operative) @ 9/9/2007 07:51
zAk, what your saying is really not true. "Pixel art," in the form of mosaics, existed thousands of years ago. And considering the universe is full of atoms it looks like we'll never get rid of pixels.

Aleiav (Level 2 Quiet One) @ 9/8/2007 19:34
How do you know if it's shitty if you didn't read it?

cure (Level 11 Bonsai) @ 9/8/2007 17:53
zak- untrue.  mobile games.  though I see your point.

Yuumeichan (Level 1 Depressed) @ 9/8/2007 03:33
Wow I read it all and I must say it's really enlightening ^^ I've been doing dolls for some years now, but just in the last month I started to do *serious* pixel art (I mean, 100% mine, with my own base), but I must say that the dolling experience helped me in learning how to use colors and the basis of pixel art (how to do lines the right way, and such!). But it's true that frequently dollers don't accept critiques :| But I think it also depends on communities, the italian community (that would be the one i frequented) is very serious about pixel art, and the moderators and users don't ever take back on critiques, probabily because the admin (Angy-chan, you may be have heard of her) is a pro in this field, so I think not all the doll comminity is how you describe :) But mostly yes
*runs away*

Tarenken (Level 3 Stalker) @ 9/7/2007 13:57
One thing I think should be added is if you don't understand something in a critique, ask! Most pixelartists that I've met are more than happy to help you if you can't get the hang of something and need a demonstration.

Varock Shade (Level 7 Underboss) @ 9/7/2007 11:01
hehe well... let's say it's a lot of text... and i think you have a point (I remember the first few pixels i put on the forum... xD in my opinion the replies were really negative... but well... point 3 and 8 applied to me back then... i do agree with it as far as ive read it.

raelz (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/7/2007 10:27
Hehe very nice comment :-)))

Mistake Fur (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/7/2007 09:11
I pixeled before '85.  Using math-paper with square blocks and colouring them with felttip markers.  I made a lot of interesting abstract mandala-like works this way. Not sure a 4 yr old counts as an artist though...

inkspot (Level 4 Button Man) @ 9/7/2007 08:18
A person is supposed to read all that book??? Long story shitty story...

zAk (Level 3 Stalker) @ 9/7/2007 07:31
Metaru:dead - pixel graphics are not in use anymore, pixels were pracitally a transition and resulted from technological limits. new - Meanwhile its a new artform because its hardly 20 years old. I bet that no one here was a pixel artist before... say '85.

Etiquette (Level 1 Thug) @ 9/6/2007 18:25
Thanks! I'm new to pixel art and to the community, so this was really helpful and meaningful to me.

Hairyu (Level 3 Hatchikyu) @ 9/6/2007 14:44
One thing I find interesting is that are two common ways of taking critiques, action-taken wise: The first one is editing it right away, the second is taking the words of advice to a next piece. Whaddya guys think about each one?

raelz (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/6/2007 14:20
Ok, read it. Good article, although brought nothing new to me, but I am aware of people that just don't get this.

Just one question: is there some fine way to find how much you've spended on pixelling - I mean some software etc.

pixelblink (Level 9 Federal Agent) @ 9/6/2007 13:26
sorry Aleiav.. I felt that what you had sent me was ample enough to put up. Don't be ashamed of it at all. You've done good work here :)

Aleiav (Level 2 Quiet One) @ 9/6/2007 13:21
I actually wasn't done with this and didn't really want my name attached to it when it was put up. :/

Metaru (Level 8 Brigadier General) @ 9/6/2007 13:10

@zak: because articles doesn't have to necessarily be 'news'. new and dead art form ->?

back on topic, this isn't only for pixeljoint, is the perfect guide por almost every new pixel artist everywhere, and probably, for any new artist. it contains the basics not only for relantionship and manners, those are the basics for you as well as an artist. some learn these from experience thru the years. you have the chance to learn it rigth now.

zAk (Level 3 Stalker) @ 9/6/2007 12:33
The problem with Pixelart is that it is a new and dead artform in the same time. Even many cellphones these days have non-pixelized games and apps. Its lost its use in the eyes of technology which it depends on so much. Afterall pixelart depends on the tools used for its creation and this technology has evolved and is evolving. Interesting article but i dont see how it connects to 'news'

ceddo (Level 7 Ichikyu) @ 9/6/2007 12:25
Now THAT is a news post! Kudos aleiav, this is excellent.

raelz (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/6/2007 12:19
Hey, nice article
Gonna read it as soon as I get some courage :-)))

pixelblink (Level 9 Federal Agent) @ 9/6/2007 12:18
Kudos to Aleiav for writing this up for us

Shinamon (Level 1 Depressed) @ 9/6/2007 12:12
↔ I really like this little guide. :3 I'm a doodler going into dolling /and/ pixel art at the same time, so it's a little useful, even if traditional artists aren't mentioned. Thanks, thanks.

Dark Pixel (Level 1 Rookie) @ 9/6/2007 12:10
Just what i needed for starting here
thanks :)

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