Falls more under a WIP lens to me than a dirty tools lens. There's so much to be done here to bring it to being pixel art, I don't imagine many experienced pixel artists looking at this piece and calling it pixel art.
Every time a piece like this is encountered, I think we fail to recognize that what separates this from pixel art is not the use of "dirty" tools, but rather the lack of refining the result of using the tools. The cleaning work done here is more true pixel art than some pieces accepted in the past. Regardless, too much of the piece itself is generated.
Anyway, I can't help but think of moments like this where we have a piece with much more manual precision, and lost an artist that could have been a wonderful part of the community. I have no doubt that Gravista could be another artist one day that we don't want to miss out on. I guess it is 2021 now.
Hapiel: I think the leg issue is due to the leg on the left being edited after the fact, so the angle of the leg and the hip. Having the leg angled up like that, even a bit, should result in a change on the armour bits on the hip, since they are connected.
Thanks for the WIPs and process information.
The answer to your question about colour reductions being kosher/not is "it depends"! Pixeljoint used to be very purist about what counted as pixel art, but today the thinking tends to be that 'pixel art' and 'non-pixel art' exist on a spectrum. Various pieces of cure's, for example, use colour reduction as a tool to block out the rough forms before polishing the pixel-level detail and tweaking the colour palette.
To me, there are a few factors that push a work to the pixel art side of the spectrum: the level of polish/'pixel art technique' that is applied to the automatically-generated clusters; palette control; and the artist's level of control over the original artwork (the last one may not make sense, but I feel like colour reducing your own painting is more legit than using a random pic from google images). I'd personally consider this piece to lean more on the 'no' side, but that's ultimately up to the mods – Hapiel has outlined their thinking.
Finally, I'd suggest it's always best to have max transparency in the description if you're submitting something that was created using 'dirty' tools. As you said, it's good for viewers to judge for themselves from the full info.
Thanks @Hapiel, appreciate the insight on how the selection process works, and if anything it's good to hear that this breakdown would have played a bit in its favor from your perspective as mod. If anyone rated this piece with other assumptions on how it was done, I'm sure they may want to revise their rating - I would if I had assumed this was drawn entirely freehand. It's all good.
I also really appreciate the civil discussion... at first I'll admit I felt I might be about to be thrown to the wolves, but the spirit in which people have asked for details is really wonderful. For a second I dreaded this might turn into a youtube comment thread instead of a discussion between artists, but that doesn't appear to be the case thankfully!
@Hapiel, I agree with you about the legs - the form is a little wonky and more form fitting on the left thigh than the right. I could definitely keep polishing that.
@ptoing, thanks for the quick edit. I see what you're saying. I'm not really sure either why that's happening, since those pieces do come from the 3d render, but I may have messed with them enough to create a problem. For example, I moved the tiny black rivet in the front of one of the hip "braces", which was clearly not a good move. Also I think the grey outer shell that I drew on the outside of the thighs might not be respecting symmetry either and giving an impression of lopsidedness. Also possible the bg is giving the wrong sense of where the vanishing point should really be. Not sure. Good point on the inner thigh panel, I see it now that you say it.
About the rendering style being messy - on some of my other images I do keep them a bit rough by choice, like the ones I submitted for this week's challenge, but I'll be honest, in this case, it was just a matter of patience. Yes I did want edge wear and scratches and that gritty feel - but I could see this piece benefitting from several more hours of finessing. I'm honestly in awe of some of the pixel-perfect control I see in people's work here, and the patience I imagine it requires. I'm getting a lot of inspiration from that, and maybe will try a piece that is really about that some time.
I made a very quick and sloppy image of what is more or less the problem. The edit I made in the 2nd frame does not really fix it fully, but I think you will see what I mean. https://i.imgur.com/EpsbEP9.gif
Basically the hips are on a weird perspective compared to the shoulders and everything else. There is too much of a change.
In regards to starting in full 24 bit colour, I think that is totally fine, but I guess some people are not big fans of it. I personally like to work from ground up with an indexed palette, which gives me full control over the colours. I got a picture (which is yet to be finished) which started from a doodle made in an online app. But with that I indexed very early and then got rid of superfluous colours. In the end it is all a matter of workflow, really.
In your image there are some places that do not really work, colour wise, like the aa on that detail on her inner thigh. The light blue pixels are lighter than the yellow ones. And even the yellow outline all the way around looks a bit weird. There is lots that could be optimised in terms of colours, and polish, but again. The pic as a whole is very cool.
Hope this helps.
Ok, here is the full process. Warning, long post.
As I said, this does use 3d and color reduction at one stage, so if those are bad, sorry! (see previous comment). But if it depends, well, there is also a lot of pixel work. So I'll break it down, you be the judge.
I started from this human model.
Sculpted it into this.
Rendered with a uniform shiny red color, a yellow, and a grey. Comped them in photoshop, with this bg photo.
That resulted in this.
Here I was going to make it traditional concept art. But decided, hey, what about a pixel art take on this?
I chose 64 colors because it's a power of 2 like most retro palettes (16,32) I built my palette by color-picking individual colors from the RGB image (starting with 47 colors to leave some), then did a color reduction, forcing it to use that manually created palette, with no dithering. Then scaled down to 320px resolution in nearest neighbor, to make everything as broken and blocky as possible and force myself to re-AA and re-render as much of it manually as possible. By then I had this.
That was my starting point for the pixel work part. If you look at it from afar, it might seem basically done, but if you zoom in, at the pixel level, it's pretty horrible. So I thought that would be a good exercise.
From there I drew at the pixel level, adding colors to my palette as needed until I hit 64. Some things I touched heavily, and some I didn't, most of which you mentioned. I thought the grey-red transitions were nice, though they needed to be cleaned up. I was happy with the breastplate so I touched it very little, though still had to clean up (and could have done more) And yes shadow areas got less attention than light areas.
But other things I did change heavily. Arms and legs are almost completely redrawn. The canon too (the model didn't have one). A lot of the helmet and the visor are redrawn. Even the pieces that are faithful to the model had to be re-pixelated to work better at that resolution. Another wip.
I redrew the mountains completely, but you're right about the grass. I totally flaked on that. Originally I was going to draw over it and make it tall grass, but I didn't get around to it. I didn't think it was too big a deal, since it was just a little bit of bg in the corner, but I can see why some might feel differently.
The red AA on the inner leg was a manual pixel-level decision. I'm glad you noticed actually. I like this sort of blooming and thought it would be cool. I plopped a couple blue pixels inside the visor, conveying a partially visible eye, and then I was about done looking at it.
Here is a before/after GIF if you want to easily see what was reworked.
So there you go - maybe some will feel all this makes it "not pixel art" or "partial pixel art"? I'm honestly not sure. I've been thinking that maybe I should take it down and resubmit it with all this info in the description, so people can re-vote with full context on whether it qualifies. I have no problem with that. This was a bit of a one-off for me. I like to play with different approaches, and so far the other images I've posted are done with traditional methods. That's what I expect to do more of in the future. Either way, if I do this kind of hybrid thing in the future I'll just mention it in the description so there's no ambiguity.
Jeremy - yes I can link to the sculpt. I'll do that later today and try to put together a wip board, with stages of the process. You're right about a lot of these points, but you'll have to just see what you think.
The big thing I am getting here is that "color reduction" is a bad word. I did use one at one point in the process. I didn't think this was a bad thing, I guess I can see why it can be, if I think about it. I'd really like to understand this. I read the PJ guidelines when I first joined here, and came away with the sense that you didn't have to work a certain way, as long as you put in effort, didn't rip off anyone's work, and controlled colors and pixels (which I tried to do, although may have fallen short or not sufficiently cleaned up certain areas) But genuine question about this, is it not OK to work in RGB up to a point, then reduce and curate your palette, and then continue working in indexed from there? Is this a grey area, or just not something you're supposed to do at all? Or can you do it as long as you really clean everything up 100%, which I arguably didn't do here?
Anyway, will come back with wips later on so you can see for yourself.
@ptoing, thanks for the words on the design, really appreciate it. I don't disagree with you about the hips, though I couldn't figure out why, so if you have any insight, I'm all ears.
@Drea, thanks for the compliment
@ squirrelsquid - no problem. It's a fair question, and you weren't the only one asking it!
jeremy: I agree that it kinda looks like a colour reduction, though some of the things you listed are not necessarily indicators. Like 64 colours, could go either way. Also the bright areas having more colours than shaded areas makes sense from an art/visual hierarchy perspective. And even the red AA inside the leg could be something I could see being done.
I really like the design of the suit, it is a bit less over the top than the original ones. And the overall construction is nice too. What sticks out to me, apart from the pretty sloppy rendering (which does not take away much from the overall impact of the piece), is that the perspective of the hips is wrong.
Would you be able to link the 3D sculpt you painted over? And the background reference?
People are suggesting it looks like a colour reduction because there are several colour/technique decisions that aren't naturally done by people but are done by automatic tools. For example:
IMO referencing 3D assets is fine. I didn't intend to suspect you of cheating. Sorry if it seemed that way.
Hey guys - so since a few of you are asking to view the process I'm guessing there are probably some ground rules I'm not aware of. This image is based on a 3d sculpt I made last year, which I drew over with a pixel brush. Is the use of 3d considered "cheating" here, even if the 3d is original and I rework every part of the frame pixel by pixel? I'm fairly new here, so I'm sorry if that sounds like an obvious question. I know this kind of thing is pretty normal in the concept art world but maybe not cool in pixel art? If so then I apologize and should take it down.
On the other hand, if you're asking if I stole anyone's work, I don't think so, I looked at refs like this and this, but really only took the things that are typical of Samus, like the big spherical shoulders, red chest and green visor.
While I really like it, I agree with binderbear and jok on providing process pics and reference. I don't want to throw shade on your piece and I might be wrong, but in places it looks a bit like a color reduction.
I agree about wanting to see some progress pics on this and the reference image.
Thanks for the nice words everyone
Thanks WreX, I tried to give it some "edge wear" and scratches.
CELS that's good to hear on the palette! And glad you like the grit!
Really liking this gritty style of yours! Would have guessed more than 64 colours too.
Edit: Would love to see the progress and reference images as well.
Jeremy, Slym - I take your points, thanks. Good to know that using color reduction at some stage is acceptable in principle, as long as the polish is there.
I don't plan on using 3d much moving forward. Clearly some people are not fans, and if nothing else, it creates too much work explaining it all after the fact. I'd rather spend that time drawing. But as I said - if I do I'll mention it upfront.
When I joined PJ last month I was hoping to find people who care what they're looking at. I certainly have found that!