A Wee Tutorial

A couple of comments about the tutorial...
This is just one way of going about this process. There's no right or wrong way. Sometimes I follow these steps, but just as often I'll end up working on them in pieces, or jumping all over the place and winging it entirely. I just think that this is a good, easily understandable, step-by-step method for building WeeGuys. All of the tutorial images are zoom, so you can get in close and really see what's going on.

0. Download the base doll.
You can download it here.

1. Pick a light source.
Very important! Know where your light is coming from; this will help you keep your shading consistent throughout the piece. Don't try to just "make it up" if you are a newbie pixeller. Put it right there on your canvas to keep yourself honest. I also like to get rid of the white outline on the base doll; it can be confusing to work with it still on the doll.

2. Modify the base doll.
Start drawing your character. For this example, I chose to just draw a relatively generic male character. Change the template to your liking. If you're drawing a specific character, use reference. The shape of the head is very important if you want to create a likeness of a specific person, as is the hairline. The body can be modified too (although it isn't here). Make fat characters fatter, tall characters taller, etc, etc.

3. Fill with midtones.
Using your flood fill or paint bucket tool, pick some midtones and just throw them down. No need to labor over your color choices now—you can always change them later. It may be helpful for beginners to keep track of their colors by making swatches on the canvas.

4. Shadows.
Take those color swatches and create some shadow colors (ie. slightly darker color variations). Don't make your shadow colors too similar to your midtones—remember, these are tiny sprites; if you use too little contrast nobody will even be able to tell it's a different color. Then start laying shadows on your midtones, and keep in mind while you do this where your light is coming from. (I also modified the hair at this point to give it some volume. You can always change things up as you go along.)

5. Highlights.
After you drop your shadows in, pick a set of highlight colors to go with your midtones. Again, don't be stingy with the contrast. Then start laying your highlights down. Consider your light source, and think about where the most direct light will hit the figure. Don't be too timid with the highlights—they will really help give your character dimension.

6. Hahahahaha!! More shadows!!
I like to give myself another set of even darker shadows after highlighting, to be used pretty sparingly. These colors are used to create even more depth.

7. Wave bye-bye to your black lines.
You could leave your black lines from step 2 in your sprite, but I think that in most cases the sprite will be improved by getting rid of them. Use your dark colors instead of black. You can leave the outline black if you'd like, but most of the black inside the sprite should probably go, especially on the face. You may wish to replace some or all of the black outline as well. In this example, I used my dark colors sparingly on the outline.

8. Make it look good.
Forget about the "rules" and just make it look good. I changed a bunch of colors around here, and decided to add another color, a reddish-brown, to use for highlighting the hair (and eyebrows). Gave him green eyes to go with that red hair. I also decided to add a little bit of detail by giving him a belt. Can't have his pants falling down. :P

9. Add an outline (or not).
The last thing I do is throw an outline back on. This step is totally unnecessary. Some folks will think the outline is cheesy or gimmicky—they're probably right. But I like the little graphic "pop" that it creates. You could also try using colored or anti-aliased outlines.

To sum up...
Here you can see the progress of this particular Wee. Interesting to see what effect each step has in changing the sprite. Some changes are fairly subtle, some are very dramatic. Anyway, I hope this walkthrough is helpful to some of you. There are a lot of factors that aren't explicitly covered here, such as color selection, anti-aliasing, and sel-out (selective outlining), perhaps they'll be tackled in future tutorials. If you're hungry for more help or some feedback on your work-in-progress, check out the Wee forum!

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