After Effects: Tips for Pixel Art Stylization

By Alaena Vandermost

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People’s nostalgia for old-school graphics has brought the pixel art style back to popularity in a big way. Working with After Effects is the perfect way to get pixelization into your animations. Continue reading to learn tips for pixel art stylization in After Effects.

What Is Pixel Art?

Pixel art is a type of art in which individual pixels act as the image’s building blocks. The result is a visual style that resembles mosaic art, cross-stitch, and other needlework techniques.

The style for this type of visuals stems from games born out of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, like Super Mario World when computer processing power wasn’t at its peak. The objective of producing low-resolution assets for an 8-bit or 16-bit animation is to establish clear, sharp pixel graphics.

What Are the Characteristics?

Pixel art has several characteristics that help define it as an art form.

  • An artist manipulates a picture with intentional control over the placement of each individual pixel.
  • The image’s low total color count is low.
  • Mimics the look of vintage video games produced by computers that could only output a limited number of colors at once.

Use a Plug-In With Presets

You can utilize an After Effects plug-in like Retro Dither to give your animations a retro appearance evocative of old-school arcade games. These applications usually include a variety of dithering algorithms and color palettes that mimic the limitations of older hardware. While these tools might be helpful in a pinch, learning to make pixel art on your own still gives you far more control over the final product.

Watch the Scaling

It’s essential to change the way After Effects scales your images, and you have three options: Bilinear, Bicubic, and Draft Sampling. You should choose Draft under the ‘quality and scale’ option for pixel art. This prevents After Effects from using unwanted upscaling tricks to smooth down your artwork, ensuring that it remains sharp and clear.

Change Up the Render Process

You can choose between Best, Draft, and Wireframe in the render options of your project in your render queue. The Best mode renders a fuzzy image, while the Draft mode renders sharp edges. Typically, using the Best quality level would result in a crisper render; however, this is not the case with pixel art.

Hopefully, when you’re working on your own 8-bit and 16-bit creations, these tips for pixel art stylization in After Effects can help steer you in the right direction. MoGraph Mentor’s experts can help you create stunning animated images, including pixel art. Try one of our animation foundation coursestoday to learn animation skills that will assist you in building a successful career in the industry.


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