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PixelArt Tutorial GoT

The Watchers of the Wall - Pixel Art Tutorial 

Andrew Scaife is an UK based comic writer and artist and creates pixel style images. Last year he wrote a tutorial for a pixel art drawing of The Walking Dead. He covered the basics of how to build up an image in a pixel style. For those who haven’t read it, here is a a super-quick summary: 

How to make pixel art: 

  • Create a file in Photoshop with a really small canvas. I use 320x200 pixels. 
  • Use the Pencil tool so your brush strokes have hard edges. 
  • Draw your image using layers to build up the image and add variety of tone and shading (I’ll go into more detail about this below). 
  • When you’re finished enlarge your image to the desired size, making sure to select Nearest Neighbor (hard edges) from the drop down menu. 

In the following tutorial Andrew will go more into detail about the specific methods on creating pixel art, as well as some of his thoughts about how to use color. He uses an Intuos Pro (M) and Photoshop CC. 

The art work is also included in Andrew´s new book, "Point & Click", where he takes episodes of his favorite TV shows and re-imagines them as classic point and click adventure games. 

Getting started:

Each of the drawings starts with a rough sketch. At this stage you are trying to work out the composition and all of the basic shapes. Andrew uses the pressure sensitivity on the Intuos to keep it loose. 

Image 1 - sketch 

Once you are happy, start to fill in the shapes with rough colors. Put each shape into a different layer, starting at the back of the picture i.e. sky, then ground, tree, ice wall, wooden lookout etc. This image has 15 layers in it so far. 

Image 2 - flats 

Andrew likes to use many layers, because it gives me more control over all the different elements. 

At this stage, the colours don’t really matter. You will be working on Clipping Layers to finalise the colours and add shading. 

Clipping Layers: 

Set up around 4-5 layers on top of each of the existing layers. Make the Clipping Layers by right clicking on them and selecting ‘Create Clipping Mask’. Anything you draw in these Clipping Mask layers will only show within the boundaries of the basic shape on the original layer. This is great as you can work fast and loose without worrying about going over the edges. 

Normal, Multiply and Overlay Layers: 

There are many types of setting you can use for your layers. These are the three Andrew uses the most. 

Normal: This is the most basic. It’s just a normal layer, nothing fancy. Everything you draw will show up over the top of the layer below it. Use this layer to start trying to work out the tones of image. In this image you are looking at the effect that different light has on the objects in the picture. Andrew will explain this in greater detail further down. This image only includes the Normal layers. 

Image 3 – normal layers 

Multiply: Use this setting to add shadows. If you set the layer to Multiply and then drop the opacity to around 35%, you can draw over your image using black and it will darken the existing colours. You can use the pressure sensitivity on the Intuos to blend as needed. You don’t need to just have one Multiply layer. "I normally have 2-3 as I build up the shadows.": Andrew says. This image includes the Normal and Multiply layers. 

Image 4 – multiply layers 

Overlay: This does the opposite to the Mulitply layers. By drawing with white, you can lighten the colour in the layers beneath. You can use this to add highlights or general glow to larger areas. This image includes the Normal, Multiply and Overlay layers. 

Image 5 – overlay layers 

Build up these different types of layers until you are happy. There’s 82 layers in this picture. It sometimes helps to group your layers into folders so they’re easier to manage. 


"I’ve never studied colour theory, not out of any sense of willful ignorance. I know I could learn a lot beyond looking at a colour wheel and matching complementary colours etc.": Andrew says. 

"However, I think everyone knows when something doesn’t look correct, even if they can’t explain why. The great thing about the proliferation in photo apps and filters is that they give everyone the opportunity to play around with their pictures and change colours in interesting ways. 

And what you notice is that even if you add a filter to your selfie that makes your skin look blue, it still looks like skin. Our eyes still read that as correct, based on all the other things in the image and that the blue filter also impacts the colour of hair or the wallpaper in the background. 

My biggest tip for colouring is to use photo references. These references don’t have to be of the image you’re drawing. It could be any image where the colour scheme appeals to you. Keep a folder of reference photos that you can draw upon. I always have an idea of how I’d like an image to look i.e. warm, stark, muted etc. Part of my process is to research photos to find one that has the feeling I’m looking for. It’s often drawn from my own snapshots. I’ll load an image into Photoshop and use the Eyedropper tool to select my colours." 


In this image there are two competing light sources. The blue light of the moon on the left and the golden yellow light of the torches on the right. In the next image Andrew takes you through the process of colouring the wooden look-out. 

1-6 step by step process 

  1. This is the base layer. It’s all one color, which might be the case if it’s under flat sunlight. 
  2. This is a Normal layer. Andrew used his reference pictures to see what color this wooden frame looks like under the blue moonlight or against the torchlight. It still doesn’t need to be perfect; you can change it later if needed. 
  3. This is your first Multiply layer set to 35% opacity. Using black to add some of the larger mid-tone shadows. 
  4. This is another Multiply set to 35% opacity. Repeat the above, but now the lines are darker so you can add more detail and deeper shadows. 
  5. This is an Overlay layer set to 45% opacity. Use white to add highlights on the left and more of a glow on the right. 
  6. This is what it looks like if you remove the Normal layer from point 2. You can see the shading looks OK but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the image. Once the background is complete it’s time to work on the character. This always takes longer than you think. "I’m using loose pixels around the collar to suggest fur and ‘fly-away’ hair.": Andrew says. 


The final stage is adding in the text and inventory. And then you´re done! 

Watchers on the Wall 

Point + Click 

Andrew´s book is available now from Comicsy

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