Week 3 – Research

What is pixel art?

Pixel art are images that are raster-based digital art pieces that are edited at a pixel-by-pixel level, although every type of digital graphical style contains pixels, pixel art has built up a certain look for itself. Pixel art tends to keep to a limited bit amount, usually being either 8, 16 or 32 bit, this is to emphasise each individual square. This style also gives the art pieces a retro look as the hardware at the time of when pixel art became popular/mainstream was very limited so smooth 3D graphics weren’t possible, this meant that 2D pixel art was the main way of putting visuals with colour into games.

cdn0.vox-cdn, (2013), rogue-legacy-screenshot-02.0.0 [ONLINE]. Available at: https://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/z7xKekRxgmc5p6YurBjL6ocFk8U=/0x0:1600×900/1600×900/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/36325420/rogue-legacy-screenshot-02.0.0.jpg [Accessed 20 January 2017].

What are the origins of pixel art? And what came before modern paint systems?

In 1982 at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre, the term pixel art was first published and popularised by two computer scientists: Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegal. Despite this it is believed that Richard Shoups 1972 Super Paint System was the origin of pixel art, although games had come before this such as Spacewar! which was created using few pixels, it was the Super Paint System that allowed for pixel games and colour to merge together, and is considered to be the ancestor of all modern paint systems such as Photoshop (Adobe Suite).

What traditional art styles can pixel art relate to?

Pixel art shares a lot of similarities with the styles of Mosaic, cross stitch and pointillism.

All these different art forms share a similarity of being made up of many different visible blocks which come together to create a whole image. Below are images of each style and although they are different in how they are pieced together (pixel art included) the overall idea of stringing a series of small parts together to create something whole is applied in each art form. Pointillism does tend to vary from the other 2 at it’s much more well rounded but the idea is still there. This can help me in my work not only because I have multiple styles to take inspiration from art, but I can also look at a huge range of artists; that is relevant because if I choose to follow a certain style related to the other art styles then I’ll have a starting point to branch off from already.


s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg, (2016), 858a9ab1f06f178c284167c0d6c23afd [ONLINE]. Available at: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/85/8a/9a/858a9ab1f06f178c284167c0d6c23afd.jpg [Accessed 20 January 2017].
Cross Stitch:

clv.h-cdn.co, (2015), landscape-1433962113-cross-stitch-watermelon-0615 [ONLINE]. Available at: http://clv.h-cdn.co/assets/15/24/640×320/landscape-1433962113-cross-stitch-watermelon-0615.jpg [Accessed 20 January 2017].

cin.h-cdn.co, (2015), landscape-1448104290-screen-shot-2015-11-21-at-43613-pm [ONLINE]. Available at: http://cin.h-cdn.co/assets/15/47/980×490/landscape-1448104290-screen-shot-2015-11-21-at-43613-pm.png [Accessed 20 January 2017].


Tom McCallum. 2014. THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF PIXEL ART. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.idesigni.co.uk/blog/past-present-future-pixel-art/. [Accessed 9 March 2017].

Mary Winkler. 2016. What is Pixel Art?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://design.tutsplus.com/articles/what-is-pixel-art–cms-21759. [Accessed 9 March 2017].

Computer History Museum. 2017. Timeline of Computer History. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/graphics-games/. [Accessed 9 March 2017].

Alvy Ray Smith. 1997. Digital Paint Systems Historical Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: http://excelsior.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~carlson/history/PDFs/14_paint.pdf. [Accessed 9 March 2017]

Fred Dutton. 2011. Pixel Art: The End of an Era?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-11-17-pixel-art-the-end-of-an-era-article. [Accessed 9 March 2017].


One thought on “Week 3 – Research

  1. Pixel Art:
    This is a good introduction to pixel art; you set up the origins well and reference similar art styles using different mediums. It would have been interesting for you to examine some specific examples from the gaming world to further your research, but this is a competent piece of work.


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