Building off from last post's topic about Pixel Purism; how it's more important where you arrived than how you got there. I wanted to share with you a method I've been developing with my environment work on Chasm for turning Photoshop into the most powerful pixel art tool using what I'm calling "HD index painting". I've shown it to a number of people and each time the reception has been through the roof. If you're unsure what index painting is, then I recommend you read the previous blog post as it defines it as well as several other terms that we will be expanding upon here.

If you remember from last time; Index painting involves using "dirty" tools (tools which lay multiple colors at once) within a pre-defined indexed palette. Photoshop doesn't inherently allow for this behavior. If you index an image in Photoshop all of the "dirty" tools become locked or reduce their functionality to not be dirty. No more soft brushes, smudges, gradients, etc. The one way around this is to paint with dirty tools first, then index the image to either a generated palette or a pre-defined one (Kiwi has excellent tutorials on this method here). But with that method you never truly know what the end result is going to be until you index the image. A lot of what you thought would look nice when color-reduced ends up looking like a mess or gets lost entirely and requires you to spend lots of time cleaning up the image pixel-by-pixel. It's a great way to get a head-start on a composition, but still cumbersome. But what if I told you there was a way to use soft brushes, smudges, gradients, and all your favorite dirty tools, but remain within an indexed palette? It'd blow your mind right? Well here's how....

Dan Fessler April 12 2014 0 Comments

When I first began doing pixel art a sense of pixel purism was engrained in me by the pixel art communities. Rules and conventions were established in the post-pixel area of video games as a means to wrap up in a neat and tidy package what the art of our youth was all about. They covered what tools were and were not allowed, how many colors were acceptable, and coined a vocabulary of new terms to describe patterns to follow and avoid. Some even went as far as to say that each pixel needed to be placed individually in order to qualify. Although these rules were being made up organically by kids no different than me, they were treated as law and anyone who dared think otherwise was quickly corrected and indoctrinated.

But the truth is pixel art was never like that in game production. In fact, in many ways, making art for games today is no different at all from what it was like back then; the problems are just different. If you take a peek at the technical details behind the art of any modern game you'll be surprised to find out that it's just a bunch of crazy ideas and hacks stacked on top of each other in order to push the system to do something that was previously never thought of. The pixel art era was no exception to this mentality; there were no self-imposed rules against transparency, high color-counts, or what tools you used. Those were the rules given to you by the platform, and your job was to attempt to BREAK them in any way possible and push the limits. The inescapable truth is most pixel art games of our youth, if they were able, used what would be declared today as "Dirty" Tools or "Non-Pixel Art" (NPA) practices....

Dan Fessler April 9 2014 0 Comments

Recently there's been a surge in interest for what I call "modular animation tools" in 2D game development. That is, tools that enable you to animate sprites composed of many pieces by transforming, rotating, and translating those pieces on a timeline; also known as puppet or bone animation. With games like Rayman Origins and Dragon's crown popularizing the technique and successful Kickstarters such as Spriter and Spine, game developers are scrambling to get their hands on tools that enable them to accomplish similar results. I thought I'd take some time to write about the history of these tools and my experiences with them....

Dan Fessler February 19 2014 0 Comments

My gosh it's been a long time since I've updated this site. My last blog posts were all the way back in 2009! I guess this is what happens when you have a full-time day job. Well guess what? I don't anymore! I figured now would be the best chance to completely redesign my site I'll get in a long while, so I went to town.

I have to say that I'm pretty happy with the end result - especially compared to the old design that was just plain awful. I especially had fun making responsive CSS that allows the site to be readable all the way down to 320 pixels wide - perfect for phones. I haven't done much browser compatibility testing yet so if you notice any bugs feel free to let me know. I'll be continuing to update the functionality and design of the site when I have the time.
Dan Fessler December 30 2013 0 Comments
I Am Indie | Personal

Last week I officially ended my employment as Art Director at Zynga to focus more on independent projects and self growth. I have a good feeling about this move. I feel more prepared than I've ever been and my hope is this move will allow me to be more daring in my creativity and truly allow me to express myself in ways that I simply wasn't able to do in the past....

Dan Fessler December 21 2013 0 Comments