How to Create Pixel Art in Adobe Illustrator

Through a few simple steps, you can create unique and fun pixel art in Adobe Illustrator that will add creative elements to your design endeavors! 

Pixel art, a popular digital art form reminiscent of the early days of computer graphics, has gained a significant following in recent years. Its retro charm and simplicity have captivated artists and enthusiasts alike.

While pixel art is traditionally associated with raster-based software, such as Photoshop, creating pixel art in Adobe Illustrator offers unique advantages. 

My name is Kerry and in this article, we will provide a detailed step-by-step guide on how to make pixel art in Adobe Illustrator and explore why people would want to delve into this creative endeavor.

Let’s get going! 

Key Takeaways

  • Users can create pixel art by utilizing the Rectangular Grid tool and coloring in different boxes in the grid. 
  • While designers can create pixel art from scratch, you can also import an image and lower its opacity to trace over the outline using the grid option. 

Why Create Pixel Art in Adobe Illustrator

Creating pixel art in Adobe Illustrator combines the nostalgic appeal of retro gaming graphics with the precision and versatility of vector-based software. Pixel art can be applied to various mediums, such as video games, animations, illustrations, and even website design. 

Adobe Illustrator is a great tool for making pixel art because you can use the Live Paint Bucket to easily color or draw your pixel art.

How to Create Pixel Art in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator provides a robust set of tools that make it an excellent choice for creating pixel art on their canvas. 

You can follow these simple steps to get started in creating pixel art in Adobe Illustrator:

Step 1: Launch Adobe Illustrator on your computer and open the project in which you want to create your pixel art and choose the desired dimensions for your pixel art. (You may want to select a small canvas size to retain the characteristic pixelated appearance.)

Step 2: Enable the Pixel Preview from the overhead menu View > Pixel Preview. This mode allows you to see your art in its pixelated form as you work and ensures that your artwork aligns perfectly with the pixel boundaries.

Step 3: Choose the Rectangular Grid Tool (M) from the toobar on the left side of the screen. (You can also search for this in the search bar if you are having difficulty finding it in the tool panel.) 

Once you choose this tool, click on the canvas and a pop-up message will appear. This is where you will be able to type in the dimensions. You will want to set the width and height to the same size as your artboard. 

Next, you will want to type in the number of horizontal & vertical dividers that you want on your artboard. (This number determines the number of grids in a vertical or horizontal row. The higher the number, the more boxes there will be. See the comparison of five dividers versus twenty dividers.)

Step 4: You will want to align the grid to the center of the artboard before actually designing. To do this, select the grid, and navigate to the Windows option at the top of the screen. Find the Properties, click on it, and on the right side of the screen an additional box will appear. 

Use the Align feature to align your grid to the page using the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons. 

Step 5: Now you can start filling in those little boxes with colors from either a created palette, Swatches panel, or the Color panel. Experiment with different colors to achieve the desired look. Remember that the limited color palette is a characteristic of pixel art!

Step 6: Choose the Live Paint Bucket tool (K) from the toolbar. A small square should appear on the grid, which showcases your cursor. When this is activated, you can start drawing or click on different boxes to fill up the grid on the canvas.

Step 7: While designing, you can zoom in and adjust individual pixels, ensuring they align perfectly. By using the Selection tool, you can also click on the grid and delete it from the background when you are ready! 

Image taken from Adobe Support

Step 8: Once you are satisfied with your pixel art, go to File > Export. Choose your preferred file format (e.g., PNG, SVG) and adjust the export settings. Specify the resolution and scale to optimize your pixel art for the intended use!

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a seasoned pixel artist or a curious beginner, exploring this creative process in Adobe Illustrator opens up a world of possibilities for designing captivating visuals across various media.

We would love to hear from you! Do you have any tips or strategies for creating pixel art in Adobe Illustrator? Comment down below with any tricks to utilizing this function or additional questions that you might still have about this topic!

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