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Create Cool 8-Bit Style Pixel Art from Ordinary Images

I have to be honest. I love the look of pixelated graphics! If you’re also a fan of jaggies or old school video game graphics, here is a simple trick to relive a little bit of that low pixel-depth goodness in any version of Photoshop.

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I start with an iconic image, but use any you prefer. Lisa will be recognizable in any pixel depth, so she’s a good candidate.

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Press ctrl L to open levels. You’ll want to ensure you have strong contrast if your image is close in value like this photograph of Lisa. I darken some of my darks but also lighten my midtones and highlights. You can copy my values (14, 1.51, 181) if you like, or skip this step if you feel your image is already up to par.

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Lisa has more highlights and we can see a lot more of the detail in the dark areas. This can help our final result be more recognizable.

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Resizing causes Photoshop to anti-alias your image. We set our Image to “Indexed Color” in Image > Mode > Indexed Color to counteract that. You can use my values here or play with the settings and pick your own. Each will give you a slightly different result. Any Index color setting will give you the correct final product, so feel free to play with the settings.

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Press ctrl alt I to bring up Image Size. From here, we will size it down from the high resolution file to something tiny.

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I size mine down to a width of 75 pixels.  That’s roughly two percent of the original image size.

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As you can see, it’s a pretty huge change!

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From there, change the pull-down tab that reads “Pixels” to “Percent.” I blow up my image to 400 percent of it’s new size. You’ll get better results if you use multiples, like 200 percent (2x) or 1000 percent (10x).

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Voila, we’ve created simple, blocky goodness from an ordinary graphic!

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You can scale this up to any size you want and it will keep this look, as long as you resize in multiples, ie. you don’t blow it up to 133 percent, but rather 200 percent, 400 percent, etc. (You want to preserve the grid you created when you shrunk it in the first place.)

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Here are some other examples of this process.

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I think I need a poster or maybe a T-Shirt of this one!

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They’re simple to create and have a lot of possibilities outside the world of public domain fine artworks. Use your imagination and have fun with it!

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 11/14/14

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  • Shaila

    This will be really useful for me! I enjoy making Perler bead sprites, but I can't always find a pixelated image of what I want to create. Now I can make my own.

  • John Smith

    You can do the same in MS Paint, which is absolutely free.

    If you want a side by side look at the image I tested this method with and the result it is here. Anyone can download it and use it. free 1)Find the image you want to edit and right click and press "edit" in the context menu.2)This will open paint. On the keyboard, press control+aThis selects the entire image3)Click the resize button in the upper right. (I would post image, but can't frowning).4)This will open a dialog box.Choose "Pixels" and make a note of the dimensions.5) Go back to the percentages. Depending on the image size, and how big you want the "8-bit pixels" to be, change either of the percentages (Note: keep the "Maintain aspect ratio" on).As an example, the image I used had a resolution of 4000x2640. I scaled it at 5%. it wasn't perfect, but you can play around with it. This may be different for you.6)Close out of the dialog box and press control+w again.7)Now go back to pixels and re-enter the original pixel dimensions (remember, the maintain aspect ratio means you only need to enter one of the 2, so I entered 4000 for my example).8)Admire your wonderful "8-bit" art.

  • Andrew Diamond

    Anyone know how to do this in GIMP, is the process similar?

  • Lowell Heddings

    Yeah you can do the same in Gimp or really any image editor. Resize down and resize back up.

  • Matt Hill

    Even easier with Photoshop. I have an old version of 3.0.5 from 1994 that I leave open all the time to do minor editing. (It takes 20MB of RAM).

    Open an image, choose filter:pixellate:mosiac

    Move the slider to your preferred level of pixellation

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