In this tutorial, you'll learn how to turn a photo of a person into pixel art as a fictional arcade game character from the early 90s.

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James May – aka Smudgethis – developed this style in 2011 for the music video for dubstep-rock act Nero’s first chart hit, Me & You – where he created an animation to show an old game featuring Nero’s two members. The game was a sideways-scrolling beat-em-up with 16-bit graphics, similar to Double Dragon, but far superior to the 8-bit games of retro classics like Super Mario Bros.

To create this style, characters should still be blocky, but more complex than older games – and while you’ll need to use a limited colour palette to achieve the look, remember that these games still had 65,536 colours to play with.

Here, James shows you how to create a character based on a photo, using a simple colour palette and the Pencil tool.

As well as an animation guide, you’ll also need a photo of a person. James has used a photo of a punk that's included with this tutorial's project files.

Once complete, check out this 16-bit animation tutorial for After Effects, where James will show you how to take this character into AE, animate him and apply retro game effects.

Project Files

(it’s free!)

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