I am a freelance motion graphics designer based between London and Tunisia who has worked on a number of music video projects for Nero and Punks Jump Up, as well as corporate projects for Sony, Universal and Manga.

In my free time I like to step away from all that, and work in Photoshop and Illustrator. I find it very important to have a number of creative outlets, outside of my corporate work.

I love creating pixel art and vector illustrations for T-shirts and posters.

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.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

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

Click here to download this tutorial's project files

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