Evaluation & Hints

In retrospect, the process of making a large pixel art illustration was a great experience.

The goal of the journey was relatively clear: a pixel art illustration. The path to it was not clear at all.
My initial thoughts about the efforts needed to create the illustration overwhelmed me; it was if I stood at the foot of Mount Everest, not having the faintest idea how to reach the top.

I decided to give it a try and started with the first pixel, knowing it would take me at least several months to complete the illustration, if I could succeed at all.
Every part of the illustration emerged slowly, sometimes a bit faster, sometimes at a painstakingly slow pace. While I was satisfied with the areas already made, areas yet to be made raised questions in me as to how they could be made, and how to depict the topic in the best way.

During the creation I constantly paid attention to television programs, documentaries, and still images, to see if a topic could be of use in the illustration; or how, for example, waves should look like.
Besides the more artistic activities, I also needed technical skills to create the lighthouse. The pattern of the lighthouse was too complex to draw, so I used postscript to generate the building.

Towards the completion of the illustration, I wondered how the process could be presented.

The BitmapData feature of Adobe Flash offered good possibilities for making an interactive painting in which 'layer' by 'layer' could be peeled off by the visitor.
To reduce bandwidth and reduce download time to a minimum, I incorporated a compression technique.
A tutorial on pixel art was part of the project as well. The artwork was used to give an insight into the creation process, and was a good opportunity to involve the visitor in the project and in pixel art in general.

As I mention in the preface, the whole project was a big quality trip. I enjoyed every moment of it - the tranquility of pixel pushing, the numerous flow moments, the occasional despair, the programming, the research, the frequent problem solving, etc.

Although the project took a tremendous amount time, it was a very rich and satisfying experience/journey.


  • Before you start, make sure to know the exact size of your final illustration. If you notice at the end of the process that your illustration is too small or too large, you will have a problem: scaling your work will result in distortion of the pixel art charateristics.
  • Don't expect to make the highest quality pixel art the first time you attempt one, or you will quickly get frustrated.
    If you want to win the 100 meters at the Olympic games... when do you start training? Ten years before, a month before, or a day before? If you start the day before, don't be surprised if you don't win.
  • Don't listen too much to others.
    People who have never tried often are the most outspoken about how it should be done; don't listen to them.
  • Don't try to copy too much from pixel artists you like. Try developing your own style.
  • Your reasons for making pixel art should be to have fun, satisfy your curiosity, and experience making artwork you never thought you could make.
  • Just as with most things in life, skills need developing; creativity and talent alone is not enough. By working on your skills, you will see more (im)possibilities, and understand why other pixel) artists make certain visual decisions and avoid others. Slowly, you will become better and better...
  • It's important to look at your illustration with an objective eye. Ask yourself whether anything about the illustration can be done better. Try to improve, but be sure to save your work before you start improving! If the 'improvement' seems to be less brilliant than you hoped, start again with the previous version, even if the 'improvement' took a lot of time.
    Also, take some time to evaluate what exactly didn't work, so you can hopefully save time the next time you make an illustration.
  • To judge whether the illustration looks good, you can use several tricks.
    Flip the illustration horizontally, or look at it mirrored. Look at the illustration through your eyelashes or from a distance. Does it look okay? Does the illustration look balanced?
  • If you are happy with what you have produced, put it away for a few days and then take a look at it again... Is it still good?
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