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Pixel art is going to be big for me in 2019. Just before Christmas, I was snapped up to work on a game firmly rooted in this retro aesthetic. My role there is mostly to create individual likenesses for the cast, but I thought it would be beneficial to take a step back and, in my free time, look at some broader arenas. Hopefully, I’ll pick up a few tricks along the way.

With the pylons going up on Sunday, I thought a general industrial theme was a good place to begin. The quick pipe lettering above was not only an excuse for more letters but a warm-up tiling exercise. Tiling allows for quick and clean creation of environments. Most platform games of old used this technique for their scenery.

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These crates and barrels were mostly studying texture and dithering.

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You can’t spell industrial without corrugated iron:

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If I’ve learnt one thing from my work so far, it’s that size really doesn’t matter. Working on a small grid of pixels can be just as time-consuming as the most detailed sketch – sometimes more so, as I start to panic about the sharpness of certain edges, the pallette, and whether I should introduce more colours or even reduce them. Hopefully these are the sort of hurdles that will be overcome with just making as much stuff as possible. Saying this about time, perhaps the two industrial stations below could have done with a little more TLC, but it’s a start:

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pixelpractise-industrial04Once the pixels start to look happy (and like things) it’s quite a lot of fun, and the time whizzes by. Like the web address says, onward I go!

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electric-recharged-2-02I’ve been in a typographic mood of late – even more than usual. It’s most welcome. Even so, this was a bit of an impromptu jolly; I was playing with a face I cut several years ago now, long before the days of this blog. It was called Electric, and this is shown in orange above. Inspiration came from the frontage of a rusty, run-down electrical shop in Norwich; it bore lettering of a slender form with enormous, authoritative slabs – delightfully retro-futuristic and, as such, most appropriate for a store likely still selling VCRs and 8-track. Them’s the future.

The blue counterparts were made this evening – essentially, I was curious to see what would happen if I were to reverse the thickness of each character, across the entire alphabet. It does look rather more burly, doesn’t it? Some letters were scuppered slightly – particularly Q – but overall it seems a worthy companion.

It’s quite fun using the two in combination.

The simplicity of both faces means you can do virtually anything with them. They can be warped, scaled, squashed, or pulled however you want, and still look pretty stable. Such versatility can come in handy when you have a specific message in mind.

I did also experiment with Illustrator’s ’rounded corners’ feature, which somehow managed to make the lettering even more delightfully retro:

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Ah well, nothing spectacular but just a bit of fun. I’ve been so woefully unproductive this year, I’m going to jump on any burst of inspiration that I can!

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Who needs rationale when it comes to making letters? I certainly don’t! The most fun lettering exercises, as I doubtless say every time (sorry) are the ones where you just run with something and see where it goes – it’s all about that iterative process, as one wonderful man always used to say.

And so, eyeing a coat hanger and seeing that its lines and curves could easily be bent into several letterforms spiralled into a afternoon of work. That’s an achievement in itself at the moment, regardless of the result. Thank you, coat hanger – potential there was! I ended up with a veritable wardrobe full of alternatives:

The process, there. Having sliced those up in Photoshop and Illustrator, they were a bit rough and ready, so I had a go at refining some of the stronger ones. Among my favourites are probably the M, W and E, who came out of the closet looking quite bold and trendy. I did enjoy using the hook for slimmer, twisty forms too, though, as you can probably tell.

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Well, it gave me something to do with my Sunday! I wonder if there are other objects lying around that I can subject to similar experimentation…

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Of course A would be chosen for the final letter! Coupled with the return of Geometric, more messing with shapes beckoned. Wanting to mark the finale in some way, I started off thinking about something suitably jubilant – a geometric firework display, perhaps, or game show glitter…

…but that rather quickly fell by the wayside, as it didn’t come together quick enough. Maybe an upward triangle with sunny colours could be seen as positive enough in its own right? Yes, let’s go with that.

Blending the above developments somehow resulted in this fierce eye creation. A for angry, I suppose! Perhaps he’s miffed that the series is coming to an end? Anyway, it’s something quite peculiar, and it’s geometric. That’s good enough for me.

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That’s it, then: twenty-six letters and more than 420 developments (!!) later, here we are with our rather repetitive alphabet. Generally, I think the wheel behaved itself. Some themes evaded the flipper, though; I would have liked Gothic and Speccy to come up. I’m alarmed to discover that my name is apparently no longer valid. We’ve skipped, among others, an E, N, and the beloved W. Let’s not joke about the lack of D.

Of course, that’s the very nature of the wheel. Chance. If I’m to do this again, I may only choose the theme at random; at least then there would actually be twenty-six spins! We shall see. But, whether you have a super-exciting wheel to spin or not, I cannot endorse the random element enough; it not only enabled me to create by eliminating the awkward dithering stage altogether, but often demanded fresh approaches or a reconsideration of old ones. Results vary, naturally, buy today’s concluding letterform is a prime example of an aesthetic which probably wouldn’t have happened outside of the series. Prospects abound with challenges like this. Give it a whirl and see how you fare.

Until next time, it’s been fun. Here are the fruits of the last few weeks’ labour:

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We’ve somehow made it to the penultimate spin – last one tomorrow! If you’re as excited as I am, then I can only apologise; it’s nearly over. I am still holding out for that W, though.

I’m pleased that Q turned up though, I was beginning to think it might prove elusive. It’s everyone’s favourite letter, right? And it actually merged quite well with Square – at least once I got my head together  I feel like I’m saying that every day.

There was a subtle evolution here, from the very basic and uninteresting to pretty basic and vaguely interesting. Blending two letterforms in Illustrator and the exploration of negative space pushed the final form, which has a pleasantly modern (box) look. The outcome was stronger than the early developments suggested.

At the risk of jinxing it, let’s hope we don’t end on a damp squib tomorrow. That would be wheely frustrating.

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Geometric! Shapes! What better shape could there be than the hexagon – the naughty one? It is J for Jacob, after all – ahurhurhur!

It wasn’t originally going to be this way, as you can see. J for Jaws? There was all sorts of nothing going on here. Sensing a lack of reasonable focus and beginning to panic, I went back to basics and ended up paying homage to the hexagon:

The shape still works its magic, despite the broken wall. As you can see, there are quite a few experiments here with dimension and embellishment, but I decided the simplest form was probably most effective. I could see it having quite an industrial vibe as part of a full alphabet – nuts and bolts, and that carry-on.

A post dominated by hexagons and not a single Blockbusters reference. I’m learning.

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Grunge again, and so soon? Perhaps the wheel is feeling kind as we approach the end of this series. I’m still waiting for W, by the way.

In terms of process, there isn’t much here that wasn’t covered in my last go. I went a touch more urban with this one, thinking more about stencil and graffiti. I’m not sure that’s entirely answering the prompt, but there’s surely an overlap there, so I’m going with it.

The stencils were looking OK, until I overdid it!

And then came the attempts to make some striking S forms, before subjecting them to the gamut of Photoshop manipulation:

Again, this is always a hoot. I wouldn’t mind if the rest come up grunge! 😉