Sprites! Sprites! SPRITES!

Rare is the project that uses a single tool for art asset creation and Piczle Cross Adventures is no exception. In this post I’ll talk a little about the tools and processes used to create some of the art.

As a life-long Photoshop user (no kidding, I was on board since version 2.5, which didn’t even have layers yet!) the main tool is obviously this and other parts of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Audio and music edits are done in Audition, those animations on Twitter and Facebook usually go through AfterEffects, logos and promotional art use Illustrator, and a lot of in-game art uses good old Photoshop.

The different steps to creating character art

Character art comes in two flavours. The in-game controllable characters and the larger versions that pop up during dialogues and story segments. For the latter another piece of software is used. Initial sketches are made on a Surface Go using an S-Pen and a piece of software called Sketchable.
The sketch is that opened in Photoshop where it goes through several stages. First I sketch out the outlines of the main shapes. Then I add the main colours. Once I’m happy with that I fix little mistakes, change positioning of elements that stick out too much generally clean up the composition. After that it’s adding some shading and finally some final touches, like a nice thick outline and some finer details.

Controllable characters and other in-game NPCs, as they appear in the world, are made using a nifty little piece of software called Aseprite. One thing Photoshop is pretty terrible at is creating animations and using onion skin, two things that work excellent in Aseprite.

The Score-chan basic character turntable

First I break the character down to their basic shapes. In Score-chan’s case that is obviously the head, her hoodie ears, headphones, eye location, controller visor, body, feet and cape. I give them all distinct bright colours at this stage.

With Aseprite’s great onion skinning and frame tools this stage is the most fun part of the process, and creating animations is made easy. I create a rough shape guide like this for each animation and tweak and test them until they feel smooth.

Only after these basic animations feel good do I create final versions using the same techniques as before. I add coloured outlines, colour fills, then shading, only I do all of these within Aseprite.

From Aseprite it’s very easy to export sprite sheets which I can then import into Unreal Engine 4, extract individual sprites from and using Flipbooks and a Flipbook character BluePrint make come to life. I’ll talk more about how I create characters in BluePrints in a later post.

In-game world art and puzzle objects, mostly, are still created within Photoshop for mere ease of use and speed. Often I add small details by popping back into Aseprite and animating them, e.g. the air conditioner units below.

At this stage I’d hazard a guess that Piczle Cross Adventure’s art creation is spread probably an even 50-50 between Photoshop and Aseprite. World and object art is vastly more numerous than characters, but animations take some time to create.

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