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I would like to create pixel art graphics for an iPhone game on my mac, and I'm wondering what are some good programs I should look into.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think the main features you're after are:

  1. Being able to paint with a non-antialiased pencil or brush.
  2. Nearest neighbour scaling (keep blocky things blocky when you scale).
  3. Non-antialiased selections.
  4. Layers.
  5. Being able to export the formats you'll need (PNG? GIF?).

Based on that criteria, I'd highly recommend Photoshop, predominately using the Pencil Tool — it does exactly what you're after, letting you paint non-antialiased pixels easily. It also has some other tools that might be handy, like posterisation.

Acorn would be my second option on the Mac. It has a pencil tool that's similar to Photoshop, as well as nearest neighbour scaling (if you need it). It's also far cheaper and available on the Mac App Store, if that's a concern.

Both Photoshop and Acorn have the full list of features above.

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Take a look at Sketch. It has made big strides toward being your next favorite UI tool.

It's vector based but supports raster export. It supports a pixel preview mode similar to Illustrator but I think it does a better job with the vector to pixel output conversion overall.

enter image description here

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When evaluating graphics software for pixel art this is the kind of tools I'm looking for:

Pixel Art Tools

The most well known software that is also great for pixel art is Photoshop.

If you don't have access to it and are looking for the next best alternative, look at GIMP. I've been happily using it on Macs since around 2010 and it has everything you need for pixel art. Best of all, it's free and open source!

Here's a tutorial I made about setting up GIMP for pixel art that should come useful:

Gimp Pixel Art Tutorial

When comparing Photoshop vs Gimp on pixel art grounds the capabilities are 99% leveled out. You really need to go into details to find some differences:

GIMP

  • line drawing guide
  • precise grid settings (+ saved into file format)
  • low-level GIF animation control
  • indexed colors with layers

Photoshop

  • better animation tools
  • more intuitive user interface
  • adjustment filters (useful for advanced techniques such as HD indexed painting)

But these are really minor points that don't matter that much. You'll be able to create any pixel art you desire in both.

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There are so many good software to work around.

If you can afford adobe you should go for Photoshop and fireworks they both works awesome for pixels.

You can check these links also they are dedicated to complete game pixel work...

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Some Options:

  • Adobe Fireworks (my recommendation if you can afford it)
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Pixelmator (though a lack of nearest neighbor scaling is a big detriment)
  • The Gimp
  • Pixen (looks like it's designed just for pixel art)
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There is always a free alternative Paint.NET. It is essentially MSPaint but with great many tools borrowed from PS and other image editing applications.

It has an option to use Anti-Aliased or Pixeled edges.

I always have it since it's light weight and has some good options, that other programs either don't have and/or are difficult to execute.

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PikoPixel is a free pixel-art editor.

tools popup        screenshot

  • Easy to use
  • Unlimited undo
  • Supports multiple layers
  • Customizable canvas background
  • Hotkey-activated popup panels
  • Export upscaled images
  • Runs on OS X 10.4 Tiger & later
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ASESPRITE is good, in my opinion.

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Hi Luis, welcome to GD.SE! Asesprite does look good, but do you think you can maybe add some information about it in the answer? (For example: Have you used it? If so, why did you find it better than others?). We try to include as much in the answers as we can :) –  Yisela Jul 31 '13 at 20:34
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