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I have been making games for a while now and have a substantial understanding of the 2D animations and processes. However my understanding with 3D modeling is limited even though I have made some low poly models during my time.

There is a certain method that I would like to grasp and there has been very little material and information on the matter. The workflow considered here can be achieved in 2D environment which gives more control for the sprites or in 3D environment where the result is sometimes quite vague but can be corrected later on. Nonetheless both methods utilizes scaling bigger elements into a smaller counterparts which makes high resolution material convert into pixel art, which can then be altered on a single frames afterwards.

I have done a tremendous amount of work researching this matter while trying to learn pixel art and even though I have gained experience, drawing the frames one by one takes too much time for this game I'm currently designing. Therefore I would like to try this workflow described in this article.

Motion Twin has done remarkable job with this workflow (the game Dead Cells itself) and I actually found out about it, the game and the workflow, after deciding to go with the same approach for my own game.

For two years I have now struggled with this workflow which I want to learn to finally continue with my game. For the 2D side of this workflow, we use high res source images and skeleton based animation and there is a nice introduction for it here. I intend to do some of my animations through this method, but would like to handle character animations through the first method (3D).

So my question is: What software would you recommend for doing this 3D to PixelArt conversion? (Low resolution rendering with cel shading) I know the best solution would be to write a tool of your own for the task like the Twin Motion did, but I don't have the required skills.. nor the time to do that as it can be done with most of the 3D rendering tools out there. Also what are your thoughts of this workflow? I think it's genius and efficient.

Few years ago in some forums some would have said "Forget it", just make it simple and draw the sprites one by one. That's not an answer, we are better than that and I know that you know it.

I'm not expecting to get a full perfect answer. I'm looking for perspectives and ways of approach with healthy discussion about different possibilities.

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    Any 3d software can do that but you'll have some issues with correct aliasing: solving them will be different dependin on the art style. What have you tried, what didn't work? – Sergey Kritskiy Feb 18 at 10:12
  • I haven't tried prerendered 3D models converted to the pixel art yet. That would be my next task. What I have tried (being mainly a coder) is lowering the resolution inside the game engine like Unity and trying to create the effect through real time animations. This resulted in pixelated mesh.. or should I say mush, where the details were lost during the "Conversion". This is a third option that can be utilized in a certain kind of games that have lot happening on the screen. It also requires an artstyle that I'm not too fond of. The best solution for me would be prerendered sprites. – Eemeli jokiperä Feb 18 at 10:51
  • I would ask a question - is it really need to be 3d to pixel or maybe just rendered still picture converted into pixel? – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 18 at 10:55
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    Hello Eemeli, welcome to GD.SE and thanks for your question. I took the liberty to edit it slightly -- we tend not to use preamble and thanks in advance on questions here. Might seem austere, but we're friendly nonetheless. :) I'd also like to advise you to not use any link shortening if you want to link in your questions. As spam has been rampant on this site the last few years, lots of users (myself included) are reluctant to click any external link. Lastly, could you inlcude some images? I am a pixel artist myself, but I'm having problems visualising what you want to achieve. – Vincent Feb 18 at 10:58
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    I'd suggest to try something first... For instance googling 'blender pixel art' shows some promising results. I think at the moment your question is too broad because as I mentioned any 3d software may output pixelated graphics but you'll encounter particular difficulties depending on the look you're after – Sergey Kritskiy Feb 18 at 10:59
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You could approach this in any of the most commonly-used 3D DCC tools (Digital Content Creation) - from biggies like Maya or 3DS to my favourite modo to Blender - all of them will happily output really nice looking cell animation at whatever scale you want, and on all you can set the renderer not to anti-alias, giving the pixelated look you want.

Also a quick note, the bones-based 2D animation can now be done very nicely directly in Unity.. and those newer 2D tools are really pretty darn solid.

Hope that helps.

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