You’ve learned the basics and had a look at the first steps. Now it’s time to learn about making your own. For me, a sprite nearly always starts with a sketch. It’s entirely possible to just start spriting without first making a sketch to work off of, but in my opinion, you can never go wrong with laying down your foundation first. But how do you go about preparing a sketch, whether it’s scanned or drawn digitally, for spriting?
Preparing a sketch for spriting actually already starts while you’re sketching. It’s very important to keep your final product in mind: picture it in your head, lay the foundations for it, and work towards that final product. Being able to envision it in detail is a skill which will help you immensely.
Sketches which will be turned into sprites are different from sketches which will be turned into digital paintings. Sprites are small, which means that small details will end up disappearing or being completely unreadable on a small size. So, stick to bigger details!
Of course the bigger the sprite, the more details you can put in. If your final product will be on a canvas size of 500 by 500 pixels, you can put in a high amount of detail. But at more common sizes like 100 by 100 pixels, you’ll be a lot more restricted – there’s limited space and you’ll want to capture the essence, rather than the specifics.
Once you’re happy with it, the next step in preparing your sketch is to clean it up. If your sketch is on paper, I recommend scanning it now and doing the cleanup in Photoshop or your preferred program (MS Paint isn’t really suitable for this, although it is still possible if you really want to use it).
Any lines that are somewhat weak and thin, make them stronger and thicker. Get rid of helplines, non-essential lines and lines left over from sketching. Small lines will mostly disappear during resizing, but can still cause some confusion at a small scale.
The final part of cleaning up is to crop the edges of your canvas as close to the actual lines as possible.
You’re close to done now, but you still have a large image. The final step of preparing a sketch is to resize it.
In Photoshop, go to Image -> Image Size and enter the size you want the sprite to be. Other programs should have similar methods. While determining the size, keep in mind that you won’t be able to resize your sprite easily once you start on it, so think about it very carefully! Try a few different sizes if you need and pick the one that works best.
Now that the sketch is smaller, some lines may be somewhat faint. This happens especially when they’re on a transparent background. You can draw over them with a very small brush to make them thicker if needed. I usually have transparent backgrounds, so what I do is simply duplicate the layer with the lines until they’re as visible as I want them to be. Adding a background layer behind them can also work; if you do this I recommend going for a neutral grey, since this will have the least amount of influence on your vision when you start on colours.
And that’s all there is to it! You are now done with preparing the sketch, and can move on to drawing the sprite outlines.
-All sketches made by Rhynn