Data Realms Fan Forums

Don't Bother Spriting
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Author:  Rawtoast [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Don't Bother Spriting

The vast majority of modders for Cortex Command still draw out all of their sprites pixel-by-pixel in paint. There are a good few perks to this, not least among them is a distinctive style, but for those of you who are either just plain crap at shading, or who are looking for a more realistic look, I recommend leaving the scaling to the computer.

Instead of zooming in and struggling with drawing something in 10 pixels which you are almost certain can only be properly described in 40, simply draw what you want out on a large scale and smallify your creation in an image editor. There is no way that you will ever be able to imply all the details which even just a basic image editor is capable of portraying at such a small scale. Below is a good example.

Here we have the Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David.
I've always liked this painting, and let's say I wanted to include it in my Cortex Command bunker. Unfortunately, it's 784x450 pixels - too big to really fit in the sort of skirmish setups I usually construct. If I wanted to draw out a smaller version of this painting by hand, even at just 100 pixels which is still way too big for my bunker, it would almost certainly look like ♥♥♥♥. No one would be able to recognize it. Let's see what an image editor can do:


That's 31x18 pixels; perfect for my brain room. Take a good look at that image. You can see Socrates and all his friends. You can even slightly make out some of the strangers down the hall. Those people down the hall are literally two pixels tall, and you swear you can ♥♥♥♥ see them. YOU CAN'T BEAT THAT. Socrates is barely 7 pixels tall and you can totally make out his patriotic declaration. That's because, while you might just try to draw Socrates out real tiny with itty bitty 1 pixel limbs, your computer makes quick compromises between the background color and the object in front of it's color, essentially implying objects in the photo which are smaller than a pixel. YOU CAN'T DO THAT.

Conclusion: draw big, shrink later.

Author:  Duh102 [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

I hate to rain on what otherwise is a great parade, but with computer scaling you cannot control which details are kept and which are not. Thus, sometimes important details like hatch lines are not kept while unimportant details like a scratch on the paint are, depending on the way it works. Thus, there will always be a place for hand-made sprites from scratch.

EDIT: Not to say this method does not have it's merits. It's great for artists who otherwise could not make their creations come to life.

Author:  p3lb0x [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

You forgot to apply the palette.
orig palette
Image Image

Author:  Rawtoast [ Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

That's true. I may have made the process seem a bit more simple than it really is.

In the case of a hatch door, I'd recommend cutting the hatch out from the original drawing and scaling both it and the rest of what you've made down individually, then put them back together again afterward. Even better, make the hatch attachable!

Oh! And for those of you who are like me, and are even too lazy to deal with the first step in the above mentioned sprite producing method (actually drawing something), just look up what you want to make on flickr, copy paste it into your image editor, cut it out, and proceed. You'd be amazed how fast this is to do, and how wonderfully arty and unique your work will appear.

Author:  Geti [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

Best mix of the two: draw large, resize, touch up. I'm pretty sure prom does this.

Author:  Azukki [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 3:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

Looks like an indistinguishable blur unless I know exactly what I'm looking for. Even then, the only detail that's easily noticeable is the left red guy's legs, since it originally had plenty of contrast. If I didn't have the reference picture, I would probably guess that it was an image of nebula.

Do that with an image we aren't already familiar with, with similarly small details, and see if it's distinguishable. It likely wont be.

Spriters can mimic anti aliasing within a sprite, but they generally don't because it's not preferable, since it blurs out the details that generally are supposed to be distinguishable.

For that painting, it being blurry is alright if it's unimportant decoration, where being understated is okay. But in general, scaling down images for sprites will kill the details that could still be seen at that size by spriting.
If it's too small for spriting to make it distinguishable, it's almost certainly too small for a scaled down image of the same to be distinguishable.

Another problem with using a scale down is that it makes the edges blurred with the original background. This isn't a problem for your example, since the painting started off as a simple rectangle, but it's not nearly as simple generally.
A good example of this is that helicopter 'sprite' your recently provided in requests, it looks awful mostly because you didn't crop it decently, there's white pixels along many of its edges. It also misfits CC's style, so it would still look bad in-game if your edges weren't an eyesore.

But a scale down can be a good start, you can retouch from there to make everything work as a respectable sprite, use it as a proportionate reference, or trace it for an outline so you can fill in the rest.

Author:  Rawtoast [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

The helicopter was more of a joke. In general, using pictures is a pretty crappy cop out, I admit. If you draw the image yourself, there are of course many fewer problems.

For fun, here are a few famous paintings only 30 pixels wide. Even if you guys can recognize these, I think Azukki still has a point - these are all very recognizable images, whether you know what they are beforehand or not. That said, 30 pixels is tiny, so I think it still shows some of the merits of scaling down. To really appreciate this, zoom in and out on these a few times. This may even help with your pixel-by-pixel spriting.




Edit: I was going to put goatse in as well, but it's totally recognizable.

Author:  411570N3 [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

Only works if you're better at drawing large than you are at normal scale spriting; ie: Not me.

Author:  carriontrooper [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

Rawtoast wrote:
Teeny weeny paintings

Lemme guess, the first one is that painting of the french revolution used by Coldplay in Viva la Vida; the second is blatheringly obvious, it's Van Gogh's starry night; but the third is a bit vague, is it touched by its noodly appendage?

Author:  UnsubRedun [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

I'm thinking the first one is the Crossing of the Delaware?

Recognizing something like that from a music album or whatever is shameful.


Author:  p3lb0x [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

resizing01.png [ 6.23 KiB | Viewed 8498 times ]

Okay, I tried it. It made an okay sprite I guess.

Author:  Roon3 [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

Look at the dropship, or the rocket. Arne does this all the time, he misses some stuff sometimes, but it turns out quite nicely.

Author:  CrazyMLC [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

You know, you're right. It does seem that that is what Prom does.

Now I want to give it a try. >_>

Looks pretty nice for how bad the original was.
Line tool here I come.

Author:  Seraph [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

I really like the look of that AK p3l, looks nice 'n chunky.

Author:  Roon3 [ Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Don't Bother Spriting

CrazyMLC wrote:
You know, you're right. It does seem that that is what Prom does.

I know that's what Prom does. He did the dreadnought that way too (And the old brain, the ronin heads (I think), the zombie generator, etc.).

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