Pixel art is a type of digital art where artists specify the location of individual pixels, which are built up to create intricate scenes, game backgrounds, character designs and 3D art – all with a limited colour palette. Think those 8-bit graphics first seen with the release of gaming consoles in the early '80s.
Developing this artwork doesn't require expensive photo editing software and lots of fancy equipment, just a lot of time. Here are 30 top examples of pixel art from some seriously talented, not to mention patient, artists…
01. JaeBum Joo
South Korean designer JaeBum Joo caught our attention with a splendid take on classic arcade game, Street Fighter 2, in which he kitted out the game's characters in the achingly hip threads of modern celebrities; check out Street Fashion Fighter to see the full results.
However it's his contribution to a Korean campaign for Nike that really got our pulses racing; a six-second animated segment depicting an imaginary arcade basketball game; we'd love to play it for real.
02. Nevan Doyle
Nevan Doyle is a videographer, graphic designer and photographer from Portland, Oregon, who specialises in eye-catching abstract designs with the occasional touch of glitch cool. And it's this extra bit of glitch that drew us to Doyle's Intro to Pixel Art; while it lacks the painstaking intricacy of much pixel imagery, his project mixes up pixel techniques with glitches, grunge and visual feedback to create some stunning artwork.
03. Diego Sanches
Diego Sanches is a Brazilian illustrator based in São Paulo, who has a great sideline in pixel art. We particularly love the animations he created for Science Kombat, a browser-based beat-em-up game for Superinteressante magazine.
It features eight playable scientists, including Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie and Sir Isaac Newton, each with their own basic and special attacks, plus a final boss: The Divinity, able to take the form of various gods.
04. Pixel Jeff
Based in Taipei, Taiwan, Pixel Jeff has been making pixel art since 2013, usually creating work inspired by movies, video games and animation. His Tumblr page is a treasure trove of animated pixel joy; we were drawn there by his reinterpretation of Disney's Moana as a video game, but it's his take on Star Wars: Rogue One that really grabbed our attention.
05. Ivan Dixon
Following the news of David Bowie's death, illustrator and gif-extraordinaire Ivan Dixon paid tribute in the only way he knew how. Featuring a range of Bowie's iconic styles, the homage is a wonderful pixel art look at why he was so influential.
06. Gustavo Viselner
Star Wars fever is ever rife among fans and graphic designers and illustrators galore have been inspired by the films, with some harking back to the old favourites – like this pixel art tribute by Gustavo Viselner. The artist has also created pixel art for Back to the Future, Aliens, Lord of the Rings and more.
07. Ben Porter
Ben Porter loves pixel art so much that a few years ago, he embarked on a 365 day challenge, producing pixel art every day for a year. He also launched Pixel Dailies, a twitter account which shares daily pixel art inspiration and new creations by the man himself.
08. Marty Guerero
A game developer and pixel artist, Marty Guerero produces some really incredible pieces. This pixel art is a snapshot into one of Guerero's game designs; the artist also produces homages to Mario and a range of Studio Ghibli characters.
09. Tom Schreiter
We can't help but love this pixel art interpretation of the American musical classic The Blues Brothers by Tom Schreiter. Pixelling since 1995, and doing so on a daily basis ever since, he's got a ton of brilliant pixel artwork under his belt – but this is definitely one of our favourites.
10. Aled Lewis
Hot Fuzz meets Japanese arcade game Final Fight in this epic pixel artwork by designer and illustrator Aled Lewis. This piece forms part of an awe-inspiring portfolio, most of which has been influenced and inspired by his main passions in life: games, comics, film and television.
Next: 10 more amazing pieces of pixel art
You don't often see pixel art go vintage, which is one of the main reasons we like this Don't forget to fix your Polaroids piece so much. Created by the artist known as Pixellent, this piece has been executed beautifully, with the design featuring gorgeous, detailed pixel art, framed and styled to look like an old Polaroid shot.
12. José Eduardo Contreras Moral
We’ve seen many artistic tributes to Darth Vader over the years here on CB, but we particularly like this cool pixel art version by illustrator and pixel artist José Eduardo Contreras Moral. Despite being stripped back to basics, Moral’s design of the dark lord still looks incredibly menacing.
This brilliant Make pixel, not war piece was developed by the artist known as Nasc. A developer specialising in Flash development, Nasc creates pixel art in his spare time. This piece is minimal, yet expressive and powerful.
Wanella produces these wonderful pixel based visual landscapes with fantasy possibilities. Her love for pixels is evident and her moving pixel worlds are a great example of how a combination of colour, squares and movement can be combined to create original and dynamic worlds.
15. Pixel Pour
Visual artist Kello Goeller, who is based in Portland, took the concept of the pixel and worked around it a real-life concept. Her water-flowing pixels were installed around the city, offering citizens a playful visual and imaginary context to bring both worlds together.
16. Fine Pixel Art
John O'Hearn is another visual artist who works with tiny elements to create impressive and life-size scale works by exploiting the potential of colour, elements and illusion.
17. Metin Seven
The work of Metin Seven combines design and pixel art with 3D elements, with dynamic and detailed results. Along with this Steve Jobs reinterpretation, he has produced a series of characters based on square elements combined.
18. Cristian Zuzunaga
Cristian Zuzunaga provides an original take on pixels, combining them with fashion, textile design and furniture. His beautiful use of colour and pattern with squares inspires great creative possibilities and explores new areas of pixel art.
19. Talk to me
Back in 2011, MoMA used simple square combinations to create a vivid and interesting pattern mural based on objects from its exhibition, Talk To Me. The use of simple black and white strips it down further, creating an interesting and dynamic overall feel.
20. Ben Fino-Radin
This is a great example of the way pixels can inspire and drive various areas of design to create original and innovative pieces of work. This life-size hand-embroidered piece of design is part of a collection that explores ideas of size and shape to create these life-size mouse icons.
Next: 10 more pieces of stunning pixel art
21. Mario Sifuentes
Mexican designer Mario Sifuentes created this interesting and beautiful interpretation of a pre-hispanic God. The piece was inspired by the style of '90s visual video games and is based on the combination of pixels and simple colour.
Some of the most well-known creators of pixel art are Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital, aka Eboy. Eboy creates reusable pixel objects and uses them to build complex artwork. Famous for illustration, web design, fonts, and toys, Eboy has created work for many leading brands, including Adidas, Nike, Pespi and Renault.
23. Paul Robertson
Australian artist Paul Robertson is a pixel art master. His intricate illustrations include everything from family friendly pieces to some which are really NSFW. Even if you're not familiar with the name, you might recognise his work; he was the lead artist on the 2010 Scott Pilgrim videogame and worked on the American animated TV series Gravity Falls.
24. Army of Trolls
Army of Trolls is the portfolio of London-born videogame enthusiast and artist Gary J Lucken. Based in Bournemouth, UK, Lucken works from home, surrounded by Japanese toys and piles of old 2D videogames to inspire him. The artwork this talented artist is directly influenced by his love of videogames, toys and pop culture.
25. Rod Hunt
Award-winning London-based artist Rod Hunt has built a reputation for detailed character-filled landscapes for everything from book covers and advertising campaigns to iPhone apps and art installations. Hunt is also the illustrator behind the bestselling Where’s Stig? books, created for the BBC’s TV show Top Gear.
26. Sven Ruthner
Freelance pixel artist Sven Ruthner has received international appreciation for his pixel artwork. Based in Germany, Ruthner uses limited colour palettes when developing his work, similar to the offerings of early home computers, such the ZX Spectrum. This particular piece, titled CGA Faces, was created using just 16 colours.
The pixel artist known as Fool in the community was originally born in Moscow and is currently residing in Ohio. A self-taught artist, Fool is known for his highly intricate pixel art creations.
28. Tim Wesoly
Tim Wesoly is the lead developer of 3D pixel art modeller Qubicle. When not working on his software, he spends time using it to create awesome pixel art, such as this cool Robinson Nerdo character. The illustration is deceptively complex – you'll find yourself noticing new things each time you look at this piece.
29. Denise Wilton
Currently vice president of brand and creative at Workable, artist Denise Wilton has many skills, one of them being the creation of pixel art. Her talent has attracted the attention of many big clients during her career, including The Financial Times, the BBC, Lynx and Nokia.
30. Simon Anderson
Simon Anderson, aka Snake, is a Norwegian game developer and artist by trade. The co-founder of D-Pad Studio, Anderson's fascination with tiny squares began at a young age, when he began drawing pictures and figures using his mum's cross stitch and knitting grid pattern designs.
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