Pixel Art, Done Differently

Have you ever looked at some amazing pixel art from some video game and thought, “I wish I was that good!”? Well, why not rip them off? Oh, but that’s a bit of a scumbag way of doing it. How about, ripping them off, but making it look awesomer? Now you’re talking! Well, luckily that’s just what I did with a few bits of card and a lot of effort. Basically, I’m talking real-life pixels made of card.


Obligatory ‘Charmander is best starter’ comment. Let the fights commence.

This is what we’re aiming for. Of course, you can pick any piece of pixel art you wish, just make it realistic, measure out how big it’ll be once completed. These pixels are half a centimeter on each side, so use that as a rough guide for how big it should end up being. This is the image I’m using:


Just steal from others. It’s easier.

I was originally planned to do more than one of these (about 6 was my first estimate), but after trying out the process on one, it became blindingly obvious that wasn’t going to happen. So, I settled with the best one on the image; please send all best-Pokemon-related hate mail to my email address, if you can figure out what it is.

What do I need?

You’re gonna need some stuff for this; sorry, things ain’t always free in life. Says the guy being paid by the government to be at university.

  • A pencil/pen – mightier than the sword. Also used for drawing out guidelines for cutting the card.
  • Scissors – for actually doing the aforementioned cutting.
  • Coloured paper/card – to be aforementionedly cut with the aforementioned scissors.
  • Glue – For ruining surfaces in your house with suspicious white residue and gluing down the card.

Cool, I followed your stupid list. Now what?

Firstly, you hurt mine and the list’s feelings, you heartless brute. Secondly, our first step is to draw out gridlines on the card we’re using – we’ll need a sheet of coloured paper for each colour in the image you’re following. For Charmander, I needed orange, darker orange, black, white, yellow and red. I used 5mm x 5mm squares, but if you want your finished product to look bigger, then perhaps use 1cm x 1cm. Beware – the tinier the squares are, the more hellish the next part.


Here’s what you’re gonna spend a while frustrated on.

The hellish next part

Next up, once we’ve got a load of (hopefully evenly spaced) gridlines drawn on, we’ll need to cut them out to obtain your squares. You can see I cut them into strips first – this makes it far easier, faster and more accurate than cutting squares individually. Then, just cut individual squares off each strip. And hey presto, we have our pixels! Of course, we’ll need to do this for every colour we need.

20141216_153322This is the part where you start feeling less happy that you need 17 colours for your image.

The drawing-y bit

This bit isn’t always crucial, but it’s a huge help. We’re going to draw another set of gridlines, the same size as the final image will be. Then, draw an outline of what your finished product is going to look like, colouring in each square that’s, say, black. Really, it doesn’t have to indicate the colour of every square, just a nice guide to help you. Seriously, it will help you. Follow this advice. Now.


This is my rough version. It really does help!

Instructions unclear; glued face to wall.

Well, that’s probably because you didn’t sketch it out like me. But for those who didn’t screw up the last part, now’s the part where we start getting these damn squares stuck down. Easy – just follow the image you’re unceremoniously ripping off. Try sticking the squares down so that the face you drew on with the pen doesn’t show, and that you on’t get much glue on the top bit and leave a weird residue on the face that’ll be showing.

This part does depend hugely on how you did the original cutting out of the squares, as many of them seem to deviate from the size they should be however carefully you cut, so be prepared for some not to fit the grid exactly, and to start cutting out new squares if you need to. But thankfully, once you’ve got them all stuck down, then we’re finished the main work. Congratulations, go and take a break with a non-branded, cola-flavoured beverage – you deserve it!


Well done if you have any patience left and haven’t stuck your hands together.

Ow, my joints broke, do I need to go to hospital for replacement fingers?


Now we’ve completed the hard bit, we can go a step ahead if we want, but this bit is optional. Basically, if you want it to be framed like mine, just cut out a piece of card a bit larger than the image (so it’ll fit neatly in the frame) and make it a nice aspect ratio (so not ridiculously thin or fat, mine could probably be squashed downwards a bit really). Now, cut out a frame – if you make this a single piece of card like I did, it’s a little harder, because then you have to cut out the centre of the card, which can get fiddly, but no-one will notice if it isn’t a completely perfectly connected frame shape. Like everything else, my frame is 5mm wide on the sides, and black to make the bright art stand out. For the sake of completeness, here’s my finished product again:


I call this particular angle the ‘deja’ view. Get it? Deja vu? My humour is wasted on here.

And that’s what I did during the holidays and forgot to write about until now. If you do make anything using this technique, or you have any ideas of super-cool art that anyone can do, feel free to leave a comment!