Technology advancements do not always spell out redundancy; sometimes, it opens up new, unusual avenues to explore your creativity.
If you have even dabbled in any kind of art form, even as a novice, then you may undoubtedly know of the beautiful art that can be created by pixel art programs.
Taking inspiration from various graphics programs, pixel art software became accessible in the 80s and 90s. Since then, pixel art programs have seen a significant revival in popularity.
All About Pixel Art
On the one hand, looking at it closely, one may infer that this kind of building blocks technique has been around for quite some time in the history of art. For example, many embroidery techniques especially like cross-stitch.
Besides, throughout the world and in ancient cultures too, this art form has been seen before. Like the traditional art of beadwork or creating mosaics with different materials will support this.
On the other hand, pixel art expanded into the desired art form, facilitating artists and designers to take up the digital brush. This was to create contemporary pixel art wonders, and interestingly, it gave the art professors a run for their money.
Pixel art programs have gone beyond the virtual domain. Moreover, they are now even widely used in the creation of physically tangible products such as magazine covers, art posters, desktop wallpapers, and the like.
With the growing popularity of pixel art, there’s an increase in the number of tools that can create this type of art. Choosing the best pixel art software, one for you can be challenging.
Best Pixel Art Software for Desktop
If you are wondering which Pixel Art Program should you use and why? Desktop-based pixel art programs are installed on your computer, whereas web applications can be accessed through the internet.
Both can be free or paid depending on the level you want to operate at. Although the desktop-based ones will give you a plethora of tools, added features, editing options available.
Most commonly used and by far, the best pixel art software that Adobe has come up with is Adobe Photoshop. Simple pictures transform into beautiful works of art with the help of its easy to use templates and intuitive tools.
The professional photography tools that it provides help in enhancing the pictures and in creating illustrations and 3D artwork.
Some of its most attractive features are stroke smoothening, color and luminance range masking, quickly shared creations, immediately shared menu, 360 panorama workflow, and copy-paste layers.
- Quick and time-saving
- Advanced editing
- Graphics can be designed meticulously
- Extremely useful for photo correction and manipulation
- The integrated stock library enables you to have control over the creative process
- Some of the tools are clumsy and inefficient
- The interface may appear overwhelming to new users
Price: Paid with a free trial for a month
Download Photoshop here
This pixel art program is top-rated and highly recommended. It is purpose-made for pixel art, and its most appealing feature is onion skinning.
This is the ability to overlay frames while working. It has the best sprite sheet importing tools, which makes it very convenient for people who want to create pixel art for video games.
Moreover, it is undoubtedly the best pixel art software for making games since it warrants you to see the subsequent and the previous frames in an animation. It can export gifs, which is an added advantage for pixel specific work.
- Easy to use, not very complicated, highly convenient because of the comprehensive suite of options handy
- The wide range of tools available encourages creativity, and the classic ones help the users to relate with the previous software
- Not very user-friendly and difficult to use at first; familiarisation required.
- Functional issues are there. For example, the precision of the cursor is difficult to get used to, and the text tool is also not very handy.
Download Aseprite here
3) Graf X2
Initially created for DOS, it has some tools which no other program does. Graf X2 includes several features and effects that make it very useful for designing game graphics, pixel art, and sprite sheets.
It is a bitmap paint program with attractive characteristics like palette manipulation, custom brushes, layers, and animation.
- Free pixel art software
- Wide-set of tools supports frame animation
- Easy to learn for beginners
- Antiquated interface
Download Graf X2 here
4) Graphics Gale
It is a relatively old school pixel art program that excels at animation with features such as onion skinning. Graphic Gale allows you to import images from digital cameras and scanners in case you want to draw by hand before you lay down the pixels.
It has the key aspects required for drawing and animating- layer control, color palette management. Its most notable feature is the ability to view an animation while you edit.
- It can export several file formats- both gifs and sprite sheets
- Can preview animations in real-time
- Available for free
- Only available for Windows
- It misses out on certain hotkey support compared to other programs
Download Graphics Gale here
Krita is an open-source pixel art program for professionals and amateurs. It has an intuitive user interface and is easy to learn which can prove to be a really good pixel art editor.
The best part is that it is entirely customizable. The editing window and the sidebar can be customized and themed as and when you wish to.
It has a set of useful tools that facilitates digital painters and illustrators to create beautiful art.
- Open and Free Source
- Constantly updated
- Easy-to-use layout
- Not feature-rich
- Documentation is lacking
- Poor desktop integration
Download Krita here
Best Pixel Art Software on The Web
Being web-based, these online pixel art programs allow you to work on any platform, may it be Windows Mac or Chrome OS.
It is an online pixel art editor with a user gallery. This is free and is an excellent choice for artists looking for a no clutter program.
This pixel art program enables you to save your pixel art online and edit it later by using the import function. It can export static images, GIF animations, and sprite sheets.
Moreover, it is simple enough for beginners to use. One can learn the tools, and it has enough features to meet most of your needs. It is undoubtedly the best free pixel art software.
- Free of cost
- An easy option for beginners
- Lacks advanced features
Know more about PISKEL here
It is one of the largest growing pixel art communities and a superb platform for passionate art enthusiasts. This pixel art program enables the user to create pixel art on the go by using its easy-to-draw features.
The creation can be made from bases or black canvases.
Besides, it offers art contests and provides an active community geared towards making the youth involved in game design.
You can share the drawings with others and also upload them in public or private.
- Free pixel art software
- Share drawings with others for feedback or simply showcase your talent.
- Easy to use, public gallery, creates a profile
- Not well suited for sprite sheet creation
- Retro approach; not adept in new features
Know more about Pixilart here
3) Lospec Pixel Editor
It is a relatively new pixel art program designed to be accessible to even beginners. It is simple, intuitive, and entirely web-based.
It is in its early stages of development, but the developers keep updating the application so definitely worth keeping an eye on.
- Available for free
- Easy to use for beginners, easy access
- Lacks top features required for professional work
- Still developing
Know more about Lospec Pixel Editor here
One of the more advanced pixel art programs, Pixlr has an extensive range of drawing tools.
Although not well-suited to sprites, Pixlr lets you save your work online.
Once you register yourself and start using it, it will resonate with any other graphics-based pixel art software you’ve worked with before.
Furthermore, with logically laid tools and easy to use interface, Pixlr is a powerful web-based pixel art software.
- Has advanced features
- Works with Google Drive
- Easy to use
Know more about Pixlr here
5. Pyxel Edit
Popular and well-loved by artists, Pyxel Edit is one of the best pixel art software available.
It is effortless to use, has an uncomplicated interface with user-friendly tools. Pyxel Edit’s most attractive feature is tileset creation.
Pyxel Edit contains all the necessary tools for the creation of regular and animated images. Pyxel Edit’s onion skinning feature enables you to overlay subsequent frames in your pixel art canvas and create the exact image you need.
- Easy to use
- Available for free
- Simple user interface
- Wide range of tools
- The free version lacks some essential features
- Closed source software
Price – Free
Know more about Pyxel Edit here
Now that you are aware of the different choices that you can experiment with indulge in your creative pursuits without any inhibitions. The best pixel art software options above are hand-picked after trying out several options. These pixel art programs are downloadable and/or free to use.
You can use them for creating images, enhancing existing pictures, animation, and as a canvas for creating your pixel art.
Photoshop undoubtedly remains unbeatable, Aseprite is easy to use, Pixilart is an excellent platform for passionate art enthusiasts, and Pyxel Edit is excellent for beginners.
Further Reading: 5 Handy Tools to Optimize and Compress PNG Files