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FireChao Spriting Guide

Written by Cal

Greetings, budding spriters (Or, um, not) to my spriting guide, a magical land of mystery and wonder where you will learn the intricate art of the pixel.

No. Let's start again.

So! Here I am, making a spriting guide for FireChao. By no means am I some sort of fantastic master spriter, but I suppose I’m… good enough. To the extent that I can make decent sprites. Examples can be seen in the Custom Sprites page. But enough about me and my abilities, my job for now is to teach you (Yes, you!) those skills.

(Before we start properly, yes, some inspiration for this came from Butterfree’s guide, which taught me to sprite. As such, I thank her very much, and implore that if she ever sees this guide and finds it to be too similar to hers, she informs me.)

To begin:

A sort-of-brief explanation of what a sprite is

Essentially, they’re what 2-D games use instead of 3-D models. They are static images (Although of course some can have several frames – The more recent Pokémon games, for example) composed of several hundred pixels (That isn’t actually as many as it sounds!) to represent, well, something. A character, for example. In the context of Pokémon, which, I suppose, is really what this guide should be focussing on, when people talk about ‘sprites’ they generally mean the images that are used to show the opponent’s Pokémon in battle, although in reality every image used in-game is technically a sprite. The current dimensions for Pokémon sprites (As of Generation IV) is 80 pixels by 80 pixels (Keep in mind there is usually a considerable amount of white space which is included in the same 80 by 80 space); I wouldn’t advise going over that when you’re spriting.

There are a few golden rules that must be followed if you want your sprite to be convincing and/or not awful.

  1. Under no circumstances should you save a sprite as a .jpg. That evil file type tries to smooth images to make photos look more realistic; as such saving a sprite this way results in what looks like a cancerous mess.
  2. Try to make the sprite take up at least 50% of the space you’re working with. Even if it’s a very small Pokémon, sprites generally don’t fit to scale with each other. It needs to be visible. Likewise, don’t make it even touch the edges of the box unless it’s a particularly large Pokémon (Usually this privilege is reserved for legendaries).
  3. Resizing is a bad idea. If you can’t see each individual pixel enough when you’re working on it, zoom in with the magnifier tool. If you can’t see each individual pixel enough when it’s finished and at ordinary magnification, good.
  4. I suggest – no, demand – that you use ONLY four tools when spriting – the single-pixel pencil tool, the colour picking tool (Eyedropper, whatever), selection tools and, if you are too lazy to fill in large areas of one colour pixel-by-pixel, the paint bucket tool. The latter two MUST have anti-aliasing OFF, which otherwise will try to fill/select an area with similar colours to the one that you have filled with/selected in an attempt to make it soft and realistic. Just like the case is with .jpgs, you don’t want soft and realistic with sprites.

That’s about all. Everything else is common sense and obviousness.

An actually-brief explanation of where to get sprites

I’d suggest one of two places: PokémonElite2000 or (And, as this guide is on FireChao, I am sadly obliged to say that this is the better option – although, joking aside, they are actually very good) the FireChao.com sprite packages.

Lastly, before I begin, if you have any qualms or questions on this guide, feel free to contact me at cal@firechao.com (See, I have a snazzy FireChao address now!).

THE ACTUAL SPRITING GUIDE (WOW)

Lessons
  1. Lesson one: Palleting and basic shading
  2. Lesson two: Recolouring
  3. More lessons on the way!

Lesson one: Palleting and basic shading

In which you will learn to observe the different shades of a sprite and list them for easy editing. Nothing to do with Ash Ketchum’s hometown.

In Pokémon sprites, the maximum number of colours used per sprite is sixteen, but that doesn’t mean that they all use that exact number. In fact, most use less. There’s usually about three base colours, each with three, four or (rarely) five different shades. Let’s take a look at Gengar, for example.

As you can see, Gengar's base purple has four shades. The second-lightest is the 'base' (that is, the colour it would be without shading), the lightest is the highlight (For areas where light is especially hitting), and the third and fourth brightest are the shadow (Areas with less light exposure) and the main outline colour (For, surprisingly, the outline). The final colour is the outline shadow, for the areas of the outline where little or no light is hitting. This colour is always black in Pokémon. There will also occasionally be an outline highlight colour, used in especially bright areas of outline. These don't come up often, but will usually be similar to (Or sometimes identical to, in which case you needn't worry) the base or shadow colour.

Outlines, generally, are coloured thusly:

  • For areas of base colour or highlight, the main outline is used where the outline contacts the colour area.
  • For areas of shadow, the outline shadow is used.

Although this is common sense, I have seen times when people have used the outline shadow on areas of highlight (i.e. outlining it in black) or the main outline colour on areas of shadow - while the latter isn't an offence, it does somewhat detract from the quality of the shading.

While you are shading, you should note that Pokémon sprites are always shaded as if there is a light source in the far upper-left corner on the sprite. Therefore, you should imagine this light source and the way it would be hitting the sprite - highlighted areas will normally be towards the top-left (But generally not touching the outline) and shadow areas towards the bottom-right (or to the bottom-right protruding features which block the light source!).

I shall create a lesson that goes more in-depth on how to shade later on.

Now, whenever you sprite, it is a good idea to pallet all the shades. I would suggest grouping them as I did in the above image (But don't worry about the labelled magnification) to make it easier to do. It can also be convenient to put them in a sort of table, like this:

For now, I think that's the end of the entirely theoretical lesson one.

Lesson two: Recolouring

In which you will learn the most basic and possibly most important type of spriting.

Recolouring will come into almost every sprite you do at some point. Whether the sprite itself is just a Pokémon with different colours, or a splice where you have to recolour a Pokémon's body parts to fit with the other's, you will always have to modify colours by shade.

When recolouring:

  1. Keep the shading consistent - all the shades of one colour should still be based around the same colour, and the darkness of the shades should still descend from highlights to base to shadow (to outline highlight sometimes) to outline.
  2. Remember to recolour the outline, too! If we were recolouring Dialga red, we would also change the outline, or it would end up red with a blue outline. This wouldn't look good, would it?
  3. Keep the colours natural-looking. They should never be garishly bright, even if the Pokémon is shiny or glowing. The colours on real Pokémon sprites are all rather mellow and easy on the eye, if you look, and so your sprites should be like this too! This also means that, if you are being simple and spirintg with Paint, you should NOT use the default set of colours they give you. It's almost as bad as a .jpg, they look so awful. Edit the colours by double-clicking on individual ones or going to Colours > Edit Colours... > Define Custom Colours.

Now to set your custom colours.

If you're recolouring a Pokémon with another one's pallet, that is simple. Just draw a pallet for both of them (See lesson one), line them up, and Bob's your hypothetical uncle.

If you're using your own shades, it's a little more complex, but not very difficult. First you should make sure your hands are clean (and don't forget to use detergent!) - we don't want any nasty germs getting into your lovely sprite. When you have (or haven't) done that, you simply edit each individual shade in whatever way your program does, fiddling with the RGB values (Or, if you'd prefer, hue, brightness and saturation) and noting down by how much you increase/decrease each value, for this amount should be relatively the same for every shade. As you find these colours, you should make a pallet of them next to the original one of the sprite you are changing.

If you're using Paint, congratulations, the next bit is very easy! Using the Colour Picker tool, left-click on the colour you wish to change, and right-click on the colour you're going to change it to. Then go to the eraser tool, hold the right mouse button, and scrub all over the image. As if by magic, the shade you picked will change before your eyes into the one you wanted! Repeat this for all the shades until you are done. Hurrumble!

Contrariwise, if you're using something else, it's just as easy but a bit more long-winded. The program I always use for shading is GraphicsGale, but other good programs are Adobe Photoshop, Paint.Net and, although I've never used it, ImageReady is apparently rather good. Anyway, I'll post a step-by-step guide for the most simple method in GraphicsGale, which I'm pretty sure will be identical for other programs.

Let's see. We'll recolour our good friend Gengar to match... Hmm, how does Jigglypuff sound? (Sorry, FireChao, your favourite Pokémon is going to be turned pink.)

  1. First, we put both sprites together and line up pallets for them (When you're more experienced, you won't need to do pallets so much; instead you can just select the colours directly from the sprites).
  2. Next, select Jigglypuff's pink highlight, and, using the Paint Bucket/fill tool, replace Gengar's highlights with it.
  3. Continue this with the rest of the shades, and then the other colours, until you have your end result

After making this sprite I realised that Gengar is a bit horrible to recolour as it uses the same dark purple as its base outline for all three of its colours (Body, eyes and mouth) - I had to make custom outline shades for those, which you may have to do in similar situations! If I was making this sprite seriously I probably would have done a better and more precise job with those areas, but oh well.

Well, that's about all for recolouring. Next time you'll learn about another crucial part of spriting - splicing, the method of combining two sprites to create one, seamless image.

Screenshots: