Friday, August 21, 2015

Pixel art software woes

...Alright, I need to vent and complain for a second.

Lately, I've been trying various pixel art programs. However, a lot of them have incredibly frustrating flaws. Part of it comes from my familiarity with GM's Sprite editor, but a lot of it comes down to practicality.

Basically, in GM the shortkeys are like this,

C - Eyedrop Tool
D - Pencil
S - Box select
W- Magic wand tool
F - Fill tool
R - Rectangle

1 - Frame left
2 - Frame Right

Middle Mouse - Hold to scroll view

What's so great about this? Everything I need and use is within quick reach of my left hand, and can be accessed with a single button press. People often cite GM as having a bad sprite editor, so it always makes me wonder how long it's been since they've used it. Everything is simple, but everything is fast.

The majority of my workflow consists of switching between the color picker and the pencil quickly. Even when I'm not doing anything, I'll often keep tapping the C key repeatedly out of habit. I can switch to any tool with a single button, and switch back with a single button. Perfect.

Okay, so what about say, Graphics Gale and Pro Motion?

In Pro Motion, if you wanted to use a box select tool, first you would have to go into,
1. Select Mode
2. Rectangle Tool

And then to switch back you would have to go into.
3. Draw Mode
4. Paint Continuous.

Four button presses. Great. It wouldn't be so bad if you could set multiple functions to use the same Hotkey. Since in normal use, I'm always going to be using Draw and Paint continuous at the same time, so it would make sense for me to make them both the D key. There are a lot of problems like this in the program.

And Graphics Gale? It has other problems. It's color picker is set to right click. HOLDING the right button does a box select. Remember how I said my workflow consists of switching  quickly between colors by using the color picker? Well I can't, because if you're moving too quick then instead of picking up a color, you'll do a mini box select!!


Oh, and there's no eraser tool. So to erase you have to select the background color, which is annoying because of the box select. Or, you can use modes. You know, like the ones in Pro Motion. So if you want to erase and then switch to another tool, you need to switch the mode back before you do.

Alternatively, you can set the second color to the color of the background and swap between them. But look out! Because if you color select while swapped, you'll be caught off guard the next time you try to erase something because it will be the wrong color.

How about....have an eraser!
Use single button presses!

And the palette change your color with a proper window, you need to click on a color slot, pick the color and on the color slot again! An extra click for no reason! Does it think I just change colors FOR KICKS?! Why can't you just change the colors you have selected with the same window as the palette slots????



....Anyhow...if you have any solutions to these problems let me know. I'm also open to any other programs. I initially dismissed AE because it doesn't have hotkeys customization, but I see that can be changed by editing a file. Although at this point, any color selection that isn't like GM's is going to slow me down a lot.

Oh, and the reason I haven't uploaded sound versions of the flash files yet is because I'm trying to get semi-randomized sounds done like I did in Noaika, which makes things way easier. I looked into it, it was beyond my abilities, and so now I'm waiting on a word from a couple different programmers who may be able to do it.

Alright, done complaining. In all honesty, I really do want to find a program I like that can use layers, because it would make a lot of H stuff I'm doing in Noaika right now Waaaaay, waaaay easier.

Edit: Oh, I also never mentioned that I did a pixel art tutorial recently. It's up at the top under tutorials.


  1. ...How are you accidentally box-selecting instead of picking colors in Graphics Gale?! I didn't even know right clicking and holding box-selected anything. I've been using the program for two years, and I've never accidentally done that! X'D

    Set your eraser color to white. It makes it easy to select without having to use the color picker.

    I do agree GG could use a hot-key for the color picker though, allowing two colors to be used with the two mouse buttons, even though I'm personally in love with GG's crazy color picker after all these years of using it. :'D

    Yes, this is HentaiPixel again, too lazy to sign in.

    1. I use a tablet. And the way it is, it's VERY easy to do it by mistake, especially when you're working fast.
      Eraser color? There is no eraser, so I'm not sure what you mean -___-

      Even if you can set a key to set the current color to the eraser color, it still doesn't change the fact that you then need to change back to whatever you're drawing with.

    2. I use a tablet, too. Though I admit I always use the mouse to change colors. I've had my old graphire3 for a million years now. Now that you mention it, changing colors with the tablet pen button is troublesome, because of the box select. I'm so used to using the mouse to change colors and layers and use the menus and stuff after years of using the program that I forgot that it's actually problematic if you're just trying to use the pen the whole time. I might work a little faster with an eye-dropper keyboard shortcut too, and it's weird that there isn't an option for it. I think I'll shoot the creator of the program an email again in a few days. =)

      When I said eraser color, I meant transparency color. I've been spending most of my time drawing tilesets for the last six months or so, so I'm using working with thirty layers. I always have the transparency color set to white, so I can always erase quickly anywhere just by dragging the luminosity slider all the way up, since it's impossible to select the background color when you have so many layers stacked. For animations, I do the same thing - drop a neutral color on the bottom layer so I can see what I'm doing, and then do all my actual work on a layer (or layers) above that bottom layer, with the transparent color set to pure white. Works pretty well.

      You are right, though. I've been working with the program for so long that these problems don't even register as issues anymore, but there's no real reason for there not to be an eraser or an eyedropper tool, or at least the options to use them. An "eraser" tool could just select the current layer's transparency color for us automatically, right?

      Yeah, I'll definitely shoot him an email on my next day off. =D

    3. Well, like I said, the problem is that selecting a color interferes with other tools. If you swap to transparent color, and then want to switch to the fill tool, you have to switch BACK to the drawing color, and THEN to the fill tool. As opposed to eraser > fill tool.

      Generally it's best to avoid clicking on things in a menu as much as possible. Simply because of the time it takes. It may not seem like much if you're working on something here and there, but when you're doing sprite-work for most of the day, for months, that adds up to a lot of wasted time. After I started using shortkeys in GM and PS, I probably started working about 3 times as fast. It's pretty essential.

      Oh, and don't forget about not being able to scroll with the middle mouse button. Stuff like that makes a big difference too.

    4. "Well, like I said, the problem is that selecting a color interferes with other tools. If you swap to transparent color, and then want to switch to the fill tool, you have to switch BACK to the drawing color, and THEN to the fill tool. As opposed to eraser > fill tool."
      That scenario you're outlining almost never happens, at least not to me. If I'm drawing, I'm drawing. I lay down a palette, and then select from it as I need to while I draw. If I need to erase, I just grab white from wherever. To waste time the way you just outlined, I'd need to be on colorA, want to erase, and then refill without selecting a new color. It's....not something that happens often, especially not in pixel art. When I'm doing 16x16 tiles or 16x32 sprites, I'm not usually fumbling back and forth between filling and drawing, hahah!

      "Generally it's best to avoid clicking on things in a menu as much as possible. Simply because of the time it takes. It may not seem like much if you're working on something here and there, but when you're doing sprite-work for most of the day, for months, that adds up to a lot of wasted time."
      I've been working on this RPG for about two years now, constantly. I'm up to a million objects, over 150 pages of code, and more art than every game you've released so far, hahah! Believe me, I'm not a fan of wasting time, either. With my work-flow using an on-screen palette, I'm not losing much time by not having an eraser or dedicated eyedropper tool. Your workflow might be completely different than mine, though!

      "Oh, and don't forget about not being able to scroll with the middle mouse button. Stuff like that makes a big difference too."
      I have the mover tool hotkeyed for that, hahah!
      Also, holy shit. He must have just added it like yesterday, but check this out:

      One of your biggest problems is already solved! ;)

    5. Also, holy shit sorry for the horrible grammar and rambling paragraph structure. Time for me to sleep. My posts are getting really tough to parse. :'D

      Cheers, Kyrieru! =)

  2. Only other one I know of is Pyxel Edit;
    Dunno how well it fits with you, but you didn't talk about it, so I guess it's something else to try.

    1. *watches tutorial*
      "D is the pencil tool"


  3. Might sound like using a sledgehammer to nail a frame to the wall, but I've actually found Photoshop to be my ideal pixel art program. As of CS5:

    The only weird bit is "M" for the selection tool, but I can still reach that easily enough with my left index finger. Everything else is B (pencil/brush), G (fill/gradient), E (erase), or combining those with Shift to select modes. D moves your selected colors back to black/white, and X swaps which of your two colors is currently active.

    Everything else you need just uses the mouse combined with Ctrl/Shift/Alt/Space:
    - Space + LMB scrolls, Ctrl + Space + LMB zooms.
    - Alt + LMB selects color, assuming you have a tool selected that cares about color (not the eraser, marquee, etc).
    - Ctrl + LMB moves things, and Ctrl + Alt + LMB creates a duplicate of whatever you have selected and lets you drag it where you need it until you release LMB. This has been super useful for, among other things, creating grids for sprite sheets or tilesets.
    - Shift + LMB (held) lets you drag a straight horizontal or vertical line, while Shift + LMB (click) just draws straight lines between two points.
    - Finally, Right Click lets you change the properties of the tool you are using.

    It's just all super smooth and easy once you get used to it.

    1. Careful. The last time I proposed to use Photoshop, somebody yelled at me ! =p
      (Well, that was on the previous post, if you want to know ...)

  4. Well, you can also rebind keys. I think the default is ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+K, on CS5 at least. So...if he really wanted he could just set it to GM mode.
    Admittedly, it can be weird to make it work right with pixel art if you haven't done it before, but it does have the layers and key-rebindings and whatnot.

  5. Aseprite?

    1. I use this. It's my alternative when I'm not using GM Sprite Editor. Specifically version 0.9.5 (free). Hotkeys are similar to Photoshop (M for selection, B for pencil). You have rotate, resize/scale for transform, as well as layers (up, down keys to switch layers) and frames (left, right keys to switch frames). Selecting the palette UI is a little different too, but once you picked the colours and load your sprite the next time, your palette will be populated with just the sprite colours.

      *I don't use aseprite extensively so I might be missing out on the more advanced stuff.

  6. Replies
    1. Sorry if replying in the wrong place. I'm an idiot and I don't know what I'm doing.

      In graphics Gale there is an option to turn off right click rectangle. I also hate it so that is why I turned it off.

      Turn off all the warning messages you get for adding, duplicating, and deleting frames. Same for layers. This will allow you to move quicker and not have to press okay all the time. Options available in preferences. Set up a shortcut key for adding a frame and deleting frames. Mine are 9 for adding to right side and 0 for deleting frame.

      For color changing you must be in 256 palette mode. This will allow you to slide your colors around in real time. What I do is I pick very basic colors in RGB 24 bit mode and then I switch to 256 mode and edit them there. I am a horrible color picker but I am good at visually seeing the differences between colors and choosing what I want.

      For an eraser pick a secondary background color and use a shortcut key to switch your foreground and background color. I personally just select the immediate background color or I hit the shortcut key for the transparent color when shit gets too messy. You can set up all these short cut keys in the preferences. (It's better to just set a shortcut key to select your transparent color I've found.)

      Setting transparency for the frame will set transparency for the gif. Setting it on the layer doesn't do that. In fact I think if you save it on the layer and on the frame it conflicts.

      Setting transparency on the layer will allow you to move selected objects without selecting and moving the background.

      Don't use any of the optimization save features for gif.

      In the frame settings make sure your disposal is set to fill with background color. If it is set to no disposal your frames will overlap in animation.

      Always save your source as .gal This is just in case you forget to set fill with background color and you save as a gif. Doing that will overlay your frames on top of each other and will destroy your animation.

      80 milliseconds is considered on 2s in the industry ( 12.5 frames per second) in the industry. It's impossible to get 12 frames a second converting with milliseconds. 40 milliseconds is considered on 1s (25 frames per second)

      For organizational purposes its a good idea to only use 1's or 2's. (You can use any speed you want per frame but it will get messy and confusing)

      In 24bit RGB mode you can use the color selector(blue oval thing) and select the outside of a sprite. Then go to edit > invert selection. This will select only your sprite (provided its the only thing on the layer) Use adjust color to play around with the colors before converting to 256 color mode.

      Feel free to switch back and forth from 256 to 24bit RGB in order to adjust your colors. It's a pain in the ass to change the colors of a palette base. The lights, mids, darks, etc. Use color select and hold shift to only select that range of colors then use adjust color in 24bit mode. This will allow you to change a range of colors at one time.

      Use the preview window to keep your animation at 1x or 2x. This will allow you to have context while you edit at 1000x zoom in the main window.

      I have more tips but this is just what I can remember off hand.

    2. I appreciate all of the advice, however I ended up going with Aseprite. It generally worked the way I wanted it to as soon as I assigned hotkeys. Even with the options you mentioned, there are a few things about GG that would make it inherently slower to work with given what I'm doing, and how I'm animating.

    3. Cool man! Aseprite is pretty good but it's not quite up to par yet. It is getting there though. Glad you found a new program that works for you!

    4. So far the only things that have really annoyed me have been that the color window has a bad set of sliders, when rotating stuff you can't assign a permanent pivot point, and when doing a box select, the icons get in the way. Other than that, I'd say it's far more user friendly than GG, which for my workflow basically just can't work -__-

      Out of curiosity, what is it about your workflow that makes GG better for you than Aesprite? Obviously not everyone works the same way, so I'd be interested to hear what GG has that's essential for you, or makes you work more efficiently.

    5. I'm not sure what you mean by bad set of sliders.

      Anyway the work flow for when I use GG works well because I know everything the program can and can't do. I've also used Aseprite extensively but I found that I could do some things with GG that it could not do. (moving the position of multiple frames.) In Graphics Gale I use All Frames > Scroll a lot. Another issue I have with aseprite is the palette system. In my work flow I start out in 24 bit RGB and then after I have all my temp colors chosen I switch over to 256 color mode and just color slide all the temps and make them what I want. Aseprite wasn't set up like that. For me it was very confusing when switching from RGB to 256. I'm also not a fan of the mask feature and I had a hell of a time figuring out how to put transparency on and have it save properly. I ran into a lot of issues. Maybe they are fixed by now.

      Anyway the tools for GG are set up in a way where they are all on screen at once. Unfortunately there is a lot of quick shortcuts that need to be used when using aseprite. While the interface is gorgeous and clean it's too simplified I think. I do lot the implementation of Rotsprite though.

      In the end it's not so much a workflow as it is I've used the program for 10+ years. However, I check up on Aseprite quite frequently to see if I'm ready to switch.

      However again, Pro-Motion is a much stronger tool(much harder to learn) but when it comes to animation you can't beat animated brushes that you can pick up and put down whereever. You can even jump between frames of the animated brush using hot keys. The animated brushes allow you to offset animation easily.(neither GG or Aseprite have this feature, last I checked) You can offset one running leg animation and make it the back leg, same for arms, head rotation, etc etc. I've used it a bunch and it saves a lot of time and allows for quicker experimentation. Instead of animating boobs pre-offset (for example) you would just have to animate them going with the flow of the body (bounce wise) and then in order to get them move correctly you would select the boobs using the animated brush selector and it will pick up the whole animation. You then can step through the brushes frames and then paste down again but this time you can offset the boobs bounce by 1, 2, 3 or however many frames you want. You can also save animated brushes into a container for later use.

      If you can, try and check out that feature in pro motion.

      Ultimately if you are comfortable with Aseprite and can do your art/work stick with it. I know it's getting better all the time. Although I will just say don't be loyal to any one program. Learn them all.

      Love your work btw!

    6. By a bad set of sliders, I mean that the sliders aren't that good for choosing colors, at least for me. In the tutorial on the top bar, I go over how I choose colors, and the ability to "see" the color you're picking is pretty important to me, whereas with AE's sliders it's more like you have to "find" it, with less indication as to where the color is in relation to everything else.

      As for offset, I suppose the main benefit of doing things the hard way for so long (no layers) is that I generally know what I have to do from the start. I don't have to experiment much anymore. I suppose it would be like if you drew on paper without an eraser for a long time; Chances are you would be cleaner out of necessity.

      For me, hotkeys are essential. Any time I spend in menus is wasted time. With ProMotion, it has the same problem as GG, were certain tools can't be assigned to one key, so it's too slow for me -__-

    7. Here is a sample of how I change colors using graphics gale. Just so we are on the same page. Is this how you were trying it? Just curious.

      Anyway I won't waste your time anymore :D Looking forward to seeing more of your stuff.

    8. Nah, I don't change color after the initial frame is done. I choose all my colors in the beginning, while I'm drawing it, and I switch to other colors using the eyedropper, not a palette. This is the kind of window I prefer, since it gives me visual indication as to where colors are in relation to each other.

      Choosing colors in GG is a little slow because after you double click on a color in the palette to change it, it's not selected. One extra click then it needs. You also can't change a color you're using with the same window, only with sliders.

      In AE, I don't like it because it only has sliders, and I don't think it's as good for choosing colors, but that's just preference.

  7. I am not so sure these maybe of use to you, but: liked best for quick work

    I liked pyxeledit!

  8. Its too bad, I was waiting for a game posting...

  9. Have you tried MS paint? I hear its amazing!

  10. HI, sorry if I sound naggy, but did noaika get moved, I havent seen many posts mentioning it for a while :)

    1. Moved? I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean did I move it to a different blog?

      If so, no. I'm still working on it, but I just don't like showing off content since I want people to encounter stuff naturally, and without any preconceptions. However, I do plan on showing off some screenshots soon, since I haven't shown anything in a long time.

  11. Did you try Spriter from BrashMonkey?

  12. Cosmigo promotion , I used that for making sprites can animate with color pallet