Using 3d models as pixel art reference

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One cool trick for making complex animations in pixel art, specially when it involves rotating or complex perspective is to use blender or other simple 3d tool to mock it up first. Alt text

Let’s start with a use case, I wanted to create a simple café sign that rotates, this was my initial sketch: Alt text

First I tried rotating it by manually drawing it in all directions and that was both very hard and exhaustive. So, I decided that I needed a 3D reference, so this is what I did: Alt text

I roughly modelled this 3D shape in Blender and used ShareX to record the screen while I rotated the model with my mouse, I really didn’t need anything fancier than that.

Then I went to Aseprite, reduced the size and the colour palette. And here how that looks like: Alt text

It’s horrible, I know, but again, that’s not important, since we will just redraw the whole thing. First I remove most of the frames and choose only 32 for the rotation, I even mirror half of them so we can get them perfectly rotating.

Time to draw! After this I went on and just drew everything on another layer.

It’s a long process, but it’s quite intuitive, it’s just a lot of work. This is how it looks like in the end, after tweaking the timing: Alt text

And here it is in the game: Alt text

My main takeaway is that when blocking things for reference, don’t waste too much time, you will drastically reduce the resolution and colour count anyway, just focus on the important part, the perspective!