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Rigging the GIMP for Pixel Art

theSamo's picture

Rigging The Gimp for Pixel Art.

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the SDI.

Lately, I've wanted to use the GIMP to make some pixel art (I'm no pixel artist...). A common answer to "Best Pixel Artist tool" is MS-Paint perhaps because of its minimalism and speed (no bloat). Windows people tend to also use GraphicsGale (japanese commercial software) and Photoshop. the Mac people mostly use Pixen (an open-source solution) if not Photoshop. Of course, Pixels are the fundamental of computer graphics so every image manipulator out there should supposedly do the job.. but would it be on a very basic level (e.g. Paint) or a much specialzed one (e.g. Pixen).

The Gimp can be equally powerful to all these tools with some tweaking (any expert GIMP user propably knows that stuff already). I also cover many things that are helpful when using GIMP for anything. So here is the beef:

The Windows

  • The Toolbox: This shouldn't take more then a quarter horizontally of your screen. Pin it (i.e. make it Always on Top). I use the On Top window option in GNOME. I suppose you'd have at least one tab in the toolbox window. Make sure to have at least Tool Options.
  • The Main window: This is where all the magic happens. Should take up the rest of your screen. Here you will be editing at a 600X zoom or more. so you need a preview window.
  • The preview window: from "View" choose "New View". A new clone window shows up. In this new window disable all the bars and rulers from "View". then Resize it to smallest possible size and make it On Top if you want.

The Pencil

Use the Circle(1x1) one-pixel Pencil. GIMP allows you to create your own if you want custom Square sizes. Shortcut (N).

The Eraser

Use 1x1 or custom sizes. Shortcut (Shift+E).

The Palette

Now that's an important tool for the pixel artist. You can use the Colourmap Tab for that. It automatically shows all colours that you used and you can add to it colours you didn't even use yet from the FG colour. I believe this only works if you're using Indexed mode on an indexed format (GIF, PNG).

Extra Tabs

Layers: I have that as an Extra tab in the Toolbox. Shortcut (Ctrl+L)

Colormap: Explained above, it is used as the palette.

More Useful Shortcuts

X : swaps FG and BG colours.
+ : Zoom In
- : Zoom out

Screenshot to sum it all up

Gimp Pixel art
The Sprite i'm editing here is Copyrighted to SNK from their Metal Slug series.

Guides to Pixel Art



Dr. Radut | book