Creating pixel art is a skill I picked up because I needed graphics for my games. After a lot of practice, I became rather handy with it, and started to see it more as "real" art rather than just a tool. These days, pixel art is quite popular for gaming and illustration. You can even find it in print magazines, like Wired and Electronic Gaming Monthly! This pixel tutorial was created many years ago to teach people the basic concepts behind pixel art, but I've streamlined it a lot since its first incarnation. There are other pixel tutorials around, but I find them to be overly complicated and too wordy. Pixel art is not a science. You will never have to calculate a vector when doing pixel art. In this 10-step tutorial, I'll teach you how to create a "sprite", which is a stand-alone two-dimensional character or object. The term comes from video games, of course.
PART ONE: TOOLS
One of the nice things about pixel art is that you don't really need any fancy tools - your computer's built-in paint program is probably good enough! That said, there are programs made specifically for pixel pushing, like Pro Motion, or, for Mac users, Pixen. Can't say I've actually tried them, but I've heard good things.
For this tutorial, I'm going to use Photoshop, which is an expensive beast, but it's good for all kinds of art and it's numerous features are pretty useful for pixelling.
Using Photoshop for Pixel Art
When using Photoshop, your main weapon is going to be the pencil tool (shortcut "B"), which is the alternate for the brush tool. The pencil lets you color individual pixels, without any anti-aliasing.
Two other tools that will come in handy are the marquee tool (shortcut "M") and the magic wand (shortcut "W") for selecting and dragging or copying and pasting. Remember that by holding "Shift" or "Alt" while you make your selection you can add or subtract from your current selection. This comes in handy when trying to grab areas that aren't perfectly square.
You'll also use the eyedropper (shortcut "I") to grab colors. Color conservation is important in pixel art for a number of reasons, so you will want to grab the same colors and reuse them.
Finally, make sure you learn the shortcuts. They can save you a lot of time and energy. A good one to know is "X", which switches your primary and secondary colors.