Posted by: Ocean's Dream | February 11, 2009

Test animations with Character Maker

Character Maker doesn’t create animations for you. I think it makes it really easy to test out your animations for you. I know other programs have onion skinning which is helpful too, this program does not.

First, what you want to do is save all of your frames in one PNG or BMP. I use PNG because it saves space. Remember the character size tutorial? If you don’t then maybe I didn’t write it in the first place, but I think I did. So, make the character size so that each frame fits in that selection. I’ll post this sprite I did a while ago as an example:


Each frame is 64×80 pixels. Go ahead and download this to try. Open this in Character Maker, then set the Character size to 64×80. Right click each of the 3 frames. You’ll see both the editting window and the small previous box change according to which frame you right clicked.

If they were not aligned correctly, when you right click a frame, you would notice that it’s not correct. It may jump over too far, be moved a pixel to the side when it shouldn’t be, and things like that. That’s when you would have to edit the frame.

What I wanted for this animation is for it to start on the 1st frame, go to the 2nd frame, then the 3rd frame, then back to the 2nd frame. If you cycle that, then it will loop from 1 to 3 and back to 1. You would have to check what program you are using to see what animation cycles they use and how many frames you’re allowed.

Now, if you don’t feel like right clicking to test the animation, there is a tool you can use. Before you do that though, right click, hold, and drag it out until ALL of the sprite frames are selected. If you are still using the bird sprites, make sure that the red and yellow marching ants are around all 3 frames. Click the running guy on the toolbar.

Then, you should get this:


Yeah great Ocean, it’s all weird, what do I do?

See the bird sprites on the top part? Left click it to add it to the animation cycle. You’ll see the X=0 Y=0 line appear on the side. If you clicked more than once, you can just click the line and press delete to get rid of it. The 200 ms is milliseconds I assume, but it’s the passing of time from one frame to the next. You can change it, I usually keep it at 200 ms.

So go ahead and complete the animation cycle. It starts from the 1st bird sprite, to the 2nd, to the 3rd, and ends at the 2nd. If done correctly, it should look like this:


I’ll explain whatever’s left of this before I stop. The (X=0, Y=0) part refers to the frames position on the top bar. Doesn’t matter where in the document you got it, and it’s not going to “place” it anywhere afterwards. So if there were a second row, the Y there would be 1. That’s really all it means.

“Delete all” just removes all the lines there, good if you did too much. Save turn will save each frame individually to a folder. I’m pretty sure the “File->Set backup folder” is where you can set where they save to.

OK, please let me know if you have any questions on this.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | February 4, 2009

Representing curves in front view

Various types of curves. I find it best to use light rather than just shape to show it. When you want something to pop out, make it bright. When you want it to go in the background, make it dark, generally. So the parts closest to you are light. For this, I’m showing the front views of the curves, and you can see the side and where the person is viewing it on the right of the tiles.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | January 29, 2009

Character Maker tutorial part IV

This is probably one of the most useful things for me and the biggest reason why I use Character Maker over just any pixel tool.

When you open up a file, you’ll see something that looks like this above your mouse cursor:


See the red and yellow marching ants? This box shows the area that will be selected.

Now, to use it, you have to be in the area where your image is. The frame that is to the left of the arrows we went over last time is the edit box, and the small one that is above the toolbars is the preview box. You cannot do anything to the preview box, it just shows you the changes, good if you don’t want to zoom out to see.

The big area to the right of the arrows is where your images will be. There is where the red and yellow marching ants selection will show up. Simply right click on a portion of the image and you’ll see it in the edit box. Then, when you’re done editting that part of the image in the edit box, go to the image where it belongs and left click it.

This makes copying something extremely easy. If you have an image you want to copy over, first right click it. Then left click it to the other places you want to have it. Simple as that. No need to press Control C and Control V, just keep left clicking.

You can also select a bigger area. Right click, hold and drag it out. If you plan to use the animation tool, then be sure to try this out!

To modify the size of this selection, go to Character size tool:

In there, you will see this:

The top 2 values determine the width and height of the red and yellow marching ants box. This is really useful. Instead of just setting a grid, you can set each sprite or frame to a certain value. So if you’re working on a tileset with 32×32 tiles, just set the top values to 32×32 and you don’t ever have to worry about aligning stuff. If you’re working on sprites for RPG Maker 2k3, you could do 24×32.

“The number of steps” values subdivide the edit box. Something like half or a quarter of what you set the top 2 values to is a good idea. These lines will only show up when you put the subgrid tool on.

Now, for the options. I never really use them but you can if you want.

*Based on the usual 2 Double:

-Odd wording, but basically it just doubles the size of your image and your selection.

*In the Half-Chara unit, cursor:

-The mouse cursor appears on the top left of the red and yellow marching ants box. It’s generally fixed there instead of being more freeform like it normally is.

*A mouse cursor isn’t cha:

-Basically, instead of seeing the tool you’re working with in the edit box, you just see the mouse cursor. I don’t see any benefit to this at all but maybe if you love your mouse cursor it could be okay.

That is it for now, I will go over the animation tool next. If possible, try to get a spritesheet (or make one) that has a bunch of animation frames, we’ll be using that.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | January 28, 2009

Summon Night tutorial

Here is how you make a grass tile in Summon Night style!


*fills a 16×16 tile with green*


Posted by: Ocean's Dream | January 25, 2009

Character Maker tutorial part III

Time for part III. This time, going over the toolbar to the right.


This is how it should look like. The space here is for you to actually work on and edit the picture. To the right is the toolbar that we’ll focus on.


Movement Arrows

These arrows here are for moving an image in that direction. It moves one pixel in that direction. When a part of an image is at the edges, it will wrap around. So if you have some pixels at the very left, then you move the image left again, those pixels end up at the very right. They won’t disappear, so feel free to play around with this. Example:


If you use the rectangle selection, the arrows will move the part of the image within that selection. So if you only select the head and use the left arrow tool (I used it 3 or 4 times for this example):


So it’ll do that for whatever direction you pick. It could be helpful for animating a waterfall for example, or aligning stuff.


Vertical/Horizontal flip

These are the Double arrows. Do they first move your image up a pixel then down one? Of course not, that’d be silly. I’d also consider it awesome if it did merely because it’d be hilarious. But anyway, these are the Vertical and Horizontal flip tools.

Here is the vertical flip tool in action:


And here is the horizontal one. Had to make a new example sprite because it’s hard to tell when something is symmetrical:


I find these pretty useful tools, particularly when doing auto-tiles. You can also use rectangle selection and then horizontal/vertical flip the selection only instead. Time saver when you’re doing old school 16×16 sprites.


Vertical/Horizontal Mirror

These arrows are odd looking. But anyway, these are interesting tools. They will basically mirror an image for you. They could potential save you a bunch of time… or at least save you a copy/paste and flip. As with the last tool, it comes with a Vertical and Horizontal version.

For the vertical, it will copy the top half of the image or selection, then mirror it on the bottom half. Example:


It replaces the bottom half with the flipped version of the top half. Note that it will not copy the bottom half and mirror it on top, so if you want that, use the vertical flip tool first before using this.

The horizontal is the same principle, but it will copy the left half of the image and mirror it on the right half. Example:


Most of the spear point was on the right side, but it mirrors the left side now instead.  Easy way to make something symmetrical. Or just make half of your image, use this tool and the other half is done.


Rotate 90 degrees clockwise/counterclockwise

These rotate your image. The top one rotates it clockwise, the bottom one rotates your image counterclockwise. Press either of them 4 times and you’re back where you started.





It’s not the same as doing horizontal/vertical flip. If you want, you could test it with these arrow sprites above.


Rotate by a specified amount

This one doesn’t rotate by 90 degrees like the previous tool does. You can put in the value for how much you want to rotate it. Negative values makes it go counterclockwise.


This is what resulted when I put -45 degree rotation. The safe choices to use are 90 degrees, 180 degrees (2 clicks of the previous tool), and 270 degrees (3 clicks) . Negative values of those are fine too. This tool is pretty destructive on any other values so you would generally have to do some editting to restore it. Sometimes it’s faster to just redraw it, but you may think it’s fine and just needs some cleaning up.



This resizes the particular section or selection you’re working on. When you click on it, you’ll see how big the selection is currently. Scaling sprites up proportionately tends to give the best results.


It started at 16×16. I put 32×32 for the height and width and put that next to the 16×16. I then resized it to 64×64 and put that to the right.


This is what happens when I don’t scale them both up proportionately. I did 32×16 for the first, and 16×32 for the second. You don’t always need to scale proportionately, it depends on what you’re working on. A flat one color area isn’t going to be hurt by rescaling it in a different way for example.

OK, that’s it for today. Next time I’ll go over the Character Size tool a bit more, and how it could help you greatly when working on tiles.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | January 15, 2009

Character Maker 1999 part II

This is the leftmost toolbar you’ll see in Character Maker. Above it is a small preview. Unlike the box to the right of it, you can’t modify the preview. So I’ll go over what the tools do. Most should be pretty straightforward, but you may come to like some of them.
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Rectangle selection. So you drag the area you want to select, like how it is in MS Paint, Photoshop, and any other program.

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Magnifying glass. Zooms up to the next level, maximum of 12x. Since the zooms (covered last time) are on top anyway, I don’t really use this. You can right click to zoom away to 1x.
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Paint bucket tool. Like MS Paint, it fills in an area. Very useful tool, but I’m sure everyone’s used it at least once. Nothing different about this until we get to the dithering section, but then the dithering rules apply to every tool after this as well.

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Pencil tool. Since we’re working with pixel art, we’ll use this. It has a thickness of one pixel. Use it and love it. You cannot change the thickness of it or anything.

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The BIG pencil tool. This is a 4×4 pixel pencil. So if you need to fill in bigger areas but don’t need paint bucket, then here you go.

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The Line tool. It has a thickness of 1 pixel and that can’t be changed. Nothing special, it just makes lines.

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The shape tool. This makes an outline of a square, rounded rectangle or circle. You may be using these pretty often, but again nothing special about them really.

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The filled shape tool. This is like the above, but fills the whole area with the foreground color instead of just an outline. These along with the paint bucket tool are good to use the dithering effects on.

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These are the dithering effects I’ve been talking about. The different options are listed on the left side of this image, and the results are shown on the right of it. What I did was made a flat red square. Then I took the filled rectangle tool, and clicked the dithering tool. Then when I put a blue square on it, the effects apply to that tool. This can be an easy way to dither something, but don’t go overboard! Dithering != Make better. Especially for small character sprites, they rarely need dithering. These are not the only ways to dither either.

This is the last thing for today. This shows the foreground and background colors you have chosen. When you go to the palette, if you left click a color, that is the foreground color. If you right click a color, that is the background color. The number inside shows which number it is in the palette. The palette can have up to 256 colors. It is a good idea for RPG Maker resources to have the transparent color be the first color in the palette (The number will be 0, not 1). While you can only use the foreground color while drawing, the background color is used for if you want the background to be transparent when you copy it. I will go over this more when we get to the transparent background tool.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | January 11, 2009

Character Maker 1999 tutorial

Sorry for going so long without an update. I will now go over using Character Maker 1999. I doubt I’ll do this for other programs, but I may at least go over how to set up a grid in some.

*Note: This is based off of the Character Maker you can download here at the Pixel art programs link to the right.*

I’ll go over the basics and the toolbar for today.

Character Maker doesn’t require any installation. All it asks you for is to register it, and this version of Character Maker doesn’t really require a correct code.

The words are cut off here a bit, I guess it depends on the version. As you see here, it says “Don’t bother with this edit box”. Listen to what it says and don’t bother with it, those letters and box below it are to be ignored. Instead, follow the red arrow to the left.

This popup will appear. It gives you 2 fields. I usually put AAAA for both fields, but it doesn’t really matter. Then, press the button, and go to the middle button in the first window. It should never ask you to do this again.

This is how the program should look like now:

I opened up an existing image that had that palette, you’re given a default 256 color palette when you go make a new document. More on this in another tutorial.

This is the toolbar below the File menus. Nearly everything that is in the file menu above it is represented by an icon, so I won’t go over that. Here are what the icons stand for:

New document, Open, and Save. Control N for new, Control O for Open and Control S for Save work as well.

Undo and Redo buttons. Control Z for Undo as well.

Cut, Copy, and Paste. Otherwise known as Control X, Control C, and Control V. These buttons and the ones before I never really use because the keyboard commands are the same as they are in other programs.

This icon is all by its lonesome. This is the text tool like in Paint and Photoshop. Just write out what you want and it will add the text. There aren’t many options for it, but it’s a pixel program, not a document editor. To pick the color, go to the palette on the bottom. The orange box over the color will be the text color, the blue box over the color will be the background color. Right click on a palette color to make that the background (blue box) color, Left click to make a color the foreground (orange box) color. Here is an example to show you what I mean:

In this example, the grey color will be the text color, the green will be the background color. More on palettes another time.

This is the Character size tool. This would require a bit of explanation too, so I will leave the specifics to a later tutorial. However, this is my favorite tool of Character Maker and the reason why I use it over other programs. There will always be a square/rectangle selection box (with red/yellow marching ants) around your mouse cursor, and this tool determines the size of that selection box. So, if you’re working with 16×16 tiles, set the Character Size to 16×16 and you never have to worry about if things aren’t aligned properly.

Main grid. I never really use this one, but what it does is grid off each pixel. I prefer the subgrid myself.

Subgrid. This is pretty neat. The Character size already acts as a sort of grid, this one subdivides the preview area you see in the top left corner. You can specify how many pixels you want it to grid, so you could have a 8×8 grid for example. It’s pretty helpful for positioning things correctly and tiling. The odd thing is that you have to set the subgrid size in the same tool as the Character size, this tool only turns it on or off.

I didn’t feel like posting all of them, but these until x12 are the zoom levels. Unfortunately 12x is the most you can zoom (30x would be my preference). I usually work at x12, then go to x1 or x2 to take a look.

This little running guy is for animation. Again, I want to leave this for another tutorial, but it’s helpful if you’re doing things like animated sprites. You can set the frames, frame order, and the frame delay there.

This is to resize the image. You can specify the height and width in pixels that you want the image to be. If you leave “In accordance with canvas” unchecked, then resizing is either going to add white space if it’s bigger than the original or crop the image if it’s smaller. If you check “In accordance with canvas”, then resizing will resize the whole image too. They both have their uses, just remember about that “In accordance with canvas”, so you don’t have it unchecked or checked if you don’t want that.

The last icon is for help. I’m not sure if the help option is even available, quite honestly. I will continue next time with the tool box to the left of the preview window.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | December 6, 2008

Skyscraper, Part I

OK, I was requested to do a Skyscraper and I had some free time today.

Here’s a step by step of the individual parts I used. Just because a building or something is big, doesn’t mean it necessarily takes up a lot of tiles or shading to do.

I mapped out the skyscraper at each step so I can see how it’d look.

I’m not quite done, as I have to leave now. I’ll continue working on this one tonight.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | November 10, 2008

Floor/Wall lighting

This tutorial is by Dajhail

Walls and floors are no different to the other objects you’re putting in the level.
The tops of boxes (green) have the highlight at the bottom, so the floor tiles will be the same.

The green boxes look 3D because the top is lighter than the front. Adding the edges makes it look more 3D. This applies most to RPG perspective since it is top down. Here is another example of this, from Seiken Densetsu 3 (sorry for jpg):

Look at the counter at the Inn. The top is noticeably brighter than the front. Check out the bed too. Specifically, the wooden part. The front of it is dark, the top of the wooden part is bright.
The walls are also an object, and follow the same rules. The floor is lighter, the walls are darker, generally speaking. That’s what makes it look 3D. Shadows can help too, if you can pull it off. It is not necessary, and many early games did not rely on shadows for it.

Posted by: Ocean's Dream | October 21, 2008

Tower walls

Here’s what I was working on today. Thanks to Dajhail for a lot of the tips here.

First, I’ll start with the bricks. I’m fairly sure I did a tutorial on this already but no harm in doing it again.

I personally like to make each brick be perfectly aligned and all the same size. You could certainly vary it, and could make for an interesting effect. I would at least start with a grid. Since the tile is usually either 16×16 or 32×32, a multiple of 4 would be good. It could be 4 pixels in height and 8 in width, which could work. Don’t outline the whole brick, since it tiles, you only need to outline part of it. The bottom and right sides should do it. Include the outlines in the brick size, so the 4 pixel height should include that bottom outline. Similarly, the 8 pixel width should include the right outline. When you get to shading, putting a highlight on top helps it look like it sticks out.

When doing the sides of the tower, this is a simple way to do it. Make a circle as the base. What I did is make a circle that fit a 32×16 area if you’re working with 16×16. Double those values if you’re doing 32×32. Then, copy that circle 16 (or 32) pixels above. I then chop off the top of the circles, and connect the sides by a line. Move it up 4 pixels (It should correspond with the height of your bricks), then copy and paste. Make sure the background is transparent. You’ll see in the image how this works.

Then, I placed them next to the middle tile so I can test it. Since it looks okay, I’ll continue the bricks that were cut off due to tiling. For the sides, remember that it goes back, and the furthur away something is, the darker it will appear. I use a dark purple for this. I decided to make the left side of the tower brighter and the right side have some ambient lighting on it. So I used more of the highlight on the left side, and used blue on the right side. If you have some bright torch light at night, you may want to use a bright orange for that, for example.

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