- I did this in about 15 minutes worth of work.
- Tools: Paint.NET, and a 16×16 canvas, displayed at max zoom (3200%). Pixels were input using the Pencil, using the trackpad of my laptop. Nothing fancy at all!
- After I felt satisfied with my work, I created an enlarged version at 512x512px, to make it a little easier to see.
- I used a total of five colors: Yellow, blue, red, pink, black.
- I started out just drawing a stick man in black. Once I had a basic figure, I started coloring in pants, picked blue for blue jeans, but then decided that the blue looked like a good Superman blue, so I decided to turn it into Superman.
- Originally the drawing was more symmetrical, and seemed to be facing you. I shifted the neck over to the left one pixel, and (later, when I got to it) drew the S-shield off-center. Because the body is only 3px wide, I found it was especially important to allow myself to not be constrained by symmetry. Right-facing Superman hints at a three-dimensional appearance, as though we’re viewing him in 3/4 profile. It’s a tiny, but crucial detail, and shows just how little is needed to suggest dimension.
- After deciding to turn the figure into Superman, I picked a red for the waist.
- I drew the cape last. Since it uses the same red as the waist, I had a little bit of a problem where the cape touched the waist, causing them to blend together and the shapes became lost. To fix this, I added hands at the end of the arms — the left hand provides separation between the cape and the waist. Originally I was just going to leave the arms all blue, and not worry about hands, but having them proved very, er, handy, and enabled me to solve this problem.
- Superman normally has red boots. I didn’t think they were necessary, and so didn’t bother to draw them. Just to test my guess, I tried making the bottom two pixels of each leg the same red as the cape and waist. I didn’t like it. I think keeping the legs a solid unit is more important than adding in the “detail” of the red boots.
- Use this basic figure as the basis of other superheroes and see how many I can pull off in the 16×16 format.
- Create animations for this figure, using as few frames as possible, to convey actions like: jumping, running, flight, fighting.
You might think that is as minimal as you can get and still have a recognizable superman, but in fact you’d be wrong. One of my favorite Atari 2600 games was an inspiration to the drawing above. Here’s a sprite of Superman in flight (enlarged) that I swiped from Google image search. This is also just 16x10px… but…
Just three colors: Pink, blue, red. No hair, no S-shield, yet still you can tell who it is. A masterpiece of minimalism.