Adobe Photoshop 8-bit Graphic Tutorial

Since I grew up in the generation of old school video games, I thought I’d do a tutorial on how to make your illustrations look like those classic 8-bit graphics.



Step 1:  I start with my illustration that I drew. My file is about 3″ x 5″ and 300 dpi. Notice, I made my lines really thick and it doesn’t have a lot of details.





Step 2:  First, I want to convert my illustration into a bitmap. Go to Image > Mode > Bitmap. Unfortunately, that option is grayed out. Since my illustration is in RGB currently, I have to convert it to Grayscale first (Image > Mode > Grayscale).


Step 3:  Now, go back to Image > Mode and convert it to a bitmap.

A dialogue box will pop up. I want my illustration really blocky, so I pick a low number of 20 for the output.





Step 4:  My 8-bit graphic is starting to come together now. The eyes look a little weird though, so I delete a few of the black pixels around them to make a cleaner shape.





Step 5:  Next, let’s add some color. First, I need to convert the file back to RGB. Unfortunately, I have to convert it to Grayscale first (Image > Mode > Grayscale).

A dialogue box pops up asking for a size ratio. I chose 1 to keep the proportions the same.

After you convert the file to grayscale, go back to Image > Mode and convert it to RGB.


Step 6:  Before you add color, you need to make sure the settings for your Paint Bucket are correct. Select the Paint Bucket from the toolbar, then uncheck the Anti-alias check box in its options. This will restrict your fills to a precise color.



Step 7:  Now, fill in the colors with the Paint Bucket. I also added in a drop shadow, highlights and shadows by selecting areas to fill.

You may notice that when you fill areas that you select, you still get a feathered selection that causes you to get different fill colors. You can try setting your selection to a 0 pixel feather, but you may still get some feathering.

We are about to fix that.





Step 8:  Time to fix the colors. I start by opening a new RGB document (File > New). On it I draw little swatches of all the colors I want to use.




Step 9:  Now, I go to Image > Mode > Index Color.

A dialogue box pops up, and I don’t want any of the extra options. Just the exact 8 colors that I’ve chosen.




Step 10:  Now, choose Custom from the Palette drop down menu. Another box pops up showing the colors you have chosen. Click Save and name the file.



Step 11:  Go back to your graphic file and convert it to index colors as well (Image > Mode > Index Color). Go back to Custom and Load the custom palette you just saved. Click OK on both pop ups.

You can double check the Layer palette to make sure it converted.




Step 12:  Finally, you will probably need to adjust the size, since the bitmap conversion made a pretty small file. Go to Image > Image Size and increase the size.

Now, save the file and you are done.






Step Finished:  Here is the final file. Hopefully, this helps you create your own 8-bit style graphics.

Also, I made a vector version of this that is for sale on the site here.

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