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  2. Pixel Art

Create an Isometric Pixel Art House in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Isometric Pixel Art.
Create an Isometric Pixel Art Character in Adobe Photoshop
Dress Up for Halloween With Isometric Pixel Art in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

You've made an isometric pixel art character, but where could that character live? It's time to make a home for it!

Much like with Lego sets, buildings are almost the whole point of isometric pixel art. Creating them might take some time, but should be enjoyable!

If you haven't gone through the Isometric Pixel Art Character tutorial then you'd better check that out first; we'll be using the character from that lesson and skipping the Photoshop tips already covered.

1. Dimensions

Step 1

We'll have to figure out how to size the elements for our building. There's no need to get too technical about it (our character isn't that realistically proportioned). We'll simply use the character as a sort of yardstick and decide for ourselves how high we want doors, windows and roofs to be, to keep consistent environment dimensions.

So here's where we left off:

Now let's take our character and define some of the heights.

In a new layer let's make a "wall" of 2:1 lines, each line 4px above the previous (also seen as three blank pixels between each line). If we only choose heights that match these lines, it will make adding textures, like brick or wood, more aesthetically pleasing later on.

Step 2

Here are the heights I chose for the doorway and also for the ceiling and second floor. Even though we won't see a ceiling and second floor, defining these lines is usually helpful.

Let's keep growing our structure, but not by much! Unless you want to do a cut-away view to the interior of the building, it's best to make the building just large enough to convey the idea of it being a regular house. This way we can fit more elements into less space, which is useful in a more complex city scene, and anyway it's preferable to leave out whatever's unnecessary or redundant. In life and in pixel art.

Step 3

We'll give the floor plan an L shape to add complexity to it; the house will look nicer for it, and we'll get to explore more geometry.

So we only need to grow the structure in one direction for now. Here it is with added length to the right of the door: 40px from the doorway's edge to the new corner.

There's room there for one or maybe two windows. We'll get to that later.

Step 4

Now let's select a section of those lines, Alt-nudge (or Copy/Paste) and Flip Horizontal and then place it as the right facing wall, then extend these lines until they're 50px wide:

Step 5

Now select the whole left facing wall plus 10px of the right facing wall (selection should total 60px wide), Alt-nudge and Flip Horizontal, then place on the other edge to make our L:

We're just missing the back lines to complete the L, but we only need to do those with the top level lines:

Now let's close the shapes and fill them with color the same way we did the cube in the previous lesson. Leave the markers for the door, and delete the marker for the ceiling.

Step 6

You can go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation to easily check out multiple color options and find one you like. Go with earthy tones if you want to make a brick house, or any color if you prefer a wood board texture or solid untextured walls.

I marked with red something we didn't encounter before: a "valley" corner. All the corners on the cube were "peak" corners, and lighter colors work well for those. But for "valley" corners, lighter colors don't make sense, and black can be too harsh, so the best way to do them is with a 10% or 15% darker shade of the darkest wall color:

Looks like we got some of the main shapes down, but we're still missing something quite important and slightly more complicated.

2. Angles

Step 1

Our character doesn't yet have a roof over its head. Time to cover that.

Create a New Layer and in it make a flat L shape, right over the top surface L. But it should be broader, as roofs generally are broader than the houses' footprint. So these new lines should leave a line of blank pixels between the black lines and two lines of blank pixels between the lighter corners:

The new lines will be the bottom part of the roof.

Step 2

Create a New Layer and draw some vertical lines from these two corners of the L:

(The rightmost line seems not to be exactly on the corner, but it's because I prefer getting rid of that pixel when finishing the shapes… as we did with the cube and the L.)

Step 3

Now find a spot right in between those two lines to add a third line. You can measure with the selection tool or you can nudge a selection and count the distance as you move it using the arrow keys (remember: nudging while holding down Shift moves the selection 10px at a time)

Now we know where the lines will have to meet to make the top roof corner. We just have to do the lines. You can try as many angles as you like, but I would recommend the only two that avoid jagged lines:

One of them is a 1:1 diagonal line with a straight horizontal line, and the other is a 1:2 with a 1:1.

We'll go with the taller lines. Let's get rid of our guidelines, keep only the blue lines, then make them black. No need to merge the layer down yet.

Step 4

Copy the long line that forms the back of the roof L, and paste it over the roof point so the three lines meet at the same point.

It should look like this:

And that line would totally be fine there. You may choose to ignore the following tip—it's finicky and I know it—but I like my darkest 2:1 lines to stay within a certain almost imaginary grid, where the pixel distance between all of them is always an even number. I do this to maintain consistency and because it allows me to keep the ideal aesthetics even after readjusting or moving elements around.

So in this case it's better for that new line to be just one pixel lower or higher as seen here:

The 1:1 diagonal roof line should be moved slightly if this change is applied.

Step 5

Now let's merge these roof lines together (but not yet with the roof-L layer) then Alt‑nudge, Flip Horizontal and place on the left side of the L to get this:

We won't need those lines left over at the top, so erase those and add a vertical line to make the roof's "valley" corner. On the roof L layer, erase the two lines in the back (the two lines higher on the screen) and after that merge the roof lines down with the L:

Step 6

Now even though we'll remove parts of it, let's add color to the whole roof shape. Try to apply what we've done to the cube here even though the shapes are quite different.

In this shape a highlight on the top edge I think makes it look better.

Step 7

Now make those two triangles almost white (the one on the right should be a touch darker) and separate the white from the roof color with a darker tone, like the one for the valley corner of the roof:

Step 8

Now let's add a slightly decorative touch by making a few lines parallel to the roof diagonals. Leaving one pixel in between, add a line with a slightly darker shade of white and then (with another pixel in between) a black line to get this:

Step 9

Now we have to remove the white areas in the middle, and the black lines underneath and touch up if necessary:

It's not necessary but we can merge down with the house L now. It might be easier to fill those blank triangle areas with the wall colors before merging. The Lasso tool is your friend; just remember to use it without anti-aliasing.

Nice! we're pretty much done with the geometric work!

3. Details

Step 1

It's not a house yet without a door and a few windows. Luckily we already know where to make our door, so let's add some vertical lines and an extra 2:1 line below our height marker to make our door frame. We'll get the character out of the way for a while.

Step 2

Now on that blank boring space staring at us should go a window. It can be almost the same as the door frame, so keep the top border at that same level and center it between the edge of the door frame and the corner of the house. If you want, make it narrower or wider. We'll add another concentric rectangle to it so that the frame has a bit more detail and width.

If you nudge the bottom line of the door up a pixel or two it looks a bit less flat:

The bottom line of the window frame should ideally be above the floor level by a multiple of four, like in the initial "wall" of 2:1 lines.

Step 3

We still have two bare walls, so we'll simply copy the same window to those walls, place it as centered as possible and of course at the same level in regards to the bottom line (it helps to select the window along with the bottom line to make this easier).

These two new windows have more space around them, so they could be wider or more ornate. We'll keep them the same, but feel free to try an alternative. What we will add is a couple of smaller windows above. They'll look like small attic windows, and they'll help fill the bare walls and make the house look nicer and more detailed.

(Don't worry about the smaller windows not looking centered in relation to the roof, because the roof isn't at the same vertical level as as the wall and windows.)

Step 4

We'll stop adding details here, but there are a lot of possibilities we could add; search for image references and try working the stuff you like into your pixel house.

Now we should color and finish all these elements. Let's make all the frames white, and make all the black lines between the frames and the walls the same color as the valley corner in the house. And the black lines in the window frames should be a darker shade of the window color, just like we did on the white parts of the roof:

You can, of course, do the coloring to only one of the windows and then copy that for the others. Just remember that the elements on the darker side of the building should be darker accordingly.

Step 5

Now find colors you like for the door and the windows. White makes sense for the door but I like how this red looks, because it breaks out of my all-blue palette. For the windows I usually like a low saturation aquamarine, but try alternatives. There must be dozens of ways to illustrate glass panes, so you might find a better way than what we're doing now.

Notice that I got rid of most of the black lines on these details. I think it makes sense when the elements are in direct contact and black looks a bit too harsh between the different colors.

Here I've added two lighter lines to the windows followed by a slightly darker line. I think they look a little like the reflection of the frame, so that should help make the windows look like glass.

Step 6

I also brought back the character to help us place the doorknob, which should go at about elbow height.

Added a round gold doorknob.

Step 7

For the final details we can add some decorations on the door; they're just a few rectangles in a darker shade, plus some highlights below and to one side. Also, why not add some thin white boards on the peak corners, as you find in many wooden houses:

4. Textures

Step 1

Let's create and apply our textures. The areas that need it are, of course, the roof and walls.

We'll start with the roof. Create a new layer.

We'll do some slightly round tiles that move across the top line, and once we have a few of those we Alt-nudge and start adding them down.

Step 2

The second row of tiles lands in that position because they first move across 2 px (following the top line) to be laid in overlapping positions like bricks, and then they move down (following the side diagonal) another few pixels. If it sounds complicated, just follow the visual guide above and you should be fine. Once you have a big patch, multiply it even more times so that it covers the roof:

Step 3

On the left side of the roof, the texture should flow in the opposite direction, so flip that area horizontally. Then go to the house layer and use the Magic Wand to select all the colors of the roof (except the black lines). If you hold down Shift you can continue to add areas to your selection. When you have finished that selection, go back to the texture layer, invert the selection (Select > Inverse) and delete to get this:

Step 4

Before merging down, we should reduce the opacity on that layer to about 20%. But what I would recommend, to keep our color palette in check, would be to replace the texture colors with the darker shades we already used on the roof:

I also removed the textures from the edge highlight lines to make the roof a bit cleaner.

Step 5

Now for the wood texture we simply need to make lines that go along the footprint of the house, and then Alt-nudge and move four pixels up, and repeat again and again until it covers all of the wall areas:

Then repeat the process we used on the roof tiles in Step 4:

Congratulations! your house is complete!

You gave your character a home, but its world could continue to grow. If you enjoyed the lesson, check back for more!

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