In this tutorial, you will create a spooky jack-o-lantern from scratch, rendered entirely in pixels (the building blocks of digital art). Learn how to use Adobe Photoshop's Timeline panel to animate a smiling, winking face that blows a kiss at the viewer and lights up both inside and out.
1. Drawing the Pumpkin
Throughout this tutorial I'll be working in Adobe Photoshop CC 2014. Open your program and create a New Document. My final artwork measured 36 px by 30 px, so I made my document 50 px by 40 px at 72 dpi with a Transparent background.
Let's start by building the basic pumpkin shape. Zoom (Z) in on your document 1600% or so.
- Using the Pencil Tool (B) with a 1 px hard brush, draw 7 pixels in a vertical line.
- Draw 2 pixels on either side of the first line.
- On the top of the design so far, draw an additional vertical line of 2 pixels followed by 1 pixel at the right diagonal of the previous two. On the bottom of the design, draw 2 diagonal pixels in succession (see below).
- Complete this section with 1 diagonal pixel at the top and two more pixels to the right on both top and bottom.
Continuing on with the Pencil Tool and our basic pumpkin shape:
- With what was created in Step 2, add on 3 pixels horizontally to the top and bottom of the design. Draw 1 diagonal pixel above the line of three drawn previously.
- Continue building the pumpkin's shape on the top of the design with 3 horizontal pixels. On the bottom, draw 1 diagonal pixel below the other and 2 pixels to the right.
- The top line is 8 pixels across. The bottom line is 10 pixels across.
- The other half is a mirror image of everything to the left of the two straight horizontal lines. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to Select, Copy (Control-C), Paste (Control-V), and mirror (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal) the left half in order to complete the basic pumpkin shape.
Our pumpkin needs a face. Create a New Layer in the Layers panel and using the Pencil Tool, let's begin:
- The eye starts with 3 pixels in a line and 1 pixel above them and in the center.
- Complete the eye with the third line of pixels consisting of 3 pixels and the fourth line consisting of 5 pixels.
- Three pixels to the right from the bottom line of the eye starts the nose. It's comprised of three rows: 1 pixel, 3 pixels, and 3 pixels.
- Repeat the eye shape again for the right eye.
- Make sure the eyes and nose have 3 pixel spaces separating them. The mouth begins two rows down with 3 pixels across.
This entire step consists of completing the mouth:
- The start of the mouth, building off the last step, is 9 pixels arranged in a 3 x 3 box.
- Draw 3 pixels in a vertical line on either side of the box drawn previously.
- Next are two columns of 2 pixels each on either side of the mouth.
- Draw two L-shapes on either side made up of 3 pixels each.
- Add 1 pixel on either side, diagonally and going outward. The top edges of the mouth consist of 4 pixels in a horizontal row.
- To complete the mouth, place 1 pixel diagonally and downward, toward the center of the mouth, and fill in the left and right sides (see below for exact shape). At this point, the mouth looks a bit like a flying bat.
- Since my pumpkin will be made up of various oranges and yellows, I've decided to change the color of my line art to brown (
2. Coloring the Pumpkin
The colors used in my final artwork differ from the ones I began with below (they're more saturated and were changed later in the process). Consider this to be a small lesson in easily creating a harmonious color palette. In order to create your own (or do this with other colors), reduce the Opacity of the color to the percent listed, place it over the 100% Orange color, and select the new color with the Eyedropper Tool (I). Save new colors in the Swatches panel and make sure the Opacity is set back to 100% for the rest of the tutorial.
- Brown 100%:
- Brown 75%:
- Brown 50%:
- Brown 25%:
- Orange 100%:
#f2842bUsed as the base color.
- Orange 40%:
- Orange 20%:
- Yellow 100%:
Merge the face layer and the pumpkin line art and fill in the pumpkin using the Paint Bucket Tool and Orange (
Our pumpkin needs a stem.
- Using Brown (
#760b03), and the Pencil Tool, draw two vertical lines of 3 pixels each, two rows apart.
- Fill in the two columns with Brown 75% (
#902b0d) and close the shape with 2 pixels of Brown.
- Use Brown 50% (
#ae4a18) as the highlight color on the top of the stem.
Since this is a jack-o-lantern, we'll need to cut open the top of the pumpkin.
- I've started with the same Brown used on the stem. From the top of the stem, the middle of the pumpkin's lid is 9 pixels down. Draw 8 pixels across in that center point with 3 pixels on the next row up on either side of the center line.
- Connect the 3 pixels across on either side with 1 pixel up.
- Cover the corner pixel with Orange and shade the lid and below it with Brown 25% (
#d1692a) from Step 1 in this section.
- Place those dark orange pixels in the corners of the lid line art and below the stem (see below).
Concentrate on what's being done with shading in the pumpkin below:
- Carefully draw curving lines of Brown 25% (
#d1692a) starting at the indents of the bottom of the pumpkin. The curves should mimic the contour of the pumpkin itself.
- Line the bottom of the pumpkin and begin to stagger dark orange and orange pixels in the lower half of the pumpkin.
- Outline the bottom of the mouth, nose, and eyes as well.
- Optionally, you can choose now to use a yellow-orange from Section 2, Step 1 in order to add highlights to the pumpkin lid, eyes, nose, and mouth.
The colors for this portion of the tutorial are more subtle than the ones I chose to use in the next step. If you like this tone better, simply use the next step for tips on further shading and highlighting and keep the color palette created in Section 2, Step 1.
If you'd like a brighter, more saturated pumpkin, check out the steps below:
- Replace all instances of Brown 25% (
#d1692a) on the pumpkin's surface with Bright Red (
- Change the base orange color to
- Make sure the top stem contains shades of brown and light brown rather than red (we're changing the pumpkin rather than the wood color of the stem).
- For the line denoting the pumpkin lid, use the light browns from Section 2, Step 1. For highlights, use Yellows (
#ffcc00) and (
#fba912) to draw small boxes and stagger lines of pixels in the upper left of the design.
- Carry the darker of the two yellows over to the very tops of each pumpkin section. Highlight the bottom of the mouth. Soften the bright red shadow pixels with Red-Orange (
- Use a Dark Brown (
#3e0702) on the outline of the pumpkin's bottom and right side. Lighten up the upper left side of the pumpkin's line art with assorted browns (see below).
3. Creating the Animation Frames
Each step in the animated icon that we're making will require a separate layer that contains the change within the icon. This includes any glowing eyes, changes in the mouth's shape, or glow around the pumpkin itself.
Make sure your pumpkin components are all on the same layer. Use the Magic Wand Tool (W) to select outside of the pumpkin and go to Select > Inverse (Shift-Control-I) and then Select > Modify > Expand and Expand by 1 pixel.
Create a New Layer beneath the pumpkin icon in the Layers panel. Fill in the selection with bright yellow using the Paint Bucket Tool. I also filled in another layer below the other two with black so the pumpkin icon would pop off the screen more.
Create a New Layer and cover the first two rows of the left eye with orange pixels. Cover the last row with 5 pixels of red (and the previous red row with orange pixels). The eye should now be 4 pixels across, 1 diagonal pixel on the left side, and two yellow pixels in the center of the winking eye shape.
There are three new mouth layers we have to draw in order to create the final animation.
- Make a New Layer above the others and use the Pencil Tool to draw three columns of pixels comprised of 1 pixel, 3 pixels, and 2 pixels. This is the left corner of the mouth.
- For the center of the mouth, draw 2 pixels to the right of the mouth corner drawn previously. Add 1 pixel down from the previous two drawn. Finally, draw a square of 3 pixels by 3 pixels for the center of the mouth.
- Mirror the left mouth corner for the right side.
- Use dark orange to outline the corners of the mouth. See the image below for exact pixel placement.
- Use the base orange color to fill in most of the negative space around the mouth.
- The bright red that's been placed in this part will sit directly below the pumpkin's nose.
- Finally, fill in the empty spaces with yellow highlights.
- Place the new mouth over the original mouth. The previous mouth should be completely covered. Hide this new layer for now.
The mouth is getting smaller and changing from an open smile to cute pursed lips (minus the lips since this is a pumpkin).
- Once again, we'll start with the left corner of the mouth, which is comprised of 5 pixels in three rows.
- Draw a square of 3 pixels by 3 pixels for the center of the mouth.
- Mirror the left side of the mouth for the right side.
- Using dark orange, draw two lines of 4 pixels and place additional pixels in the corners of the mouth shape.
- Once again, use bright red for the bottom of the pumpkin's nose (this will help you line it up) and the bottom of the mouth.
- Fill in the negative space with orange.
- Place this layer over the pumpkin's mouth, making sure the original mouth does not show through. Hide this new layer for now.
The mouth is now in full kiss-blowing mode. Once again, create a New Layer and let's get going.
- The entire mouth is two rows of 3 pixels and a single pixel in the center of the final row.
- 5 pixels are drawn on the left side: 2 pixels down, 2 pixels diagonally, skip a space, and 1 pixel off the corner of the mouth. Mirror this on the right side and draw 5 pixels across on the top of the mouth.
- Using red, draw 3 pixels across that will one again be the bottom of the pumpkin's nose. Draw 5 pixels across the bottom of the mouth and scatter a few pixels in the corners of the design.
- Fill in the area with orange.
- Place the new mouth over the old mouth, making sure the pumpkin's original mouth is fully covered. Once again, hide this layer in the Layers panel for the time being.
For the lit-up eyes and mouth, one layer will be needed.
- Zoom in on the pumpkin's face to 1600%, or so.
- Create a New Layer and fill in the eyes and nose with yellow. Line the left sides of them with red to easily see the inner edge of the facial features.
- Use light brown on the left edge of the eyes and mouth. Use a lighter brown on the bottom edge.
- Fill in the mouth with bright yellow, repeating the previous steps for what colors are used within the design.
- A shot of the pumpkin when "fully lit".
4. Animating the Pumpkin
Open the Timeline panel and choose Create Frame Animation from the drop down menu in its center.
In order to change what's happening in each frame, you'll have to hit New Frame in the panel's options and adjust the design in the Layers panel each time. Notice the change below with the second mouth layer visible in the second frame and hidden in the first.
See the image below for a visual breakdown of the frames used in the animation. Each step corresponds with a layer. I've also broken down what's happening in each frame below:
- The basic pumpkin with all additional layers hidden. The time is set at 1 second.
- The yellow outline layer (from Section 3, Step 1) is visible in this frame, but it's at 25% Opacity. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The third frame has the yellow outline layer at 50% Opacity and the mouth layer from Section 3, Step 3 is now visible. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The yellow outline layer is at 100% Opacity. The mouth from Section 3, Step 4 is visible. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The mouth from Section 3, Step 5 is visible. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The winking eye layer from Section 3, Step 2 is now visible. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- This frame is identical to Frame 5. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- This frame is identical to Frame 4. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- This frame is identical to Frame 3 except for the yellow outline layer whose Opacity is set to 100%. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- All additional eye and mouth layers are hidden in this layer. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The lit up eyes and mouth layer is now visible in this frame. The time is set at 1 second.
- All additional eye and mouth layers are hidden. The yellow outline layer is set to 50%. The time is set at 0.1 second.
- The yellow outline layer is set to 25%. The time is set at 0.1 second.
When setting the time delay on your frames, you can select multiple frames and change them at one time. Also make sure your Loop Options are set to Forever.
When exporting your animated file, go to File > Save As and select .gif. As there aren't many colors in this file and we're not too concerned about a large file size, keep the colors at 256 and the other settings at their default.
If enlarging your file (in case you want it as large as my final image), make sure Quality is set to Nearest Neighbor so there's no loss in hard-edged pixel quality. Again, Looping Options should be set to Forever (unless you want your .gif to loop a set amount for whatever reason).
Fantastic Work, You're Through!
Great job in creating a fun, animated pumpkin. I've got both of my original enlarged versions below so you can see the difference between the sizes as well as details within the pixel icon.
For more pixel art tutorials here on Tuts+, check out this small list:
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