The article has been updated and improved.
Thanks a lot for the feedback!
Make sure to visit the #Aseprite group as well!
Member submissions are now open.
Until half a year ago, I was one of those pixel-artists and spriters that used MS Paint (or its best Linux clone, KolourPaint) for everything. After all, to put pixels one after the other you don't really need anything else, do you?
However, while Paint is a useful tool for us because of its simplicity and focus on individual pixels, there was a moment when I thought: hey, why not look for a specialised, cross-platform, free tool to do my pixel-art? An alternative to Paint that doesn't belong to Microsoft and supports transparency? An alternative to KolourPaint that isn't so heavy and RAM consuming?
So I searched. I found quite a few pixel-art editors, but there was one that caught my eye since the beginning and has been my reliable companion for the last months, both in Linux and in Windows: Aseprite (Allegro Sprite Editor).
What I find the most useful about Aseprite:
- Multi-platform: It has versions for several Operating Systems (Windows, Ubuntu and Mac).
- Free and open-source.
- Light-weight: It needs little resources and space to function.
- Layer, opacity and transparency support.
- Gif animator: It has a helpful, easy-to-use animation editor to create gifs. The frames can be saved into multiple png files with a single click, and can be imported in the same way, as long as they have the same name with successive numbers at the end of it (image00.png, image01.png, image02.png, etc.).
- Easy keyboard shortcuts: It has them for almost anything, so you can work really, really fast once you get used to them. For example: b for brush, i for color picker, m for selector, e for eraser, c for configuration... I finish my sprites twice as fast as I did before!
- Multiple views: It can show you as many views as you want of the same sprite or different sprites at the same time, without taking up too much space in your screen. You can decide the number, size and position of those different sub-screens.
- Easy color management: It lets you have two colors selected at once (one for the left button of the mouse, another one for the right) and has many ways to manage and editor colors: the typical color picker, a RBG color menu, a HSB color menu... Like Paint, its eraser can exchange a color for another with the right mouse button. It can index images and manipulate palettes. Also, when you open a document with it, even if it's not indexed, it automatically shows you the colors used in the sprite in the left bar, so you don't have to use the color picker all the time.
- Grid: It has a very handy grid that you can set to any size easily.
- Only the essentials: It has only the features that are really needed for pixel-art editing. That makes it comfortable and clean to work with.
- Up-to-date: It's updated often.
- Appearance: It's beautiful! It puts you into pixel mood very fast
Some of Aseprite's downs:
- No text-editing support: It's logical, it's a pixel-art program after all!
- Double-sized pixels: If you want the sprites to appear in their original size and not multiplied by two, you have to edit the ini (or .asepriterc if you're in Linux or Mac) of the program and set the ScreenScale value to 1. I find it easier to work with the x2 size, though, so I don't change it.
- Ini corruption: In Windows, you may have to delete the ini once in a while and let the program create a new one, because sometimes there are bugs if the ini gets too crowded.
- No guarantee: Aseprite is a free, open-source project, and therefore no professional company is working behind it. This means that the program comes with no guarantee of quality or workability. You'll have to find out for yourself if it suits your needs, and inform the creator in case of finding issues so he can solve them in the next release of the program.
To the new Aseprite user:
Aseprite may be confusing at the beginning, particularly if you're not used to non-commercial programs. It doesn't make everything immediately apparent: you must look for things and try it out for a bit until you know how it works. So be patient and don't get frustrated! It's quite easy when you get used to it, but at the same time there's much more to it than meets the eye.
The most important thing you should first learn about Aseprite are probably the keyboard shortcuts, because they make working with it much faster and more intuitive. If you see that you use a tool very much (for example, the brush), then look at the menus to find out its shortcut; in this case, the b key. It will make your job much easier. That stands for any program, but in Aseprite it's a decisive point.
Once you've gotten used to Aseprite's interface, you can have a look at the Aseprite wiki to find out more about its 'hidden' or not so apparent features. There you can also find some tutorials, notes and FAQs.
If you are a pixel-artist and (particularly) if you are creating a videogame, I totally recommend Aseprite to you. I am in love with this program. Here you have their webpage: h t t p : / / w w w . a s e p r i t e . o r g.
I thought it would be interesting to share this tool with you. Enjoy it.