One of the things that stood out to me most in Midjourney’s newest version V4 was pixel art.
If anything, pixel art is what convinced me that Midjourney (and AI art in general) would change the world.
Midjourney can now produce assets that can be used directly in games.
It will only improve from here, in quality and configurability. In additional, we’ll see more ‘stacks’ of AI tools that will be able to complete entire processes, such as creating pixel art sprites and animating them.
While Midjourney doesn’t create true pixel art in the sense that you don’t get vector images with clean pixels, you can ‘pixelate’ your Midjourney images into pixel art with a number of third-party tools.
Here’s a primer on how to create pixel art in Midjourney, all prompts included.
In the beginning, pixel art wasn’t a choice developers made when creating their games; it was a byproduct of resolution and color limitations.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate pixel art into your prompts is to reference an older gaming console. Try adding the following devices to your prompts:
- Sega Genesis
- Sega Dreamcast
The words 8-bit / 16-bit / 32-bit originally referred to the processors used in these consoles, however are now used to refer to the art / music that came out of that era.
Try mixing them into your prompts:
- 8-bit pixel art
- 16-bit pixel art
- 24-bit pixel art
- 32-bit pixel art
You can reference the styles of older games to get great results as well. Here are some games with distinctive styles that work great in Midjourney:
The first Castlevania was released by Konami in 1986 for the NES. It was a huge hit and became one of Nintendo’s most influential, most classic games. Alongside the first Metroid (released the same year) it would influence generations of platformer games to come.
The series was notable only known for its difficulty and novel mechanics, but also its dark gothic art style.
Midjourney is excellent at recreating the gothic visual identity that made the Castlevania series so distinctive. Here are some prompts to try:
clean pixel art, greek temple with statue of apollo, style of castlevania 1986
clean pixel art, moon base with rover, style of castlevania 1986
pixel art, inside of cave, style of castlevania
Metal Slug (1996)
The original Metal Slug was released on Neo Geo arcade machine in 1996.
The art style and world design were so incredible that they still hold up well today. The Metal Slug aesthetic is instantly recognizable with its chunkiness and extreme level of detail.
Try the following prompts:
clean pixel art, house inside of a tree, style of metal slug
clean pixel art, post apocalyptic city, style of metal slug 1996 --ar 3:2
clean pixel art, inside of dungeon, style of metal slug 1996 --ar 3:2
Legend of Zelda (1986)
The first Legend of Zelda game was released in 1986. Since then, the art style of the game has undergone enormous evolution, eventually moving from 2D to 3D.
1991’s Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past introduced an art style that is most commonly associated with the older 2D Zelda games. It has a large influence on the art style of later games such as Pokemon Red & Blue.
The top-down 2d worlds that are a mainstay of every generation of games? That all began with Legend of Zelda!
Try these prompts:
house in the trees, top down 2d game, pixel art, style of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, Game Boy Color) 1991
clean pixel art, 2d top down game, bridge over water, 1991, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
interior of library, top down 2d, pixel art, style of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) 1991
Cave Story (2004)
Cave Story is the quintessential indie game; Daisuke Amaya spent 5 years developing it in his free time by himself. The retro art style allowed him to draw most of the graphics. He released it for free in 2004, barely making money with it until a publisher ported it to the Wii, 3DS and Nintendo Switch.
The game was the predecessor of the ‘indie revolution’. Smash hit indie titles such as Braid, Fez, and Super Meat Boy followed in the coming years.
The art style translates beautifully to Midjourney:
pixel art, cute, castle hall, style of cave story
pixel art, farm on hill, style of cave story
pixel art, misty mountains, style of cave story
Owlboy is a love letter to pixel art.
The game was developed over a 10 year period. During this time, the Owlboy team had to re-design the game several times, redrawing art assets so that the game looked ‘timeless’.
When D-Pad co-founder and art director Simon Andersen came up with the concept for Owlboy 10 years ago, he wanted to prove the advantages of 2D art over 3D art.
He’s definitely succeeded.
Here are some prompts to create this style in Midjourney. They’re perfect for background art:
chinese gate, style of owlboy pixel art
castle on hill, style of owlboy pixel art
library of alexandria, style of owlboy pixel art
How to pixelate these images
None of these images are true pixel art.
Let’s say you want to pixelate / pixelize these images.
You can use the website Pixel It to convert your creations to pixel art.