If you’ve ever wanted to pixel a beach or boat scene but were intimidated by all the detail required for water, fear not! In this tutorial you will learn how to easily pixel some ocean waves. This technique works for larger and smaller scale pixel art and can be used for other bodies of water or miscellaneous liquids too.
1. Create a gradient
Start with dark blue at the bottom and move upward to a sky blue. Don’t worry about making perfectly straight lines, since waves are not even and we will be breaking this shape up anyway.
(From here I will be hiding the layer which shows the characters)
2. Draw squiggly waves
Using the color of the sky, draw squiggly lines horizontally across your gradient.
At the bottom, you want to have a larger space between your squiggles. As you move toward the sky, draw them closer and closer together.
Make sure to vary your squiggles and not make them the same shape, or your waves will look unnatural.
3. Cut into Cells
Using the same color, draw curvy lines connecting your squiggles into sections, or kind of a cell shape. You want to have smaller cells in the back and larger cells in the front.
4. Shade the Cells
On your darkest color, add one color darker, and shade inside the cell. Concentrate the shading toward the bottom, but you can add random shading in the center or toward other edges, just don’t go all the way around.
This randomized shading will help create a wavy texture.
As you move up into the next color section, use color from the gradient below it. This will help blend your ocean together so you don’t see the lines anymore.
5. Add Highlights
The easiest way to do this is in the corners of some of your cells, use the lightest color and kind of round out the sharp edge.
Keep your highlights concentrated toward the front. The higher contrast in front will create the illusion of depth.
Your ocean is finished!
You can use this technique for other bodies of water, too, like a pool or a lake.
Add detail to the sky and anything else in your background. Now you’re ready to start pixelling your characters!