Pracken's Paint Shop Pro Tutorials

How to Draw a Simple Pixel Outline

I've had a request for a tutorial on how I create pixel images (thanks Karen for the tut idea!), so thought I would make a simple house, and show you how to draw the outline step-by-step.

There are many ways to do pixel images, and you can find various tutorials on the internet for doing so. Pixeling really began with gaming, creating 3D images that looked realistic as folks play the videogames. Since that time, others (including me) have taken pixeling and made it our own. My techniques are a bit of a mixture - I use some of the 3D techniques, but I also tend to mix 3D and 2D into my pixel images. If yu want to do pixels, just play with images and make your own style.

This tutorial is not how to do pixel coloring. It's a tutorial for getting starting drawing pixel outlines. Again, everyone has their own techniques for doing this, and there is no "right" way. A lot of it is trial and error sometimes.

I have been creating pixel images for over 13 years, and my style, technique, and skills have evolved. When I first started, I would use clipart,line drawings, or other images as inspiration and guidelines for my pixels. I would sometimes use an image and trace the outline as a starting point. If you are just starting pixeling, this is a good way to start. It's also good to look around the web and closely examine pixel images others have created. Pay attention to shapes and placement of lines. Now I always draw my pixel outlines from scratch. I get ideas from everywhere - I may see something I want to draw, or have a dream about an image. Inspiration can come from anywhere.


For this tutorial, you will need the following:

Paint Shop Pro. This tutorial was written for versions X2 and 9. However, since it's a pixel tutorial, you should have no problems doing the tut in other versions as well. You can download the latest PSP version demo here.


Ok, so let's get started. I am drawing this image from scratch, and will show you my steps so you can follow along.

It's a good idea to put things on different layers sometimes so you can move them around better and if you make a mistake you don't mess up your entire image. I always make a "master" PSP file of my images, with all layers intact. I save this frequently so all my work isn't lost if I have a crash of some kind.

I am making this house larger than I usually do pixels, to make it easier to demonstrate. There is no right or wrong size for pixel images. The nice thing about pixel outlines is you can enlarge them to any size and they don't lose any clarity or defiition. Feel free to make your pixel outline smaller or larger if you wish.

I usually enlarge my images so I can work better. I am constantly changing enlargement up and back down as I work, to check the image

Step 1. Open up a canvas about 500 x 500. I always make my canvas larger than I need so I have room to move stuff around.

Step 2. When drawing an outline, you can start anywhere you wish. I usually start with the piece that will anchor my drawing. In this one, I'm starting with the width I want my house to be. To get started, set your foreground paint color to black (you can use any color you wish) and your background to null. Choose your preset shapes tool>rectangle, using the settings in the screenshot

Step 3. Draw a rectangle 225x6 (watch the numbers at the bottom right of you screen for the size).

You should have a rectangle like this:

Step 4. Choose your pen tool, using settings in the screenshot

Go to the right side of the rectangle you drew, count in about 3 pixels and draw a vertical line. Check the bottom right of your screen, and draw down until the y axis says 230.

Repeat to the left side of your image. Then, using your pen tool, draw a horizontal line connecting the two vertical lines you just drew.

Step 5. Next, we'll draw the roof. Choose your paint brush, size 1. Draw a small horizontal line on the left side of your house, about 8 pixels out.

Then choose your pen tool and draw a vertical line (Y axis = 10). Next, using pen tool, draw a horizontal line about halfway across your image. (Hint: hold your shift key down while drawing to get a straight line)

Choose your rectangle selection tool, draw a rectangle around the left side of your drawing. Copy>paste as new selection. Image>mirror. Then move it into place on the right side of your drawing. I do this so both sides of my image are symmetrical.This is what you should have so far.

Step 6. Now for some windows. Choose your preset rectangle tool and draw a rectangle about 55 x 30 on the right side of your image. Choose your paintbrush and draw a 1 pixel inch margin inside the rectangle, like this:

Now draw the inside of your window. I usually just draw one side and then copy>paste and mirror it to the other side. If anything about your window is not symmetrical, just erase, copy, paste, etc. until you get it looking the way you want it.

I want another window on the left side of the house, and I want it to be symmetrical. The easiest way to do this for me is by copying the one I just did. Choose your rectangle selection tool, draw a rectangle around the right side of your house (just past the window). Copy>paste as new selection. Image>mirror. Then move it into place on the left side of your image, like this:

Step 7. Now to draw the door. Chose your rectangle preset shape tool and draw a rectangle between your two windows. Use my image as a guide for drawing the bits of your door. If anything isn't matching up, just copy>past until you get something that looks the same on both sides, top and bottom. Here's mine.

Step 8. Steps next. Choose your paintbrush and paint out from the left side of your door about 3 pixels, down 2, and across. Repeat. You just have to do until about the middle of your image. Then copy>paste. Image>mirror, and place on the right side of your image.

Step 9. So now you have a basic house. You can embellish and change it as your wish. If you want to draw boards on the front of your house, just draw horizontal lines across, about 3 pixels wide. Remember, cut and paste is your best friend!

Step 10. If you want shingles on the roof, the easiest type is what I'll show you. Just use the same vertical lines you drew for the boards (you can copy>paste onto your roof in a small section to get started, then just keep drawing to complete the entire roof). I used a different color, just because I didn't want to see all that red lol. Then you just need to draw vertical lines about 7 pixels long, across. I made a few and the copied then and pasted until I got a larger section, then copied and pasted that. There is no right way to do the bricks, just create whatever you like. (Note: I usually don't mirror bricks as it always ends up a mess!) Also, I had to adjust my roof by one pixel (see that little black rectangle right under the shingles?). Sometimes you have to widen or shorten things to make them look right.

And that's it, you have a basic pixel outline. Here's my finished product

Now that you have a basic outline, you can add to it if you wish (always a good idea to put everything on its own layer and save a master PSP file with all layers intact. Makes it easier when you change things around). I often finish an outline and once I start coloring, decide I want to change something and go back and do that. It's a process and it's not perfect, it's creative.

As mentioned above, I always save a master PSP file of my images with all layers intact, so go ahead and do that now. Then if you like, you can delete everything but your pixel outline layer and save that as an outline (in PSP format).

Now all you have to do is color your outine as you wish! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please let me know if you have any questions.


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This tutorial was created on April 3, 2016.
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