Vexel Tips and Tricks

18 08 2008

Vexel Definition according to Wikipedia

Vexel is a neologism for an entirely pixel-based form of raster art that imitates the vector graphics technique, but is distinguished from normal vector graphics or raster images. The word itself is a portmanteau derived from a combination of “vector” and “pixel.” It is is an entirely pixel-based raster image that imitates the vector graphics style.

Almost all of my work is done using this technique with the exception of the posters and print material I do. For that, I use the vector program Adobe Illustrator. This tutorial assumes that you have a basic understanding of Photoshop, its tools, and how to create layers.

The Pen Tool

The pen tool is a marvelous contraption that I use for almost all of my vexel work. Of course I also use the marquee and elliptical marquee tool as well. The key to mastering the pen tool, as well as the rest of Photoshop is understanding the shortcut keys on your keyboard.


While you may use the convert point tool, it is much easier to use the alt and ctrl keys. Once you create your path, you can edit it using these keys simply.

The path was started at the leftmost anchor point. On the second anchor poin, the ctrl key was used to create the curve. On the third anchor point, the alt key was used. The difference in the two is that while the ctrl key alters both anchor arms while the alt key allows you to move whichever you choose.

To close the path, simply click on the original anchor point. Once this is done, right-click and several options come up. Click fill path.

I’ve chosen a nice green color for what appears to be an unintentional leaf. Notice the jagged edge. This image is shown at 300% to show the pixels. In a true vector, you would not see this. Once you have filled the path, it’s time to make an outline. For a cartoony look, I am going to use a black outline.

This is accomplished by using the magic wand tool (making sure anti alias is checked) and selecting outside of your object. Then, go to Select>Modify>Contract. Here, I contracted the selection 1 pixel. Still under the Select menu, click Select Inverse.

Create a new layer under your object and fill the selection. Voila! You now have your outline. If you had simply filled it on your object’s layer, it would have been jagged looking.

Well, there you have it. For more information, there is a wonderful tutorial by Cait Leslie on deviantart here.

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