Tutorials > How To Put Together A Sprite Sheet
Hello and welcome to my humble tutorial. Let's get this show on the road.
When you've been around the spriting communities as long as I have, you've probably seen some truly awful sprite sheets. There's a lof of things that can go wrong when ripping a sprite sheet, and so, to help you avoid those little mishaps, I've created this tutorial.
STEP ONE: BACKGROUND COLOR
One of the most common pitfalls when assembling a sprite sheet is the background color.
When it comes to this issue there are three things I can't stand: BLACK, WHITE, and TRANSPARENT. Using black or white is actually fine....IF THE SPRITE DOES NOT HAVE THOSE COLORS. If it does, it just becomes a pain in the ass to use, if it can be used at all. Transparent backgrounds aren't a problem, but they are kind of annoying if all you want to do is copy the image from your browser to your graphics editor.
Another thing you want to avoid is neon colors, for obvious reasons.
Just make it easy on people and use a calm, grey-ish shade of blue or green, or even purple or red. Examples follow:
STEP TWO: ALIGNMENT
This one's pretty simple. Neatness counts, you know.
Here's a cropped area from a very well aligned sheet. [Marco (Heavy Machine Gun)]
Pretty sharp, right? Any sprite archive owner would be a fool not to accept such a sheet.
But what if it was like this?
Makes me kind of queasy. Avoid potential keyboard-barfing incidents by simply placing everything on a line.
Make a line, and put every sprite on it and they'll all be lined up! Of course, you should get rid of the line when you're done...
So, there you go. A nice, neat sheet and all it took was a little line.
STEP THREE: ORGANIZATION
This one just comes down to common sense. Let's say you're ripping a fighting game character. Maybe you think their intro animation should be first on the sheet. That's fine, it makes sense. On the other hand, maybe you'll just put their idle stance first. Either way. But you shouldn't start the sheet with, say, a jump kick or something.
Really, I can't explain this much more, just use your judgement. Keep all similar animations or actions together and you'll be fine.
STEP FOUR: USEFULNESS + USABILITY
Here's another big issue. When you rip a sprite sheet, it's probably so you (or other people) can use it for something.
Yet somehow, a large amount of sheets are simply useless. or unusable. There are a lot of ways this can happen, so pay attention.
- Useless by nature: Some sheets just have no possible use ever. I'm talking about stuff like "name entry" screens, title screens, and even character-select screens. Anything that can be ripped by pressing PRNTSCRN once or twice. As the owner of SDB, I'll take these sheets as long as they don't have any other problems. But they have very limited usefulness and there are lots of nice sprites out there waiting to be ripped.
- File format: Save your sprites as .PNG. Always. Gif has its uses so if you really know what you're doing, use it when appropriate. I don't want to see any JPG or BMP sheets, ya hear me? I'll refer you back to this image from the Submit page.
- Completeness counts: Completeness is another factor in a sheet's usefulness. More complete sheets are more useful, seems self-explanitory. Of course you can't always get everything but it's not about winning or losing, we just want you to try. Er, or something like that.
- One game per sheet: This isn't really a huge issue. When sprites from multiple games are put on a single sheet, I have to decide where to put them on the site. Plus you could confuse stupid people. Try to avoid doing this, but I doubt anyone but me cares.
STEP FIVE: TAGS
And now we come to what is usually the final step: the "tag". What a tag is, if you don't know, is a little thing tacked on by the ripper that says who they are, what it is, etc. This is the part of sheet that I find is usually the most obnoxious. There have always been differing opinions on this but I think in the end the verdict is "no one cares". I'll bore you with some of the issues.
- Credit: some people will ask for it, some will ask for none, some won't mention it. I used to ask for it (see: 900+ old sheets) but I seriously don't care any more. Ask for it if you want. Some people use the tag for a soapbox about how it's stupid or wrong to want credit, but that hardly seems like the right place for such a debate.
- Information: include as much information as you can without turning it into an essay. As a minimum you should include the character's name, the title of the game, and what system it's for. If you want you can put your name, website, contact details, whatever.
- Graphics: some people like to make attractive tags, some just use plain text. I can go either way depending on my mood. Just don't go overboard using too many colors and jacking up the filesize.
- Miscellanea: people are probably going to ignore your tag anyway so don't worry too much about it. If you want to include small comics or dialogue, go for it, spriting is supposed to be fun. And please, do not threaten people. I've seen so many sheets that say "give credit or die" or some such. It's stupid. Don't do it.
Or you could just not put a tag at all. But where's the fun in that. It's sort of a cultural thing I suppose, depending on what sites and communities you originally hang out in. Back when I was getting started at the old Fireball20XL forums that's just what people did, making tags and asking for credit.
But I can't stress enough: NOBODY REALLY CARES ABOUT YOUR TAG, they just want the sprites.
Which does not explain why I just wrote so much about it.
If you follow everything in this guide, your sprite sheet should be lookin' good. Here's a quick rundown of everything you've read so far.
- Forget your stupid background color and use one of the cool ones above.
- Neatness counts! Line up your sheets in a neat fashion and they'll look a lot better.
- Use sensible organization.
- Avoid useless rips like title screens and name entry screens.
- Save your sheets properly! Just save as a .PNG!
- Tags! Plain or simple, most people won't even give them a second look. They're fun though.
Until next time I decide to be helpful, this is Grim signing off. You can send me those three easy payments later.