One thing to consider when assembling a sprite sheet is the background color.
The main thing is to avoid using a color that is already present on the sprites you are sheeting. For example, if you are ripping a character with a black outline, using black as the background color would be a bad idea, as users would have no way to separate the sprite out from the background. On the other hand, for a character like Samus from Metroid Zero mission, a black outline is fine and allows the sprite to stand out with minimal distraction.
This information may seem overly obvious, but trust me - I have received dozens of sheets with this problem over the years. It's one of the fastest ways to irreversibly ruin your work.
To avoid this issue, many choose to use neon colors like fuschia or chartreuse - while they aren't exactly pretty to look at, there is a low chance any sprite will use them so they do make a good background.
Others choose to use a transparent background. You can do this with .gif or .png files and it's a perfectly acceptable way of handling things. This method also works great for images that aren't pixelated and have some blurred edges.
I personally prefer to use calm, grey-ish shades of blue or green, or even purple or red. Like these:
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.
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. And when ripping multiple characters from a single game, organize them similarly so users can more easily figure out what's what.
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". The tag is essentially a small area on the sheet where you can write basic information about what the sprites are, where they came from, who you are, etc. A couple of things to consider about tags, if you choose to include one:
- Credit: Some people like to include a message along the lines of "Give credit if used." Basically, this means they are asking for some form of acknowledgement if you use these sprites for something. Others will specifically ask not to be given credit, or avoid mentioning the topic altogether. I've seen people get quite riled up over this "issue" more than once. The thing is, it doesn't really matter that much.
In the communities where I started out spriting, people would ask for credit and it was no big deal. At other websites it's frowned upon. My advice, for what it's worth, is to make your own decisions based on your feelings about it and the generally accepted practices at whatever communities you frequent. These days I no longer ask on my sheets - instead I just leave my name and website.
- 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. You should feel free to put more detailed information about the sprites or the game as necessary. The format I usually use is:
You can, of course, include additional details such as your name, website, contact information, etc.
- 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. Remember, if people are looking at your sheet, they're more interested in the sprites than anything else.
- 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.
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.
- Don't use a background color that's also found on your sprites, and try to pick one that won't make the user's eyes bleed.
- 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: If you use one, include at least a minimum of useful info and don't be afraid to have fun with it.
Until next time I decide to be helpful, this is Grim signing off!