Tutorials » Tips for Putting Together a Sprite Sheet Hello, and welcome to my tutorial. In this guide I will be outlining tips for assembling and organizing sprite sheets. After reading this you should have a pretty good idea of how to make your sheets more useful and easier to navigate. This guide is not a guide on how to rip sprites - just how to organize them into a sheet. Furthermore, these aren't rules for submitting to Sprite Database - although following these tips will sure help your chances!

I. Background Color

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:
         
         



II: 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.


III: Organization

Organization is a simple concept, but there are no hard and fast rules. The important thing is to order the parts of your sprite sheet in a way that makes sense. I like to start with a character's standing (or 'idle') animation, then move on to actions like walking, running, crouching, jumping, basic abilities, special abilities, miscellaneous animations like intro or victory poses, and finally non-sprite images such as portraits.

Spacing is also an important part of organization. Using the same amount of space between each sprite, horizontally and/or vertically, will make your sheet easier to use and better to look at. You can also use larger empty spaces to show where one section of your sheet ends and another begins.

Basically, organization comes down to common sense. When in doubt, check out similar sprite sheets from other people and see how they did it. Keep related actions together, and leave plenty of space.



IV: 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.
  • File format: Always save your sprites as PNG images. PNG is supported by pretty much every program, supports transparency, and won't distort, blur, or discolor your images. GIF is acceptable, but make sure you know how to save with a proper palette in your graphics editor. JPG should always be avoided - it compresses images, creating an irreversible blur that ruins sprites. It is technically possible to save an uncompressed JPG, but PNG is still better. BMP is also acceptable, but tends to have large file sizes and doesn't always work in web browsers. Use PNG instead.

  • 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: For the sake of organization and clarity, I suggest that you limit a sprite sheet to images from a single game. That makes it easier for me to decide where they should go on the site, and makes it clear to users exactly what game's sprites they are looking at.


V: 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:
    [Character] from [Game]
    for [System]
    Ripped by [Your Name Here]
    http://spritedatabase.net
    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.

  • Other: 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.
Of course, many people also choose not to put a tag at all, and that's perfectly valid. Personally I think it's more useful to provide at least the basic information as outlined above. But beyond that information, the sad truth is most people won't be that interested in what you write down anyway!



Summary

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.
  • 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!