Zelda 3D isometric, Sir Carma, 2016

Pixels and voxels, the long answer

Retronator Do It Yourself

I still can’t decide if because of my love for old video games I should definitely watch this movie or definitely *not* watch this movie.

Mathematical precision of vector graphics (left) and discrete nature of raster graphics (right).
Everybody loves quadrants!

Vector graphics

This is how 2D vectors describe all points in 2D vector graphics.
Uluru the Mighty Dreamer, Anh Tran, 2015
Racetrack iOS Game Concept, Timothy J. Reynolds, 2013
Racetrack iOS Game Concept (alternative views), Timothy J. Reynolds, 2013
The transformation from a 3D to 2D is called a projection.
Wagon, Timothy J. Reynolds, 2013

Raster graphics

Turbo Esprit Sprite, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2014
Tribute (cropped), Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2005, 2012

Exciting stuff ahead!
StarWars Scene, Sir Carma, 2015
StarWars Scene (alternative view), Sir Carma, 2015
Knight Run, Sir Carma, 2015
sprite from Final Element, Glauber Kotaki, 2015

Vector displays and projection

Asteroids, Atari, 1979
Space Rocks (game), Autopilot, via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]
VEC9, Andrew Reitano & Todd Bailey, 2013
VEC9, Andrew Reitano & Todd Bailey, 2013


RGB LCD, Luís Flávio Loureiro dos Santos, via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0]
CRT phosphor dots, via Wikipedia [CC-SA]
Rasterization using sampling, a slide from Making WebGL Dance, Steven Wittens, 2013
Star Fox, Nintendo, 1993


World’s most exciting 3D model, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Spinning cube (tech demo), Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Rapunzel tower, Thibault Simar, 2016
untitled, Argo San, 2016
Pokemon Voxel, Playiku, 2016
Cat vs Voxel, Stefan Smiljkovic, 2016
Trench Run, Gabriel de Laubier, 2015
Voxair balloon, Gabriel de Laubier, 2015
Sky Chase, Sir Carma, 2015
Talaak village, Sir Carma, 2016
Latica Cliffs, Sir Carma, 2015

Ray casting

Simple raycasting with fisheye correction, Kieff, via Wikimedia Commons [public domain]
Wolfenstein 3D, id Software, 1992
Comanche: Maximum Overkill, NovaLogic, 1992
A height map (left) tells how high the vertical columns of voxels are (black is low, white is high).
Delta Force, NovaLogic, 1998
Outcast, Appeal, 1999

The end of voxels

Vangers, K-D Lab, 1998
Hexplore, Doki Denki Studio, 1998
Minecraft, Mojang, 2009–present


A pixel is the smallest unit when dividing 2D space into discrete, usually uniform (equally sized) regions.

Similarly, a voxel is the smallest unit of volume when dividing 3D space into discrete, uniform regions.

Pure 2D graphics

PICO-8, Lexallofle Games (and respective authors of featured carts), 2014–present

Textures in 3D graphics

“Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst” Keyart, Per Haagensen, 2016
Low Poly Peon, Mark Henriksen, 2015
Drift Stage, 2014–present (work in progress)
Minecraft, Mojang, 2009–present
Mirror’s Edge (top-left), Max Payne (bottom-left) and Minecraft (bottom-right)

Textures in 2D graphics

Image parts of the character (left) get texture-mapped onto animated quads (right). Badminton, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2006
Braid, Number None, 2008
Limbo, Playdead, 2010
Braid (top-left), Path to the Sky (top-right), Kingdom (bottom-right)
Minecraft, Mojang, 2009–present
Hotline Miami, Dennaton Games, 2012
Each source sprite pixel being rendered onto 3x3 display pixels, Moonman, Ben Porter, 2011–present (work in progress)
Path to the Sky, Johannes ‘Dek’ Märtterer, 2011–present (work in progress)
Kingdom, Noio & Licorice, 2015

Back to 3D

Pixel Art Academy tech demo, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Pixel Art Academy tech demo (scene view), Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Animation rig with reference, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Pixel Art Academy animation test, Matej ‘Retro’ Jan, 2016
Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner, 1989

3D effects

The Last Night, Odd Tales, 2014–present (work in progress)
WIP scene from The Last Night, Tim Soret, 2016
3D scene construction in The Last Night, Tim Soret, 2016
Confederate Express, Maksym Pashanin, 2013–2014 (unreleased)

Pixel art from voxels

Pathway, Robotality, 2016 (work in progress)
Development screenshots from FEZ, Polytron, 2007
FEZ GDC ’09 trailer, Polytron Corporation, 2009
FEZ, Polytron Corporation, 2012

Pure voxels

Voxatron, Lexallofle Games, 2010–present (work in progress)
Voxatron, Lexallofle Games, 2010–present (work in progress)
Crossy Road, Hipster Whale, 2014
Shooty Skies, Mighty Games, 2016
PAC-MAN 256, Hipster Whale, 2015
The Way Back, Sir Carma, 2016 (work in progress)
The Way Back, Sir Carma, 2016 (work in progress)
The Way Back, Sir Carma, 2016 (work in progress)

Retronator Magazine

Pixel Art, Gaming & Saturated Colors

Matej ‘Retro’ Jan

Written by

I run Retronator and make Pixel Art Academy. https://patreon.com/retro

Retronator Magazine

Pixel Art, Gaming & Saturated Colors