In this tutorial you will learn to create a pixel art office interior in the isometric view. It will continue to be compatible with the assets from previous tutorials in this series so check some of those out; the character tutorial (and optionally, the bedroom tutorial) will be specially helpful. If you’re ready, open Adobe Photoshop and let’s get to work at the office.
1. Creating a Cubicle
We’ll have cubicles in this office interior and we’ll use them to define the size of the space so they’ll be our starting point.
I don’t usually cover it as a step but I check out reference images and do some sketching before starting on drawing and I suggest you do the same whenever you create your own pixel art scenes.
A character will usually define the proportions of the rest of the elements. Also to some extent, your own body! if you stand next to a chair, what height does the seat reach? the knee, right?
So create a New File, and on a new layer draw a 2:1 line to denote the floor line and another line to mark the height of the seat.
Some of this furniture can end up looking small next to the character but that’d be because of the slightly exaggerated character proportions (namely, the oversized head) but respecting the character’s proportions rather than the overall size is preferable, in order to look natural when the character actually uses the furniture.
Now turn the lines into a square (in the isometric sense of course) which you can do by selecting the lines with the Rectangular Marquee Tool and then moving the selection while holding down alt on the keyboard. Place it where it would make sense, proportionally, for an office chair. Then select again, duplicate and Flip Horizontal (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.)
Draw a back for the chair.
Let’s do a version of the chair with the back toward us, as it’s little extra work and we get two views out of it, which if you flip horizontal becomes four views …that’s bang for your buck, right there.
Clean up any unnecessary corner pixels and the line cutting through the back of the chair.
Now, in a new layer, behind the current one, paste the bottom lines and turn them into transparent shadow, I generally use black at 15% opacity.
Also, let’s start drawing the base of the chair (back on the chair lines layer) which will be a swivel chair that will roll on four casters. Office chairs often have five casters but that would clutter up our graphic, with four we keep it clean, and if we line the base with the corners of the shadow then it’s extra clean as we’d be using horizontal and vertical lines, instead of 2:1 lines.
Raise the base off the ground a pair of pixels and draw the casters, which as much detail as the resolution allows (read: not much!)
Let’s give the base of the chair some color. A slightly cool grey will result in a more metallic look.
For now you only need to work on one of the chairs, as the other one will have an identical base.
Add some highlights and shading.
Then, optionally, give the casters a slightly lighter shade and a 1 px highlight.
Copy the base to the second chair. And merge the chair layer with the shadow layer.
Choose a color for the seat of your chair. I’ll use a bright vibrant color. Remember you can “hone” into the shade of your liking by using the sliders on the Hue/Saturation panel (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation…)
Add highlights and shading.
And then copy to create alternate versions! you can end up using a totally different color or a combination of them. Also, try making only the back of the chair a dark grey, which is common for office chairs.
Now to start the cubicle, draw a rectangle (in a new layer, behind current) and make it large enough to fit a chair, extra room on the sides and a desk in front of the chair.
Add a line to mark the desk width.
Now find a height for the desk surface. It must be higher than the chair seat, but not by a lot.
And now define a height for the cubicle walls.
Draw the lines for the cubicle walls.
Remove any unnecessary reference lines and add a cast shadow from the desk surface, on the floor.
Add colors to the cubicle walls (and replace the line colors to proper outline colors if necessary.)
Add highlights, and lower contrast to inside corner lines; the vertical line between both cubicle walls doesn’t need to be black.
Give the desk surface a nice wood color (or any color you like) and highlight the front edges.
A simple and low contrast checker kind of pattern helps give that surface some texture, which makes sense if we’re trying to convey a wooden surface.
Also we can lower contrast to the lines where the table surface meets the cubicle walls.
Now our cubicle, at its most basics, is ready.
2. Drawing the Space
We’ll use the cubicle to define the dimensions of the office interior space and then draw it up.
Let’s make a row of cubicles. For now we don’t need all the layers so make a copy of all layers of the cubicle (Edit > Copy Merged making sure there’s no background visible while copying) and paste to a new layer, and then duplicate a couple of times and place side by side.
Obviously we’ll need enough space to accommodate our three cubicles and some extra space for people to walk around and for some extra furniture later on.
So draw a rectangle taking the above into account.
Use the character to find a nice height for the space and add your vertical lines.
Add color to the floor. I chose to make my floor look like carpeting using a grey/blue shade and giving it the same low contrast pattern as the desk surface.
To cover a large area with a pattern you can either draw the pattern and then duplicate it exponentially (for example: copying and pasting to double the area and then doubling that and then repeat until whole area is covered) or you can make a pattern by selecting a tileable portion and defining that as pattern (Edit > Define Pattern…) then you can fill areas with the pattern using the Paint Bucket Tool. I generally prefer the former method because I get control how my pattern lines up with the surface.
Choose a color for the walls. I’ve gone with the same as the chair because I wanted something vibrant and because then I wouldn’t have to worry about messing too much with the color palette.
Lower the contrast where you see fit (like, inner corners) and if you like it, add a baseboard to the wall.
We’ll give one of the walls a big window.
But we can start by drawing a small window. First a frame, then adding a bit of depth to it and adding basic color.
Then adding all the color, a basic window effect, shading and making the outline a dark version of the wall color so that it integrates more smoothly to the wall.
Place the window near one of the corners of the wall, as close as you like it to those edges.
And then extend the window through the whole wall keeping the distance from the wall edges pretty much equal for better aesthetics (though there’s more flexibility with the bottom edge.)
You can extend the window to the right by copying the window excluding its left border, and then copying several times, moving more and more to the right. Then repeat that process but going from top to bottom.
To finish the window I just added some subtle breaks to the panes.
The room is ready and you can move on to the remaining details if you want.
Or you could also give the room an exposed brick pattern to make it more interesting and contemporary looking.
I start my brick pattern in a new layer, with parallel, equidistant lines covering the whole area. If you are finicky like me, you can make the pattern coincide with the wall and window, so that you don’t have to cut the pattern at mid-brick height.
After the parallel lines I draw the first few bricks. Here we can see one brick entirely and two which are cut in half, the way masonry is usually laid out.
Then as per the patterning method I described earlier, take that bit of pattern and cover the rest of the wall with it.
Add color and make the pattern lines low contrast.
You can fill all spaces inside and around the pattern lines with by using the Paint Bucket Tool with contiguous set off. Then just select and erase the areas you don’t want covered.
Cut a hole through the brick to see the window on the layer below. You can do this with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (Anti-alias off) or with the Eraser Tool or by using the Magic Wand tool on the window’s layer… like skinning a cat; there are many ways to do it (why is this a saying, though?)
Update the lines where the new texture meets its neighboring surfaces and colors.
And the brick wall pattern is done!
Unless! you wanted to make it nicer, with some variations to the shades of the bricks.
I do this often, you need only add two extra shades, one darker and one lighter, and you’ll give your pattern that much more complexity.
It’s a good idea to start with strong contrasting colors so that you easily tell what you’re doing and so you don’t end with big conspicuous patches of a certain color.
Then you replace those new colors with the shades you want (Paint Bucket Tool, contiguous off.)
Subtle but nice.
Finally (and also optionally) draw the width of the walls and the floor.
Fill with color, highlight and shade.
And then touchup the lines where the different surfaces meet.
Hide your Swingline stapler, the office space is ready!
3. Adding Details
To complete our office interior, we’re going to finish the cubicles and give them some differences between each other, plus some more furniture.
Working on our original, layered cubicle, we’ll add drawers to the desk. You’ll need to make a box shape under the table surface.
Add color and shading
And textures and breaks between the drawers.
Now we’ll make a computer for the cubicle. In a new layer, of course.
Draw two concentric rectangles for the monitor.
Cubicle shown with lower opacity for emphasis on the computer.
And add the outlines for the foot of the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Making sure it all fits on the desk surface… (if it doesn’t fit and you don’t want to make your computer any smaller, then adjust the size of your desk.)
And then you know the drill: fill with color, highlight and shade, soften some outlines here and there.
Draw, color and shade a mug.
Draw a rectangle or um… folder/envelope. It’s too simple but in context it’ll make sense.
Make two copies of your cubicle and add these new elements. Computers for all of them but the mug just for one or two of them and the envelope thing for another, to make them different.
And to further make them different, add the chairs, using any from your roster of different chair colors and positions!
Now if you want you can merge and place together… just remember to keep copies of your original layers for any use down the road.
I added an extra wall for the first cubicle here. With that, the cubicles are done.
Now let’s make a pair of sofas.
We can use the same height for the seat of the chair.
But we’ll make the sofa’s seat wider and deeper.
And add a ‘C’ around the seat which we will raise to become the arms and back of the sofa.
Here are the bottom volumes for the sofa, reaching almost down to the floor.
And here are the arms and back. Done by selecting the outer edges of the ‘C’ and nudging them up some 6 px (adjust height to your liking) and completing the line work.
We’ll flip that sofa and make another version that will seat three people. So again, with little extra effort we get more than one piece of furniture.
For the new version we’ll cut the front most arm for now.
Duplicate the seat width a couple of times, and then paste and place the arm that was cut. Connect lines appropriately.
Add color. Going quite neutral because the scene already has vibrant colors.
Add highlights to the peak corners and remove the outlines under the highlights.
Replace the bottom lines with shadows and finish any shading / line coloring missing.
The last piece of furniture we’ll work on will be a bookshelf. We’ll start with a rectangle for one of the rows.
And encase that in a box shape.
Pattern and color in the same way as the desks in the cubicles.
And then duplicate and place it over itself three times, more or less. Clean up any breaks between the copies.
Also, you may add extra height to the base (below the bottom shelf.)
Here (in a new layer) is basically what one row of books will look like.
And if you copy that row for the rest of the shelves and change the colors around you get a nice variety of books. Which if you were up for some extra work could look even more varied, like if you add more colors, change the width to some of the books, removed some of the books to leave a bit of the shelf exposed, etc.
And here’s the bookshelf after adjusting the contrast to all of those lines (using darker shades of the colors the books have) …in this case, it’s pretty clear what a difference doing that makes, going from the eye-straining dozens of black lines inside the shelves to neater, less-busy, groups of books.
And with that we’re done creating pieces of furniture.
All we gotta do now is place the elements in the room, which is easy, fun and up to your liking.
If you’re surprised by that floor lamp that came out of nowhere, then please refer to the bedroom tutorial where you’ll find how to make it, plus how to make a laptop and some wall art, elements which totally could also work fine in this office scene.
Great job! now your character can go to work everyday for the rest of its short life :)
Try to keep all your new assets easily accessible so you can pop them into any more scenes you do. Isometric pixel art might not be easily scalable but if you stay on the same scale then it’s highly recyclable, which is fun.