In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create isometric pixel art pets: two cats and two dogs! You’ll benefit from having the isometric pixel art character and from checking out the lesson before this one but it's not essential. Launch Adobe Photoshop and let’s make some furry friends.
1. Drawing Lines for a Dog
We’ll start our set of pets with man’s best friend. Drawing for starters, only the outlines.
Create a New Document in Adobe Photoshop, it won't need to be any bigger than 300px by 200px.
We’ll start our dog illustration with the eyes because we’ll be making our pets as small as possible while still being able to show their faces' key features.
So the eyes will be two pixels, one pixel apart, made with the Pencil Tool. No need to draw the red pixels here, they just show the usual isometric pixel art 2:1 line.
We’ll make a dog with a long snout (a terrier!) and its nose will point slightly down so we’ll use 1:1 diagonal lines for most of the head. Add some lines, as close as possible to one of the eyes without full contact.
Add one pixel for the nose and extend the head’s outlines.
Finishing the head’s outlines, it’s almost a pill shape but feel free to try alternate shapes or positions for the features.
Then we add a pair of ears. Here I tried a couple of options; ears pointing up and down.
Also, now that the head’s outlines are complete I’m comparing the size of my dog’s face to the size of my character. No need to adjust anything. If you want a different size dog it should be possible to adjust sizes… though it might be difficult to do a chihuahua at this scale and still be able to show both eyes.
Now, on a New Layer draw the outlines for a leg, with a 2 pixel distance between each vertical line. Replicate this leg and place the copy 2 pixels horizontally and 1 pixel vertically from the original (extend this distance if making a larger or wider dog.) Finally, clean up the lines if necessary.
Try different positions for the legs, in relation to the head until you find a place you like for them and once you have that, you can Merge the head and legs layers.
Continue to draw the torso of the pooch. Try different options to find what you like best.
Adjust the height of the legs to match the torso and copy them to get the back legs, then place them, of course, at the back.
Clean up the back leg lines and connect with the torso.
We’ll make the back legs point out instead of being vertical like the front ones. We can do that by shortening the torso while leaving the bottom of the back legs in place. Select the back with the Rectangular Marquee Tool or with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (anti-alias must be off) and then nudge.
Finish the back legs.
Draw a thin and slightly long tail and place it where you like. Specifically, my reference is a Welsh Terrier, which is the same shape as the Fox Terrier (and also the Airedale Terrier, except for the size) so those are the proportions I’m following.
Connect the tail to the body and the lines for the dog are done!
2. Adding Color for Two Dogs
We’ll get two dogs out of the exact same lines, by using colors differently. Maximum efficiency :)
Find a nice brown color and fill with the Paint Bucket Tool. You can dynamically adjust the color with the Hue/Saturation panel (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation…)
With a darker shade (about 15% less brightness) draw and fill over the surfaces that should get less light from above.
And with an even darker shade, add an extra bit of shading or use these darker shades for accentuating some areas and extending lines, like with the legs here.
The main shading is done. Now make a second version of your dog and while at it, make it brighter, we’ll be working on both dog breeds at the same time. The brighter version will be the fox terrier and it will actually only have a bit of brown on the face.
On a new Layer, draw over the areas that will be covered with different colors, for visibility we’ll use bright colors for these masks.
In the case of the Welsh Terrier, we only need one more color and it goes on the dog’s body like a jacket.
For the Fox Terrier, we’ll use two colors. One will be the same as the Welsh (for the spot on the back) and a new color covering most of the body and some of the snout, this will be replaced with white.
Select the color to be replaced with white with the Magic Wand Tool (contiguous off, anti-alias off) hit delete and then on the layer with the dogs, using the Paint Bucket Tool (contiguous off) fill with white (or almost white) the brightest shade of the dog. Then using two darker shades of grey replace all the shades of brown. Just don’t go too dark because overall it should look like a white dog, so the darkest shade added here had 75% brightness.
Now on the mask layer, select the remaining color, delete the layer and using that selection, repeat the previous process but this time replacing the brown shades with much darker shades, close to black.
You can add some softer shades in the areas two colors meet (especially on the Welsh Terrier) as well as softening the interior black lines to lower the contrast for a smoother result.
To finish, give the dogs cast shadows (black at around 15% opacity.)
Done! Aren’t they cute?
3. Drawing Lines for a Cat
On to making the cats. We’ll start from scratch because of how different the shapes of our cats and dogs will be, but the process will be basically the same.
Start with two pixels for the eyes. No need for the red pixels.
Draw the top of the head. The cats will have a rounder head than the dogs.
Add one pixel for the nose and extend the head’s outlines.
Add a pair of ears. I tried two versions, one was longer but probably that makes the cat look more like a bunny, so I’ll continue with the short ears but use whatever you like.
On a New Layer, draw the outlines for a leg (2 pixel distance between the vertical lines) …copy the leg and place the copy 2 pixels horizontally and 1 pixel vertically from the original. Clean up.
Make them shorter than the dogs’ legs.
Find a nice place for the legs. They’ll be a bit farther behind the head, compared to the dogs, as cats often stand with their chest out.
Add lines for the torso and connect the legs to the head. We’ll be making a fat (or at least fluffy) cat :)
The legs look short but it’s fine, cats can mysteriously hide their limbs into their fluffy bodies all the time.
Just a small adjustment to the lines around the face. I extended the “chin line” and shortened the line behind the ears.
Copy the legs to the back.
And finish the back.
I’m not sure I understand how cats can look so square but we won’t need to push the legs out like we did with the dog. But we can adjust the line where the hind leg meets the torso to convey that leg being thicker as it goes up.
Let’s draw a tail in a new layer. I started with a freehand doodle.
And then drew the final lines for a fat fluffy tail.
Merge and clean up and the lines for your cat are done!
4. Adding Color for Two Cats
Same as with the dogs, we’ll get two different cats out of the same lines!
We’ll start with a ginger cat. Mix a nice ginger color and fill with the Paint Bucket Tool.
Use a pair of darker shades to give the cat more volume.
Soften contrast for the interior lines where you see fit.
Make a copy of your cat, which we’ll work on later.
First, let’s give our ginger cat some signature stripes.
In a new layer, with the Pencil Tool, draw the stripes in black (we’ll lower the contrast later) …check reference images for ideas on where to place the stripes.
Optionally, lower the opacity of the endings of some of the stripes. You can do this with the Eraser Tool, mode set to Pencil and opacity set to around 50%.
Now change the layer blending mode to Soft Light and lower its opacity to around 50%.
Duplicate that layer and change the change the layer blending mode to Hard Light and lower its opacity to around 20%.
We do that because the stripes on these cats are not only darker, but can also be more saturated and have a warmer hue.
Adjust the opacity on either layer until you find a balance you like and then select those two layers plus the layer with the cat and Merge.
Now we'll make our second cat. We take our unstriped ginger and update its colors to nearly black.
And to not make it too boring or unlucky we’ll also give this cat some touches of another color. I see many of these cats usually have little white boots, so let’s start there.
Remember to shade appropriately.
Let’s extend the white to cover part of the chest and face. And let’s change its nose color to a sort of dark pink.
Now just add a pair of cast shadows to the cats and that’s it!
Woof and Meow! You’re Done!
Aren’t they adorable! Now your pixel art character has pets to play with.
Of course, with the same outlines you can make lots more pets, same thing if you modify their proportions and positions. Hope you give that a try!