App of the Week: Tiny Pixels

Title:’ Tiny Pixels
Platform:’ Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad / Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later
Cost:’ $1.99 (iPhone, iPod Touch) or $2.99 (iPad) There is also a Free version called Tiny Pixels Lite, but it does not have all the features of the paid versions.

I have always admired video games and web comics that use pixel art. Until recently, I did not think there was anyway for me to create my own (horrible) pixel art except on graph paper, but then I discovered Tiny Pixels. If you are unfamiliar with pixel art, think of popular video games from the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda were both created in this pixel-by-pixel style. For more modern examples, you can see some amazing works of pixel art here at Koi Koi Koi, a digital visual arts magazine, or here at Noupe Design Blog.

Though the versions of Tiny Pixels for iPad or iPhone differ slightly, the differences are mainly related to the size of the screen. For example, Tiny Pixels for iPad has a selectable canvas size from 16×16 to 512×512 while the selectable canvas size for iPhone or iPod Touch is 16×16 to 300×300.

Some features available on all versions of the Tiny Pixels app that make it fun and useful:

  • An adjustable brush size makes it simple to draw fine lines or fill in large areas of the canvas at a time.
  • You can opt to show grid lines on the canvas so your straight lines are indeed straight and so you know exactly what pixel you are filling in.
  • There is a works gallery for the artist to store and view completed works.
  • Images can be saved and sent via email (png or jpeg), or exported to iPhoto albums (jpeg only). It is interesting to note that you can also import an image from your Photo albums to Tiny Pixels. This is great for creating pixilated self-portraits!

Naturally, there are some things the creators of this app could improve:

  • There is a transparency tool, but as others in the app store comments have noted, it would be nice to be able to select transparency level in numeric form (10% transparent, 32% transparent, etc.).
  • Because today’s teens are most likely familiar with Photoshop, they might miss a layering feature. Tiny Pixels does not allow layering, and the addition of one might make this app more appealing to established Photoshop Artists.
  • There are not many features missing from this app, but the minor differences among platforms and in pricing could cause confusion.
  • The largest problem for me was my own ability to push single pixels. A stylus would easily solve this problem, but if one is not readily available, it is difficult to draw fine lines.

Though this app would be great to introduce during a graphic novel program (teens could use it to create their own superheroes, villains, city-scapes, or other images), I also see uses for this as a pattern creator. Knitting and other forms of needlework are increasingly popular, and this app could be used to create patterns for cross-stitching or embroidery.

If you know a teen that is an aspiring artist or graphic novelist, Tiny Pixels would be a great app for him or her. It could also be a great suggestion for teens that are already familiar with Photoshop, but are looking for new challenges.