Voxel art.

You may have heard of voxel art or seen voxel graphics in person – you might have even dabbled in creating art with voxel software. But for many, it’s an unfamiliar term. 

 

Voxel art has increased in popularity in recent years, influencing video games, films, and online media. In this guide, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of voxel art. Keep reading to discover more.

Multiple voxel images of a face’s side profile made up of red and blue blocks on a black background

What is voxel art?

 

Voxel art is the creation of digital images using coloured 3D boxes. These boxes can be arranged in any position to create a recognisable shape. Naturally, the more boxes – or voxels – you use, the more complex the final image.  

 

While you could use 10 voxels to create a crude graphic of a house, using hundreds or thousands can create a complex and detailed replica.  

 

You may be familiar with Pointillism, the art style that uses multiple dots to create a larger image. In the same way, multiple voxels can be used to create large, detailed, 3D voxel art.  

 

Voxel design took off in 90’s video game production because it made it easy to create 3D shapes and images. Eventually, as technology progressed, it became easier to render complex images using polygons and voxel modelling fell out of mainstream popularity.  

 

Today, there are still some games that use voxels, especially when trying to capture a retro look. Some of the most famous examples of voxel use in video games includes Minecraft, No Man’s Sky, Crossy Road, and Starbase.    

 

The difference between voxel art and pixel art.  

 

Pixels and voxel art share many similarities, but the main difference is that pixels occupy a 2D space. While pixels can be used to give colour to 3D spaces, the physical pixel is flat and must be applied to a pre-existing shape.  

 

Voxels have three dimensions, so take up space of their own. It may help to think of voxels as LEGO cubes and pixels as paper squares.  

 

Learn more about pixel art > 

How to create voxel designs.

 

Some experts can create voxel art by programming text into a file, but for beginners, this isn’t the best way to start out. 

 

Instead, most rely on specialist voxel software that allows you to manipulate voxels in a 3D space. You can find voxel editor software available online, such as Qubicle and MagicaVoxel. Some light research should show you which version is best for you. 

 

Many people find jumping straight into their art or character design overwhelming and opt to draw or design their voxel art before they commit to the process. Think of this like concept art

 

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas that excite you, consider using Adobe’s Firefly AI art generator to inspire your voxel style creations. If you have an idea but you’re finding it hard to visualise or want to tweak it, you can use Adobe’s Firefly to generate images for you with a simple text prompt. These can be used as a jumping-off point or as inspirational pieces when making your voxel model

 

Explore Firefly now >

 

One of the easiest ways to design your voxel art is in Adobe Photoshop, where you can use tools to draw, colour, and edit your ideas. Photoshop’s square grid is a great tool to help you visualise your art as voxels. You can then experiment with the layout before you commit to your voxel vision. The more reference art you have as backup, the more you’ll have to rely on if you get stuck when creating your voxel designs.

 

How to use grids in Adobe Photoshop.

 

If you want to use a grid when designing your voxel graphics but are unsure how, simply start by opening a new document or an existing Photoshop document.

 

  • From there, go to View in the drop-down menu.
  • Select Show, followed by Select Grid

 

To adjust the size of your grid, do the following:

 

  • Go to Edit.
  • Select Preferences > Guides > Grid & Slices.
  • If you’re on a Mac, select Photoshop > Preferences > Guides > Grid & Slices.
  • From here, you can change the dimensions and appearance of your grid.

Making a career as a voxel artist

 

Voxel design is a niche skill, and outside of the games industry, there isn’t a high demand for voxel art. That said, there are still multiple ways you can become a professional voxel artist and make a career from your passion. 

 

Within the games industry, there are several ways you can use voxel art in your career. Some games and games companies use voxel graphics for their productions and require artists to help bring projects to life. Alternatively, with the growing demand for indie games, you might find that building your own voxel-based game is another option. 

 

You may also be able to sell voxel artwork online or in stores. Pop culture is always a firm favourite, and if you can create voxel art of popular TV, film, or game characters, you might find yourself with an appreciative audience. Similarly, consider exploring the 3D print and how you can use it to display and sell your voxel designs

 

While it may be a challenge to make a career as a voxel artist, a lot of the skills involved can be applied to other digital art paths. With plenty of practice, the right tools, and a little luck, you can turn your hobby into a career.

 

Voxel art FAQs.

 

What’s the best voxel art software?

 

The best voxel art software is the one that allows you to create work the easiest. There are several voxel art software programs out there and many of them are available for free. Try software, read reviews on functionality and features, and think about what you want to do with your voxel art to find the best tools for you. 
 

Is voxel art easy?

 

Like most things, the more you practice, the easier it becomes to create voxel art. The style of software means that it’s simple to undo mistakes and place voxels on a grid, but being able to create large-scale pieces takes time and know-how. Adobe Photoshop can make planning your designs easier, while Adobe’s AI generator Firefly can be a good starting point for coming up with fresh and exciting ideas. 
 

Why don't games use voxels?

 

Voxel art is still used in video games, but most AAA games rely on other methods. This is due to increased power in game consoles and computers, along with developments in technology. As there are now more options available to video game developers, many opt for different or distinct styles. Ironically, the dip in voxel use now makes it a distinct style in modern video games and you may still see it used today in certain titles.

Build voxel art with Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop is the perfect place to begin with creative projects of all styles. With tools that allow you to manage works of all shapes and sizes, big and small, Photoshop is the one-stop-shop for all things creative.