# Using References

~ A quick link to the vanilla sprites ~ (opens new window)

NO, there is nothing wrong with using references. Seeing how things look is a necessary part of making any kind of realistic art.

Brains aren't naturally good at knowing how things look. You may be able to recognize if something looks right, but being able to generate something that looks natural from your imagination is extremely difficult.

Attempts to work from imagination (without years of practice) are usually overly simple and artificial looking, because brains don't know how to generate the details.

Drawing from references lets you see those details, make better art, and get a better understanding of how things look.

Most artists should use references almost constantly.

# Example

If skeptical, try drawing a pixel-art dog buddy in Rivals style, entirely from imagination.

Then draw the same kind of dog while looking at the reference below, and paying attention to how it's different from your first try.

Dog reference Rivals Dog

# Specific references

There's a misconception that a reference must be an exact match of what you're drawing, and you need to copy everything about the reference, like referencing a picture of sonic to draw sonic.

Usually a reference shows you some small aspect of the subject. For example:

  • Spyro the dragon's color palette
  • Broken glass for hit fx
  • Smash's mario fair pose
  • A military officer for clothes design
  • A video of rollerblading for run animation
  • Absa's got-hit sprite pose

# Pose and Animation references

An animation can look unnatural in many ways. Follow similar movement in other animations, or similar poses.

  • How does someone throw something big and heavy?
  • How does someone wind up before they do a sweeping kick?
  • How do four-legged animals turn around?
Amber by BountyXSnipe, and Ori reference
Nozomi by Frtoud, and Fox reference

Original Lucas animation
Lucas by Reighoul

Example of how an attack animation can be guided by references

Say you have a quadruped wildcat character who's going to pounce and swipe with both claws.

Google imaging that movement doesn't turn up much, but there are good examples of lions running and jumping.

lion running

That can help with the pounce movement, but finding references for the clawing looks harder. Searching finds Ms. Fortune sprites in similar poses.

ms fortune yawn ms fortune jumping lp

They're not from the same attack (and one is actually a yawn), but they both fit and look catty.

You can combine these sources to make some evocative keyframes for the animation.

# Style references

If something isn't looking right, you can compare with Rivals sprites (opens new window) that have similar poses or animations.

  • How many frames do they use?
  • How do they make that material look shiny?
  • How do they make the face clear when it's so small?

# Getting references

Under Construction

Are there more good sources? Please let me know.