For the past year or so I’ve been developing a pixel art and animation tool called Pickle.
The idea for Pickle came about as I was working on a pixel art game using the Flixel engine. I was trying to create a seamless background tile for my game in Photoshop and was getting really frustrated at how cumbersome the process is. Creating a seamless tile in Photoshop is easy enough. I like to use the Offset filter to expose any hard seams and fix them. However when the tile actually gets repeated a bunch of times weird patterns can appear that also need to be smoothed out. Unfortunately there’s no good way to preview a repeating tile as you edit it in Photoshop.
I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to make a tool to do this in Flash. So Pickle started out as just a very simple tool that would allow me to edit a tile while showing a live preview of that tile repeated across the window.
As I continued to work on my game, I found some other points in my workflow that could be made easier as well. Flixel animations are made using sprite sheets, where all frames of an animation are laid out side-by-side in a single image. To edit an animation in Photoshop you need to edit a frame, export the image, import it into your game and then run your game to see how the animation looks. Repeat that process thousands of times until everything looks just right.
Ideally you would be able to edit a single frame and see the animation previewed in real-time as you make changes. This made a great addition to Pickle. Since I already had the pixel editing functionality built, I just needed to add the ability to preview an animation instead of a repeating tile.
Game terrain in Flixel is done in a similar way to animations. Each specific type of terrain tile is laid in a specific order in a single sprite sheet. The Flixel engine grabs these individual tiles and lays them out to create the game terrain. Once again, I felt that having a live preview of the game terrain while editing would be ideal, so I added the functionality to Pickle as well.
At this point I realized that other people who work on Flixel games might also appreciate this functionality, so I started polishing up the tool into a more user-friendly app and released it to the public.
Pickle is built in Flash, so it is distributed as an Adobe AIR app. AIR has its fair share of shortcomings, but it’s the easiest way for me to distribute a cross-platform tool given my limited development resources.
The tool is still very simple and feature-limited compared to other graphics editors, but many people still find it helpful. Little by little I am working on turning it into a more full-featured tool.
I love hearing from people who are using Pickle. It’s neat to learn about other people’s workflows and hear what kind of features they need. If you try it out, please send me feedback and let me know what you think.