[Archives] Game Development Tool First Impressions – Pickle: Pixel Art Editor

Archives, Art, Game Development, Review

While I typically work on pixel art and animations using Graphics Gale (mentioned in my Favorite Gamedev Tools post) , I like trying out new tools.  Pickle caught my eye when I saw its terrain mode – a live-updating tilemap editor that displays all possible combinations of tiles at once.  I knew I had to try it out, so I downloaded the 7-day trial and gave it a whirl!

Pickle Pixel Art Editor

What I like:

  • The program is sleek and user-friendly.  It has a modern interface that isn’t overwhelming, which makes it great for beginners.
  • It has a wrap-around canvas, useful for finding seams in individual tiles, and a mirror mode for symmetrical drawing.
  • In the animation editor, you can easily change the FPS of the animation, and loop between specific frames if you only need to see part of an animation.  It also has an onion skin mode for easy animating.
  • You can export PNG spritesheets, which can take forever to arrange manually.
  • The feature that drew me to the program, the Terrain Mode, is fantastic.  It contains a selection of pre-defined tile pieces that you select as if you’re selecting animation frames, and a preview mode which aligns the tiles so you can see them together as you create them.
  • You can create custom tiles in Terrain Mode, in case the ones they give you by default aren’t enough.  You can also edit the arrangement of the preview mode to include different combinations of tiles, or include your custom tiles.

What could be improved:

  • The program’s features are fairly limited – There is no Line tool, no Shape tool, no color replacement, no selection other than rectangular, and various other things I find myself missing.
  • There are also very few settings or editable preferences.  About the only thing you can do is change what the right click does.  I cannot rebind keys (I typically use []brackets to toggle back and forth between animation frames).
  • You can’t import .gifs.  This program would be AMAZING if it could import a gif and export a spritesheet.
  • The pixel grid automatically shows if you are in 6x zoom or larger, and automatically hides at 5x zoom or lower.  There is no way to manually turn that on or off.
  • You can save and load palettes, but only via the editor.  If you have a palette from an external program, or a .pal file, it won’t load that.  You can load an image of all of the different colors, but you need to first make sure all the colors are in the exact order you want them to appear in the palette.  You cannot rearrange colors in the color selection window, so you cannot make in-editor color ramps (a feature I love using in Graphics Gale).
Pickle Palette vs GraphicsGale Palette
  • Although you can add seemingly any number of custom tiles in Terrain mode, you cannot expand the preview beyond 14×12 tiles (no matter the tile’s size), meaning you may not be able to fit all combinations if you add many custom tiles.
  • The terrain editor is built for Flixel, and has default overlays on the tile frames menu.  Custom tiles have no overlays, meaning it’s hard to quickly tell which tile is which on the frames menu.
Pickle Terrain Editor

In all, this program has some features that would definitely make me want to purchase it.  The terrain editor by itself nearly sells me.  I’m not sure how easily I could adjust to the limited nature of the program, and the many features that would be missing for me.  I may just be too used to Graphics Gale, a program that looks terribly outdated but is one of the most complete pixel art programs I’ve ever seen.

You can buy Pickle from their website for $24.99