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When I draw art assets for a game, should I fill the whole tile/frame? Would it look good in a game if I use less than the 32 by 32 pixels of the canvas, like the picture below?:

enter image description here

When I export this pixel art, it changes the width to 21px and height to 28px, like below.

enter image description here

What is the standard practice that game developers go for? Should I change my drawings so they utilize all the canvas and stretches from the beginning to the end?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would export it as a 32x32 for ease of use. Combining a few into a texture atlas or when you have an animation of a few, centering the images would involve extra work \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Apr 18 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ You do have a point. What if I draw, e.g.: trees, that would consist of multiple canvases, is there a rule of thumb? Some trees variations may not be perfectly centered. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19 at 8:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Take another example where you do not want to shrink the canvas. Imagine you have a circle animation (8 in total), each canvas contains 1/4 of the total circle, the rest is empty. If you shrink the canvas, not only get you a bunch of 16x16 and a few 8x24, the person to implement now needs to arrange all the images correctly. If they would be all 32x32 with empty spots, they can be placed as is and the animation works. A single variant image offcenter is not a problem, not everything is centered. But providing a full animation that is offcenter on one animation will be annoying \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibelas
    Apr 19 at 9:23

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This is a stylistic decision you'll need to make, based on your game's gameplay needs and your own creative goals.

A few considerations you can weigh in favour of using the full canvas:

  • It allows room for more detail in each asset, so small forms don't become too hard to read.

  • If your game is tile-based, having items consistently take up the same grid width can help both with stylistic unity, and for players parsing the visual scene and planning/executing their actions. Assets of mixed sizes could make this look more chaotic at a glance, so it takes more effort to navigate.

  • Uniform sizing makes it easy to arrange and address a sprite sheet / texture atlas as a regular grid, without excess wasted space. If you're using a tool like RPGMaker that expects sprites to be laid-out this way, or writing your own sprite code, this simplicity is convenient.

And some considerations in favour of using different sizes for different assets:

  • Verisimilitude: in reality, objects are different sizes. An apple is not as big as a melon. If a melon in your game is 32 pixels wide, you might want the apple to use fewer pixels so it looks smaller than the melon, and so that the player isn't confused by seeing fruits far from their typical scales.

  • Workload: only paint as many pixels as you need. Extending all assets to the full width adds more space you need to paint, which might be redundant if the asset could be made clearly readable and serve its gameplay function at a smaller size.

  • Modern game engines and pipeline tools can handle sprites of mixed sizes just fine, automatically packing them into sprite sheets / atlases without manual fiddling or increased complexity in your game scripts.

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