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Old October 12th, 2009 (10:32 PM). Edited January 7th, 2011 by Chesu.
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    GBA/DS Pokemon Back Sprite Tutorial
    by Chesu

    While sprites viewed from the front are by far the most popular,
    especially when it comes to Pokemon, the large sprites representing your
    team in battle are just as important. With that in mind, let's get right to it!

    You may recognize Marchare from my original spriting tutorial.
    It's the first Pokemon sprite I ever made from scratch, and allows
    me to bring up a few points in the process of making a back sprite, so
    it's what I'll be spriting. If you don't have your own sprite and want to give
    this tutorial a try, why not make your own back sprite of an existing
    Pokemon and see how close to the real deal it turns out?

    The first thing we need to do is figure out how big the
    sprite will be. Since back sprites are closer in the player's
    perspective, they will always be bigger than the front sprite
    versions. Most front sprites fill up a good portion of the area they're
    allowed to take up (64x64 for third generation, 80x80 for fourth
    generation), so the back sprites of all but the smallest/floatiest
    Pokemon will have their lower halves cut off. However, seven of
    the ten Pokemon I checked had back sprites that were the height
    as their front sprites, like Banette up there. This only applies to third
    generation sprites; most back sprites from the fourth are much larger
    than the front sprites. So, how do we determine how much bigger the
    features of the back sprite need to be? Well, through a bit of research
    and experimentation, I've discovered that third gen sprites are forty
    percent larger, and that fourth gen sprites are usually fifty to
    seventy percent larger. We can apply that thusly:

    First, take your sprite and flip it horizontally, then
    increase the size by the desired percentage. In MS
    Paint, you would right-click the sprite or click the Image
    tab, select "Stretch/Skew", and replace the 100% in both
    boxes under Stretch with 140; in Paint Shop Pro, click the
    Image tab, select Resize, and do the same thing in the Pixel
    Dimensions box, while making sure that it's set to Percentage
    rather than Pixels. It may be a little blocky, but don't worry, this
    image won't make it into the final sprite. As you can see in the
    Banette animation, while the resized sprite is a blocky mess,
    all of its features are almost exactly the same size as
    the ones in the back sprite. With this, we can
    begin working on the sprite itself.

    Using the method from the original scratch tutorial, create
    some shapes around the same size as the important parts of your
    enlarged sprite's body, then fit them together in an approximation
    of the front sprite's pose and start reshaping them. The circles are
    placed on top of the sprite in the image on the left only to show the
    size comparison; since the back sprite is viewed more from above,
    you shouldn't try to put the shapes together exactly as they sit on
    top of your resized sprite. I set them about the same way I did
    when making the original sprite, and will work from there.
    Once you're reasonably happy with the basic shape
    of the body, we can move on to limbs and
    deciding where to cut off the sprite.

    Here's a selection of parts I made based on the
    resized sprite, and my first attempts at assembling
    them. Like I said before, one reason that I chose Marchare
    was to point out some important aspects of making a back sprite;
    one of them is budgeting your available space. Marchare's front sprite
    is one pixel short of the third generation's maximum width, meaning
    that a larger version will have to be a bit different from the original
    to fit. My first thought was to perk the ears up so that there would
    be room for the tail, but that looked kind of... terrible. Also,
    between the positions of the ears and arm, the sprite
    seems to be facing straight to the right, which
    we want to avoid if at all possible.

    By making the ears just a bit shorter than in
    the front sprite, I'm able to make much better-looking
    ears that make the sprite only a few pixels wider than it
    was with them perked up. Unfortunately, the left ear being
    down means that the tail overlapping it will be almost unavoidable.
    There are only ten pixels between the back of the body and the edge
    of the area I have to work with, so I definitely won't be able to draw the
    tail the same way it appears in the front sprite. Don't worry though, if
    you fiddle with it enough you'll always find a way around things like
    this. I cut the sprite off around the middle of the hip, to make
    sure that there's at least one pixel between the bottom of
    the foot and where the battle menu would be.

    This brings me to the next point I chose Marchare
    in order to bring up: whether or not to show certain
    body parts. I could get away with lowering the majority
    of the tail below the cut off point, saving me from having
    to deal with the overlapping of tail and ear, but after a bit
    of experimentation I decided that it wouldn't look very good.
    That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try something similar if
    you think it would work though, every sprite is different. I ended
    up going with a more curvy version of the front sprite's tail, with the
    dimensions based on the resized sprite. If you overlap parts like
    this, make sure that the shapes work well together. If this tail
    were moved one pixel in any direction, its outline would
    touch the outline of the ear or body and look... Well,
    not so good. Once you're happy with your limbs,
    it's time to move on to one last point worth
    considering, then the final stage, shading!

    The last reason I chose Marchare is the shape of
    its face. Because of the way Rattata's face is shaped,
    its eyes aren't visible from this angle, while Banette's
    are. Marchare's eyes are spaced farther apart than Rattata's
    but not quite as much as Banette's, so how much of its face I
    show is down to a judgment call. There's really no golden rule for
    this, you'll just have to make a choice based on the shape of your
    sprite's head and face. Once you've worked that out, it's time to shade!
    As shown in the second and third generation Rattata sprites (official
    revamps of back sprites are pretty common... who knew!), the
    light source is almost directly above. How much
    dithering you use is completely up to you.

    With a little modification to the head and
    back, it's looking even more like the front sprite.
    That's one last thing I would like to bring up; don't
    be afraid to make changes like this at the last minute.
    No matter how much work you've done on a sprite, you're
    not committed to the current look. If you think it could
    look better, go ahead and try! So long as you keep
    backups of all important revisions of your
    sprite, it never hurts to experiment.

    Well, there you have it. Back sprites may seem
    intimidating, what with their large size and divergence
    from the familiar rules of Pokemon spriting, but in reality
    all you need is to know a few useful techniques. I hope
    you've found this tutorial useful! Until next time...
    Keep spriting!


    If you have any questions or would like to give feedback
    on the tutorials, click here to leave me a visitor message!

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