What is voxel art?

One of the questions I get asked frequently on Mega Voxels is what is voxel art? In this post I will explain what voxel art is and how it is made by voxel artists.

What is Voxel Art?

Voxel art is a type of art form where 3D models are constructed entirely out of 3D cubes called voxels. Artists are able to create these voxel models using a special type of software called a voxel editor. Once completed these models can be used for several purposes such as creating photos that can be shared to different networks such as Instagram or exported as 3D model files that can be used in games and 3D animation.

What is voxel art?

If you want to learn how to make voxel art check out our free Voxel Art Tutorial Library!
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What are voxels?

The word voxel is derived form the words "volumetric pixel". To understand what a voxel is however, you must first understand what a pixel is. In 2D graphics, a pixel is the smallest point in a raster image. If you zoom into an image enough you'll notice that an image is actually made up of squares. Another thing you'll notice is that these squares are aligned perfectly as if they were on a grid. These squares, called pixels, can only have a single color, and in some instances are transparent. When combined they make up the 2D images that we see.

Voxel art is made up of 3D cubes called voxels.

A voxel represents a value on a grid in three-dimensional space. This is very similar to a pixel in two-dimensional space. This is important because it has many of the same similarities as pixels in 2D graphics. For starters a voxel can only contain a single color at a time just like a pixel can only have a single color. Also a voxel has an exact position inside of a grid just like a pixel has an exact position inside of a picture. The difference though, is that a voxel has an extra axis, the Z-axis, that allows it to be positioned in three dimensional space. This also gives the voxel volume, in the sense that it is not just a 2D square in a grid like a pixel, but rather a 3D cube in a three dimensional grid. So if we were to translate this in the real world a pixel would be similar to a square piece of paper. You can see its height and width but really there is no depth to that sheet of paper. A voxel on the other hand would be something like a cardboard box. While you can certainly see its height and width, the other thing that is very clear is it has depth as well.

So what exactly is voxel art? Its actually the art of combining and coloring voxels. When combined an artist is able to create 3D models that can be used for artwork and animation. A great example of this is the mobile hit game Crossy Road. If you look at the main character, the chicken, you'll notice the sharp edges of where a voxel ends. This chicken was actually made of several voxels, that in the end were colored to look like a typical chicken.

Who makes voxel art?

The neat thing about voxel art is that any one can become a voxel creator, also known as a voxel artist. A voxel artist is a type of artist that makes voxel art by creating 3D models made entirely out of voxels using a software called a voxel editor. After their voxel model is complete these artists can they use their voxel art in several different types of projects such as image stills and video games.
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How do you make voxel art?

While you can certainly create voxel art models by manually writing positions inside of a text file, this is not easy and not feasible for the common 3D artist. Knowing this many software developers began to create specialized editors that gave artists tools to more effectively create models out of voxels while taking care of the file behind the scenes. As of today there are several options to choose from when it comes to picking a voxel editor for making voxel art. The most well known include MagicaVoxel, which is a free open-source voxel editor, and Qubicle, a proprietary software famous for helping create hit games like Crossy Road.

Voxel art is made using software called a Voxel Editor.

Over time as the tools began to advance, artists have been able to create amazing things, from hit mobile games to gorgeous pieces of voxel art like the ones you see on the Mega Voxels channels.

> View the Best Voxel Editors of 2020

Types of Voxel Art

Voxel art has actually been around for a while and many different versions of voxels have risen in the past decade. However it is still based on the same concept: virtual blocks placed together to create a model. Here is a list of the most popular types.

MagicaVoxel

MagicaVoxel is by far the most popular voxel editor for creating voxel art in the world. Most artwork you see on Mega Voxels is created using the .VOX file type which is the standard file format for MagicaVoxel. What makes MagicaVoxel even better, is its free to download and use. Most sites that sell voxel models will use this file type. If you are getting started with voxel art this is probably the best option since it is widely used even in different voxel editors.

> Learn more about the MagicaVoxel Voxel Editor

Qubicle

Qubicle is another very popular voxel editor especially amongst game developers. Hit games such as Crossy Road and Shooty Skies were made using this program. Qubicle uses the .QBCL file format. As mentioned before, Qubicle has an extremely easy interface to use which makes it nice for beginners learning to create voxel art. It also supports numerous export options including the widely supported .VOX file type.

> Learn more about the Qubicle Voxel Editor

Minecraft

Minecraft is one of the most popular forms of voxel art used today. Minecraft takes the concept of voxels and builds on this by texturing the individual voxel blocks with textures. All Minecraft models are built directly inside the Minecraft video game offered by Mojang. 

Voxel Based Games

Voxel-based games for the PC have seen a huge increase in popularity thanks to games like Trove and Cube World. These games use voxel systems to render thousands of voxels in a scene at one time giving players the ability to add and remove voxels to create their own customizable worlds or items. While some of these games have additional objectives, one of their primary functions is to give creators the ability to build their own voxel creations.

> Learn more about the Best Voxel Games for PC for 2020

How to Get Started

The nice thing about voxel art is its incredibly easy to get started. Here are some links to help get you started. First start off by choosing a Voxel editor. Check out our article on the Best Voxel Editors. Once you picked an editor go to our Voxel Art Tutorial Library to learn how to use the voxel editor of your choice to make your very first voxel model. 

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About Mega Voxels

Mega Voxels is for Voxel Artists by Voxel Artists.

It is an open community for anyone that wants to share their creations and games.