What is the difference between a pixel and a voxel?

When you first see the word voxel you may notice the that it sounds a lot like the word pixel. In this post I will explain what the difference is between a pixel and a voxel.

What is a pixel?

In order to compare the two we must first understand what each of them are. Pixels are tiny boxes of color found in 2D images. This includes all images you see from the pictures here on our websites to the photos you see on Instagram. So if you were to zoom into one of these images you’ll notice that all images are made up of what appears to be tiny squares, each with their own color. These little squares are called pixels, and are positioned on what can be thought of as a 2D grid. So when you see an images imagine that it is grid and each cell in the grid has its own color. Now each pixel in that grid has a specific “X” and “Y” position along with its own color value. Keep in mind that sometimes these cells can be transparent, however they are still a cell inside of the grid.

What is a voxel?

Voxels, visuals speaking, look a lot like a cubes. Voxels, sometimes referred to as 3D pixels, exist in a 3D grid. Now whenever you work with art in three dimensions it is generally referred to as a model, not an image.  So if you can imagine the first example we gave about the pixel image, a voxel has a “X” position and a “Y” position just like a pixel in an image. But now there is a third axis introduced which is the “Z” axis. This means that a voxel also has a “Z” position giving the artist the ability to make a 3D model instead of being limited to a 2D grid that is found in images. Keep in mind that each individual voxel also has a color assigned to it just like a pixel does and a cell inside of a voxel model can also be empty to create the look of transparency. 

What's the difference between pixels and voxels?

The difference between a pixel and a voxel is that a pixel is a square inside of a 2D image with a position in a 2D grid and a single color value, whereas a voxel is a cube inside of a 3D model that contains a position inside a 3D grid and a single color value.

The other major difference is that pixels are stored in image formats such as .PNG and .JPG. Voxels are stored in their own formats such as .VOX for MagicaVoxel and . QBCL for Qubicle. Because of the different file types, you will also need to use specific software to edit either of those. For images Photoshop is by the most popular software available. For voxel models, MagicaVoxel is the most widely used.

As mentioned before, both a pixel and a voxel are locked into a grid. Since a pixel and a voxel are the smallest unit in an image and model respectively, they have to have a whole number value. That means that a pixel cannot have an “X” position of 2.5. It has to be either 2 or 3. A voxel is bound to the same rules. It cannot have a “Z” position of 4.75. It will either round to 5 or be reduced to 4.
The other thing is that a pixel and voxel have to have a single color value. That means that they cannot contain gradients or multiple colors. Since they are the smallest unit it has to be a solid color.

Where to go from here

If you want to start making your own voxel art visit our Voxel Art Tutorial Library page where you can choose the voxel editor of your choice and get access to a wide variety of tutorials.

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