What are Voxels?


One of the most common questions we get asked on Mega Voxels is what exactly are voxels? In this post I will explain what voxels are and how they are used by voxel artists to make artwork and games!

What are Voxels?

What are Voxels?

Voxels, also known as volumetric pixels, are cubes positioned inside of 3D grid. Each voxel has a 3D coordinate where it is placed inside of the grid, along with a specific color that is displayed. All voxels are identical in size, however voxels can be combined in the same grid at different positions with different colors to create what is known as a voxel model.
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How are Voxels Created?

Voxels are created using a special type of software called a Voxel Editor. Voxel editors provide a common set of tools that give artists the ability to add, delete and paint voxels. Most modern editors also come with additional commands that simplify or speed up production of voxel models. Voxel software also provides export options that allow voxel artists to share their models either through 2D image renderings or 3D models.

As of today there are several popular editors for building voxel art, including: MagicaVoxel, Qubicle, Goxel and VoxEdit.
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Voxels and Pixels

In theory voxels behave very similar to pixels. In fact the word voxel is derived from the terms “volume” and “pixel”.

In 2D images, if you were to zoom in enough you would be able to see tiny squares of different colors. These little squares are known as pixels. Each of these pixels are positioned on a two dimensional grid. Each cell in the grid has an “X” position and a “Y” position along with a color value. This combination of squares makes up an image as a whole.

Voxels, sometimes referred to as 3D pixels, behave in a near identical fashion to pixels. They have to a specific cell inside of a grid. However the major difference is now instead of dealing with 2 axis like pixels, you are dealing with 3. 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. 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. 

Lastly, voxels are also assigned a single color just like a pixel. When combined they can be used to construct complex 3D models.

What are Voxels Used For?

Voxels are used in a variety of different scenarios, including artwork through 2D rendered images and video games through 3D models.

Artwork

Artwork using voxels has risen in popularity with artists around the world because of its simplicity and clean aesthetic. Many artists have used it to create everything from profile photos on social media to album covers for new music tracks. Because 2D renderings are supported by major voxel editors, high resolutions shots of voxel models can be exported and used easily.

Video Games

Voxels have become incredibly renown in the gaming industry. Because most voxel software support common model formats for export, such as OBJ and FBX, it has made it ideal for game developers to use in their games. They were used most notably in hit mobile games such as Crossy Road and Shooty Skies where all game elements were constructed out of voxels. They were also used as the backbone system for larger games such as Minecraft.


Where to Learn More About Voxels

Are you ready to start building with voxels? Check out our Voxel Art Tutorial Library to get access to great voxel editors as well as tutorials for getting up and running fast. If you need some inspiration follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to get the latest and greatest voxel art in your home feed daily!

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