How to Make a Grid for Pixel Art in Photoshop

In this pixel art tutorial you will learn how to create a pixel art grid using Adobe Photoshop! We will cover how to create a grid as well as how to adjust it depending on your project needs!

How to Make a Grid for Pixel Art

If you have begun creating pixel art you might have noticed that it is a little difficult to position pixels on a blank canvas. You might have created a simple drawing and are wondering how do I make a grid for my pixel art in Photoshop? The good news is that Adobe Photoshop has a whole menu dedicated to creating a grid for your pixel artwork. We will cover the steps on how to add a grid to your canvas and then explain some of the options you have for customizing it.

How to Make a Grid for Pixel Art in Photoshop

These are the basic steps for how to make a grid for pixel artwork inside of Adobe Photoshop:
  1. Install Adobe Photoshop for macOS or Windows
  2. Create a new image file inside of Photoshop
  3. Set the size of the canvas to a multiple of 8 (8x8, 16x16, 32x32)
  4. Adjust the Zoom level for the Canvas
  5. Enable the Nearest Neighbor option for Image Interpolation
  6. Turn on the Grid option in the View menu
  7. Set the value of the Gridline inside of the Guides, Grid & Slices menu
Now that you have a general understanding on how to create a pixel grid, we will cover each step in more detail and show additional options you can enable.

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Install Adobe Photoshop using Creative Cloud

In this tutorial we will be focusing specifically on the process of creating a grid inside of Adobe Photoshop. Before we can get started, be sure to install Adobe Photoshop on either a computer that runs on macOS or Windows. Let's begin!

Create a New Image File in Photoshop

Now go ahead and open up the Photoshop app. Like our other tutorials, you should see a welcome menu similar to the one we have below. For this tutorial we will create a new canvas from scratch and show you how to add a grid for that. To create a new file, click button that says Create New.

Adobe Photoshop Welcome Screen

Set the Canvas Size

Immediately after you press that, a New Document menu screen will show up on top of the Welcome Screen. Here you can choose from several pre-made design documents by Adobe to help build graphic projects designed for different resolutions and sizes. 

For this tutorial we will select the Custom option. To the right you should see a menu called Preset Details. For this example we will use our famous hipster dog that we used in our beginner tutorial. Feel free to use whatever name works for you. To follow along type the name HipsterDog and enter 32 pixels for the width and 32 pixels for the height. When you are finished, Click Create.

Create a New Image File in Photoshop

One other note before we go any further is to note the size we selected for our width and height. Pixel art almost always uses a multiple of 8. That is because devices before that displayed pixel art were limited to these types of dimensions. To maintain the look and feel or retro graphics be sure to follow this rule.

Adjust the Zoom Level

Once you have created your new file you should see a screen that looks like the one below. You might be asking yourself why the canvas appears like a tiny square on your computer screen. The reason is that we made our canvas 32x32 pixels. On most modern screens that will appear very small. Before we can enable our grid we will first have to increase the view of our canvas.

If you look in the bottom left of the application window, you will notice we are viewing our canvas at 100% zoom. Pixel art like we mentioned before is artwork that works on the pixel level. We can always scale our images up later, but while we are designing we have to remain in this resolution.

To make it easier to design though, we can adjust the Zoom property to a bigger number. To do this you can click the number and manually type in a value. You can also press CTRL + on a Windows machine or CMD + on a Mac to zoom in as well. The recommended zoom level that we will be using for this tutorial is 3200%. The result should look like something below.

Now that you have created a blank canvas we will show you how to .

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Enable Nearest Neighbor

Before we can turn on a grid we have to make sure that Photoshop understands we are making pixel art. If not the grid will literally not have any purpose. The reason is because all images made in Photoshop use Bicubic Automatic for Image Interpolation by default. This option is important for normal pictures because when you enlarge a photo up or down it blur the pixels so they appear "smooth". However, this does not work in pixel art. Whenever you create pixel graphics they need to look sharp. The images below are examples of when you use Bicubic Automatic and when you use Nearest Neighbor.
Image with Bicubic Automatic

Image with Nearest Neighbor

To fix this we need to change the Image Interpolation property to Nearest Neighbor. To do this navigate to Preferences and choose the General button.

Once you open Preferences menu, click the dropdown for Image Interpolation and choose Nearest Neighbor (Preserve Hard Edges).

Now when you resize your pixel art, Photoshop will preserve the hard edges giving your artwork a clean, sharp look. 

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Turn on the Grid

We are finally ready to enable our grid! To do this we will turn on the Grid. As you probably already guessed, pixel art is designed and drawn on an invisible 2D grid. However by turning on this feature, we will be able to see where exactly we are placing our pixels. To turn on our grid go to View > Show > Grid.

After you click Grid you should see a grid appear on top of your Canvas. Remember, this grid is only a guide for visual purposes and will not show up when you export your pixel art.

Now, there will be times when the grid does not show the correct size. The reason for this is because a property called Grid Lines inside of the Preferences menu, are not configured properly. If you run into this issue go ahead and navigate to the Preferences panel again and this time click Guides, Grid & Slices... from the options.

Once you enter into the sub-menu, make sure that the Gridline Every: property has 1 pixels as the values. Also enter 1 into the Subdivisions text box.

Basically this will ensure that your grid displays a line for every pixel in your canvas. Perfect! You are now ready to create pixel art!

Where to Go From Here

You now have a pixel art grid in Photoshop that you can use to start drawing your own 2D sprites. Feel free to experiment with the size of your canvas. Also we recommend using the Pencil tool with a stroke size of 1.

To learn this and more, view our next tutorial How to Make Pixel Art in Photoshop for Beginners.

How to Create a Pixel Art Grid in Photoshop


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