How I Drew My C64 Pictures

In general the pictures I drew fell into 2 categories, copies of box art / adverts, or original images inspired by the game.


Copied Art

Box art copies were both easier and more difficult. They were easier in that you had reference material to work from and copy, so you didn't have to think of an original idea and scout for reference material. They were harder in that you had to get as close a copy as possible, which wasn't easy on the C64 with its low resolution, limited colours, and attribute restrictions.

In general I didn't go for an exact copy, as the games had a square or vertical aspect, while the C64 screen had a horizontal aspect. So I tended to adapt the picture to fit the C64 screen, as you can see by the pictures below.

Gribbly's Day Out Box Art

Gribbly's Day Out C64 Loading Screen


Original Art

Original art was very hard to do, as I had to be inspired by the game in order to get good ideas and do a good picture. If the game was rubbish then it was difficult to get going, but if the game was good, then it was easy to be inspired, and I produced some good work, as with the Warhawk screen, below.

Warhawk C64 Loading Screen.


Drawing a C64 Picture

All my C64 pictures were drawn on a Koala Touch Tablet, using the Koala Painter program.

When I started drawing, the first thing I would do is choose the background colour of the picture. This was a very important choice, because this was the one colour you could use anywhere without fear of it clashing. Normally I used the colour that was most prevalent in the picture, or if the picture was cartoony with outlines, then black was an obvious choice. In fact a lot of my pictures use black as a background colour, as it was also good for stippling and shading.

I'd then start blocking out the various areas of the picture - often starting with the picture's main focus, such as a character. I'd block it out using the line drawing feature, building the object out of interconnected straight lines, because the freehand drawing wasn't accurate enough.

The outline would then be flood filled with the appropriate colour. I'd then go in on zoom mode to refine the outline pixel by pixel, and start adding in detail and shading.

Again, because the tablet wasn't very accurate virtually all the stippling and shading was done by hand in zoom mode, pixel by pixel. I hardly ever used Koala Painter's built in stipple shading functions.

Once one section was finished I'd go in and and do the next. Often I'd use the 'spare' screen to draw an object, then copy it over onto the main screen. When copying the background colour could be shown as transparent, so you could copy logos, etc. from the spare screen, over the top of the art on the main one.

Of course with copying you had to be very careful about colour clashing, and I often had to go in and manually touch up the edges of a logo or other object.

I'd save the picture frequently at every stage, but even so, sometimes I lost artwork when the program crashed while saving.

When a picture was finished I'd sign the picture by adding my signature to the picture, normally (but not always) in the bottom right. I'd add the year too, so I could keep track of when I drew the picture.

The final thing I'd do is to stand back and look at my work from a distance. Often this showed up mistakes in the picture that I then corrected.

To display the pictures on the C64 without using a paint program I wrote a small machine code routine to copy the picture onto the screen. I then used a 'cruncher' file compacter program to shrink the file size down to a manageable level.

The picture could then be simply loaded and 'run' to put it on screen.

Next Section: Transferring Pictures