Question: Tools/Organization/Workflow for simple 2D graphics and sprites

This is more about creating and organizing 2D graphics rather than using them in Java specifically.

Working on my game has been a slow process but at least I have a background in Java. What I have no experience with is creating graphics. My graphics at the moment are very, very simple - which is fine with me for now. What isn’t fine is my work flow.

If I am just playing around, trying to get some ideas I tend to work in either LibreOffice Impress or MS PowerPoint and to a lesser extent MS Paint. This tends to leave me with lots of sprites spread around within a file. Some of these are dead ends that I don’t want to get rid of, while others are what I would currently like to use.

If I want to put one of them in a game, I will then either save a copy and crop out everything else (if it is MS Paint) or take a screen capture (if it is a slide deck). Either way it is saved as a PNG. I then pull the image into GIMP and remove the background color so it is appropriately transparent and save it as a different file. This is then loaded into the game and used.

This stinks for at least a couple of reasons:

  1. I am using too many tools; for instance I am just using GIMP to make the background transparent.
  2. Everything is too manual.
  3. It’s a mess…I have old versions and dead ends mixed in with current ideas and it is hard to organize.
  4. Although I am just using simple solid colors now, I am eventually going to want to add little things like some blurring or glowing (like a radar screen). This work flow isn’t compatible with that.

I have a tiny bit of of familiarity with InkScape and I have heard of Paint.NET but that is about it. I am willing to take some time to learn the proper tools but I fear that something like Photoship/GIMP is a bit too far beyond me.

So does anyone have any recommendations of better tools or workflow or organizational tips for simple 2D graphics/art? How do you do it?

I (and most professionals) use Photoshop and Illustrator for designing their artwork. I’ve used Paint.NET and GIMP before and in order of difficulty, I would list them as such:

Paint.NET, GIMP, Photoshop, Illustrator

Illustrator is geared towards creating digital art, and Photoshop is geared towards editing pictures, but they are both awesome software that I use.

GIMP was actually quite a good tool and it wasn’t hard to learn. For simple 2D sprites it will be great.

Paint.NET is probably what you should start using. It’s simple, yet has just the right features that you need without being complicated.

Using MS Powerpoint and MS Paint is just ridiculous and no one should ever use those obsolete monstrosities for any serious artwork.

Organizational tips
I don’t have any specific workflow I use when designing artwork for my games. I create it as I see fit. If I need to make some blocks, I’ll make the blocks. If I need to make a background and a sprite, I’ll just do it. There isn’t any order I follow.

Use Paint.NET for pixel art.

Everything else is too much or not enough.

(My avatar was made with Paint.NET)

I simply use an icon editor (search for green fish icon editor). It’s just fine and even has support for gradient and I’ll save it as a png