How to Make Lo-Fi Art

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Cheishiru

Cheishiru

Lo-fi art is closely linked with Lo-fi music. Lo-fi stands for Low Fidelity, which means the sound quality (fidelity) of the recording contains “flaws” such as background noises and distortions. It has a long history and recognized as a style of pop music.

 

Today, it’s mostly associated with relaxing or chill music. If you search Lo-fi, you’ll see it’s often associated with the words “hip hop,” “chill beats” and “music for studying.”

As an art form closely connected to Lo-fi music, Lo-fi art also shares its qualities. Relaxing modern picture + Lo-fi color palette are what makes Lo-fi art, Lo-fi.

 

If you prefer to watch video instead of reading, check this one out!

Color Palette

The colors in Lo-fi art are colors you can find in the sky during dawn and dusk.

 

The palette consists of muted orange highlight, red to purple main colors and blue shading. I like using light orange for highlight, but some artists steer away from it and focus only on purple shades.

Yellow, cyan, green, white and any shades of gray are all colors to avoid in Lo-fi art.

This is the base palette I used.

Lo-fi vs Other Aesthetics

Lo-fi overlaps with some other aesthetics, mainly retro and vaporwave. To avoid confusion, here’s a simple comparison.

Retro and Lo-fi similar in that they use muted colors and nostalgic, but Retro has yellow/cream tint instead of purple and can be high in contrast.

 

Vaporwave is rich in pink but uses neon colors (high saturation) and is high in contrast.

 

Lo-fi is rich in purple and low in both saturation and contrast.

Drawing Character

Most poses work well in Lo-fi art, you just need to avoid drawing expressive poses and facial expressions.

For example, because of the expressiveness, these don’t suit Lo-fi’s relaxed atmosphere.

Any facial expression that doesn’t involve negative emotions or excitement works. Neutral facial expression and smiles work great. Subtle embarrassment, surprise and relief also works.

Not only that, you can draw the character yawning, looking at something with interest or blowing bubbles for more variation.

You can always opt out drawing facial expressions by covering the face with something or making the character look away.

Background and Setting

Time setting in a lot of Lo-fi art usually is either evening or night. It suits the purple color palette perfectly, of course, thus is best to use.

For place setting, Lo-fi art usually depicts places we can find in real life nowadays.

 

Bedroom and living room are commonly used which is make sense because those are places to relax.

Café, street and store are common urban settings.

Garden, mountain, lake and starry sky are great for outdoor settings.

Since Lo-fi uses limited palette, it’s a good idea to add more items and details in the background.

Not only you give people more to see, you’re leaving more things for people to imagine and thus giving your artwork “story.” For example, see the pictures below.

What room is it? In what building is this room located? Is there a TV inside the room? What kind of person is living there?

 

With the picture on the left, you might be able to guess it’s either a living room at somebody’s house or a lounge. But there’s no clue to answer the rest of the questions.

 

The picture on the right gives more information.

The remote control on the table indicates that there might be a TV. Organized snack box on the table indicates tidiness. There’s a book with a bookmark sticking out, someone’s in the middle of reading it. A thick piece of fabric on the couch might be there because the weather is cold.

 

Adding a few details to your art can make a world of difference.

Coloring

Lo-fi art might be picky on theme, atmosphere and palette. But it’s flexible regarding coloring style.

 

No shading, cell shading, semi-detailed, detailed, 3D style… everything works as long as you use the right colors.

Since any coloring style works, there’s little point to make a zero-to-hero coloring tutorial. Instead, here’s a way to “dye” your non Lo-fi artwork in Lo-fi colors.

 

The key of this method is Gradient Map. It functions by replacing certain color values with designated colors. We’ll take advantage of this function to replace the colors with Lo-fi colors.

These steps works especially well in artworks with monochromatic or analogous color schemes.

 

Color schemes like complementary, split complementary, triad and tetradic are hard to convert into Lo-fi. It takes more effort and time to work on it, avoid if possible.

Let’s make the gradient first. Click Layer > New Correction Layer > Gradient Map.

This menu will appear.

Since this isn’t a Gradient Map tutorial, I’ll only mention what I used along with some tips.

There’s a gradient bar (#1) and you can add/change/delete colors to make a gradient you want. To add a color, click on the ruler like part at the bottom of the bar (#2), an upward arrow(?) should appear. To change a color, click on the arrow to select.

 

There are three color options (#3).

Main drawing color refers to Foreground color. Sub drawing color refers to Background color. Specified color means you can choose any color you want by either accessing the color setting or by using color picker tool.

 

Important: Color picker tool will override your mouse pointer and takes the color of anything you click, so make sure the color/palette you want is available on screen.

 

There’s a check box for Mixing rate curve. You can adjust how the colors blend with each other by moving the points.

 

This is the palette I used along with the gradient bar. It’s based on sky at dusk.

I have no idea how to export the Gradient Map, so I can’t share it in Assets. If you know how, please tell me!

 

After done making the gradient, click Create New Gradient (#4) to save it. A menu where you can name the gradient will appear. After naming, click OK.

Important: To make sure the gradient you made is saved and available for future use, you MUST click OK. If you don’t, even after Create New Gradient and naming it, the gradient you made will not register and will be lost forever. Same goes after you delete a Gradient, if you don’t click OK, the gradient will stay as if you didn’t delete it.

 

Next, open the colored work you want to turn into Lo-fi. Remember that the illustration itself must have a relaxed atmosphere.

Click Layer > New Correction Layer > Gradient Map.

 

Double click the gradient you want to apply to your work, click OK. You can see there’s a new layer in the Layer Palette.

Still on Gradient Map layer, change the Blending Mode to Hard Light. Colors are too saturated at this point and the yellow doesn’t belong.

Click the original artwork’s layer, this is to make sure the new layer is between the artwork layer and Gradient Map layer.

 

Go to Layer > New Correction Layer > Hue/Saturation/Luminosity.

 

If the artwork has persistent yellow (as is in this illustration), green or cyan, try adjusting the hue. If it contains too much white, try lowering the luminosity more.

Voila!

By the way, on the previous step, you can lower the Saturation to -100 and it'd still qualify as a Lo-fi art.

Thanks for reading! I hope you find this tutorial helpful.

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