How to make an SF4 character into an SF3 styled sprite

steamboy33steamboy33 Joined: Posts: 88Registered
Hi everyone,

I thought I'd share my process with you guys on how I did the SF3 style sprites.

The fundamentals of my process are based on Derek Yu's Pixel Tutorial, so those who are familiar with this can use it as a guide, as he goes into much more detail than I will here. Also, throughout this process I always have a bunch of other screenshots of the character for reference, as well as a bunch of SF3 sprites to reference the coloring style.

Step 1: SF4 Screenshot


First thing I do, is take a screenshot from an in-game SF4 scene. Since SSF4 isn't out yet, I used a screenshot from a gamespot video to capture Hakan's idle stance. Usually I would get my screenshot from SF4 PC.

Step 2: Resize Screenshot to SF3 size


The second step is to throw in an original SF3 sprite. I used Ibuki here since she is in the scene and I can easily resize the screenshot to the right size so that the size relation between Hakan and the rest of the SF3 cast would be accurate. Usually I use Ryu in the screenshot, since he has an average size. Screenshot layer is lowered in opacity for clarity.

Step 3: Resize Screenshot for Aspect Ratio


Here's where it might get a little confusing. Because SF3 runs on a 4:3 aspect ratio, the storage size on the sprites are a little wider than they appear in-game. You'll notice if you run the SF3 emulator, the default window size is a little squashed. This is because the pixels on the computer and the pixels on an old school TV are different sizes.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into the details, but basically what I do here is stretch the screenshot horizontally to compensate, once again using Ibuki as a guide.

Step 4: TRACE!!


This step is probably the most important one, because it will lay down the basic shape and structure of the final sprite. Here I use my tracing skills to draw out the character with a pencil tool. It's important to use the 1 pixel size brush, because you don't want to be cleaning up the lines afterwards (very time consuming). Generally, you want all the lines to be 1 pixel wide.

Also, it's not always 1:1 when you're tracing the character. Sometimes you need to exaggerate certain areas, or simplify certain details in order to get that SF3 look. Once you get an outline of all the important areas, you can move on to the next step.

Step 5: Lines (Close Up)


Step 6: Flat colors


At this point, you want to make a new layer under the lineart, and fill in the basic colors of the character. Street Fighter characters are very well designed in the sense that they use very few colors, so the character is readable at fast speeds. usually the character won't have more than 4 or 5 main colors.

Step 7: Basic Shading


Here, I like to throw down one level of shading on the entire character. Think of it like making a cel-shaded image. Generally, you don't want to have too many levels of shading on this kind of sprite style, because you want that clear, readable look. Too many levels and it will start to look SNK style.

Step 8: Color the lines


Once you have your basic shading down, it's time to go back to the lineart layer, and colorize those lines. Black outlines are cool on sprites (like Darkstalkers), but the SF3 style has a very intricate way of colorizing the lines. The reason I do this after I do the basic shading, is because the lines will be colored according to where they are on the sprite. In other words, even though Hakan's body is all red, I use a different color to tint the lines for his body, a lighter shade for the lines bordering the highlights, and a darker more desaturated shade for the lines bordering his shadows.

You'll also notice that I've tweaked his base color since the last step. Once you have some shading and colors on there, it's easier to tweak them to match the character.

Step 9: Secondary Shading


This is one of the key steps in getting that SF3 style. Here I add a secondary level of shading to the shadow area of the sprite. I like to use a desaturated blue or green color to compliment the shadows. You'll notice that all SF3 sprites use some kind of blueish green grey in their shadows.

You'll also notice that I've moved Hakan's left leg (our right) down a little. This is because when I traced the screenshot, I didn't account for the fact that SF3 and SF4 are played on different 'camera angles', meaning you see different amounts of ground plane in each game. In SF4, the camera is higher, so the characters' feet appear to vary in height, whereas in SF3 the camera is much closer to the ground, which is why I moved his foot down here to match the ground plane.

Step 10: Line Shading


This is probably the trickiest step out of all. Basically at this point I go in and shade all the lines into at least 3 tones. Some areas, like near his armpit or right under his head on his neck, i'll add a 4th, darker tone. Also, notice that I've bordered the light and shadow on his flesh color with a deep, saturated red. This is to get that fleshy look to his skin, similar to the effects of sub surface scattering in 3d rendering.

Because Hakan is so oily, I've also added 2 extra levels of highlight on his skin and his pants, which should be used sparingly on other characters.

Step 11: Color Correction


Once I'm satisfied with the look of the sprite, I will throw it in with original SF3 sprites to check if it matches. You can get all of the SF3 sprites here on Zweifuss' page. In this instance, Hakan's shadows were too grey-green compared to the rest of the cast, and lacked contrast. So I tweaked the colors a bit and made the shadows more of a purply-blue color.

I hope this guide was helpful to you, and lastly, here is an animated gif of the entire process:



  • PhinnyCupcakesPhinnyCupcakes Summertime Huggles Joined: Posts: 260Registered
    holy crap... props man!
    "Scissor is overpowered, Rock is fine" - Paper.
  • fistoftheryustarfistoftheryustar Joined: Posts: 2,024Registered
    HOLY SHIT! you cracked the code. im not a big sprite guy but Im all about SF3 art. thank you for this. it really does look like it came from SF3

    Edit: Also I notice its not just your formula, but you have good line art. In that gif between like step 4-6 i notice it really resembles the SF3 official artwork (reminds me of urien a bit.) Thats where it gets great shape. Did you study the SF3 official artwork (i.e. non-in game sprites) to achieve that look with Hakan??

    Im wondering if you ever thought of taking famous poses from the animations of SF3. Taking one frame out and redoing it with the SF3-official artwork vibe. People have taken sprites from Third Strike and made them Hi-Def. I'd love to see you work your magic now, especially since you have the 3rd Strike art style down. Like That'd be like a hybrid of the 3S artwork with the in-game sprites. Do you know what Im trying to say? Or is it confusing?
    My drawing:
    Mai cheats on Ryu - "Shin Shoryuken!"

  • Prodigy_LXMProdigy_LXM Just Me Joined: Posts: 60Registered
    THANK YOU SOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!! So very helpful!!!
  • steamboy33steamboy33 Joined: Posts: 88Registered
    Im wondering if you ever thought of taking famous poses from the animations of SF3. Taking one frame out and redoing it with the SF3-official artwork vibe. People have taken sprites from Third Strike and made them Hi-Def.

    I think I know what you're saying, but it would take a long time, and wouldn't be worth doing unless I did all the frames in a sequence (which makes it even more time consuming).

    Who knows, maybe if one day I get bored and have loads of free time (ie. not anytime soon)
  • BodhisattvaBodhisattva 侍 User Joined: Posts: 73Registered
    Oh man thank you...This is just great.
    Violent Storm Rising.
  • Mr ListMr List Lord of the Scrubs Joined: Posts: 1,388Registered
    why didn't you do anywork on hdr? (or did you?)
    anyway this shows it is even harder/more complicated than i already thought to dothese sprites.

    more please :wgrin:
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  • Dr. WilhelmDr. Wilhelm Most call me Doc. Joined: Posts: 1,021Registered
    I'm not big into making sprites but this is a sweet tutorial. Your end result looks 100% official.
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  • MariodoodMariodood You Cant Escape..O_o Joined: Posts: 1,435Registered
    This provides cool insight into how sprites are made. I feel like this could go on the front page for how cool/informative it is.
  • deadfrogdeadfrog Please enter a value using 50 characters or fewer. Joined: Posts: 6,389Registered
    this is awesome :rofl:
  • fistoftheryustarfistoftheryustar Joined: Posts: 2,024Registered
    I think I know what you're saying, but it would take a long time, and wouldn't be worth doing unless I did all the frames in a sequence (which makes it even more time consuming).

    Who knows, maybe if one day I get bored and have loads of free time (ie. not anytime soon)

    You kind of got what I meant. I meant just one frame out of the animation, not the whole animation. Almost the same exact as doing a Hi-Def version of a SF3 frame, except itd be more badass because you manage to capture Ikeno's SF3 artwork when you do SF3 style sprites.
    My drawing:
    Mai cheats on Ryu - "Shin Shoryuken!"

  • extravagantextravagant Joined: Posts: 737Registered
    omg make a Juri please :)))
    SF4 - Chun-Li
  • ReyArtReyArt It's Super Dynamic Cooking Time! Joined: Posts: 1,449Registered
    Amazing work/tutorial steamboy33! Thank you for the write-up! ^_^
  • wakasashewakasashe Joined: Posts: 1,176Registered
    Great contribution and congrats making it to the front page!
    Shakin' them lightning legs since '91.
  • AlexlexusAlexlexus Joined: Posts: 300Registered
    new mugen characters underway? can you do this on youtube?
    Shifting to Turbo
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  • The_ShakunetsuThe_Shakunetsu The Crimson Hadouken Joined: Posts: 190Registered
    thanks sir for the tutorial! great work thanks for sharing!
  • WuddhaWuddha Joined: Posts: 7Registered
    Im still skeptic on choosing my colors, is there any type of theory, reference, or process of figuring out which shades fit the vibe?
  • steamboy33steamboy33 Joined: Posts: 88Registered
    Im still skeptic on choosing my colors, is there any type of theory, reference, or process of figuring out which shades fit the vibe?

    The best way to make sure your colors will fit with the SF3 ones are to reference the colors from the original SF3 sprites. There are many color variations for each character, and usually someone will have the color you want. Don't be too shy to just color picker that shiz.

    Usually once you throw your sprite into a mix of original sprites, you can tweak accordingly.
  • KaYz1992KaYz1992 Joined: Posts: 2Registered
    wow this is really cool, and informative, but just curious, what program did you use?
  • Mufasa2Mufasa2 Noob in Training Joined: Posts: 805Registered
    wow.....i must try this
  • KyleDeKyleKyleDeKyle old username: kerano Joined: Posts: 110Registered
    Great tutorial, I'm gonna try it.
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  • indierocklocksindierocklocks Joined: Posts: 84Registered
    Not only is this a great tutorial for SF4 to SF3 sprites, but really all sprite art in general. great work! Any plans for animation in the future?
  • Her0 of Tim3Her0 of Tim3 Koitsu tanno shime soda Joined: Posts: 478Registered
    Hey guys I'm having trouble doing the shading on my sprites. I follow the guide, but the shading never seems correct. And to add to this I don't know what you use for shading. I'm using photoshop btw, but I try adding a layer set to multiply and then adding in the darker shades, but I can't make anything lighter. Do I need another layer to do this? HALP prease?
    SFXT :Nina/Sakura + Akuma, King+Ryu, Sagat+Jin, Vega+Cammy                                   SSF4AE: Yang/Akuma/Sakura/Ryu
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  • arekusuarekusu Excellent Joined: Posts: 54Registered
    Amazing guide. I'm going to try this myself. Your results look so professional. I personally love this style way more than SF IV anyway
  • CI581CI581 Joined: Posts: 3,241Registered
    that's dope! XD
  • MinohKimMinohKim Joined: Posts: 16Registered
    That is cool :)
  • BillyEvEBillyEvE Joined: Posts: 41Registered
    Amazing, wish someone would do cammy and bison. Thanks for the know how!
  • BLACKSTAR84iBLACKSTAR84i Joined: Posts: 131Registered
    such a great thread. :)

  • BrettBrett Dibi-dibi-dis Joined: Posts: 404Registered
    Steamboy33, I absolutely love your sprite art. A little while ago I made this.
    Thank you so much for transforming Hakan into 2d.
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