Game Maker Sprite Editor (PC + Mac)

Game Maker's Sprite Editor is a nice free tool for creating lo-fi game sprites.

This is the best simple pixel animation program I’ve used. People will try and get you to use Photoshop or GraphicsGale — don’t listen! This one’s free and loads up in less than a second. You can see a timeline, arrange frames, run animation algorithms, and import/export sprite sheets. It uses what is basically MSPaint as the actual frame editor with some improvements and a few annoyances. For one it adds transparency support, but without layers. This means if you want to move things around it’ll leave a hole where the cut item once was and you’ll have to fill it in. It has shortcuts for every tool and pretty much every action, which is awesome. You can switch between frames with < and > though it does lack an onion skinning feature to let you see partially transparent neighboring frames while you draw. Resizing the frame can be annoying; I wish you could just drag the corner like in MSPaint. Adding text is also really frustrating since you can’t adjust the text area or resize the text easily. One thing that Photoshop has going for it is its transform box. You can’t even selectively scale/rotate in GMSE.

Tip: Use Animation > Add Reverse and delete the middle and last frames for a smooth ABAB loop. Try bringing in photorealistic animations and mess with Images > Intensity until you just have a form. Now redraw it however you want and then add in details.