Pixel – Definition, Examples, History & More – Digital Art and Technology Glossary

What is Pixel?

A pixel, short for “picture element,” is the smallest unit of a digital image or display. It is a tiny square or dot that contains a single color and is the building block of all digital images. Pixels are arranged in a grid pattern to create the overall image that we see on screens.

Pixels are used to represent images in digital form and are commonly found in computer monitors, digital cameras, smartphones, and other electronic devices. The resolution of an image is determined by the number of pixels it contains, with higher resolutions resulting in clearer and more detailed images.

Pixel Art

Pixel art is a form of digital art that uses pixels as the medium for creating images. It is characterized by its blocky, retro aesthetic that harkens back to the early days of video games and computer graphics. Pixel artists use individual pixels to create intricate and detailed images, often with limited color palettes and resolution.

Pixel art has gained popularity in recent years as a nostalgic throwback to classic video games and as a unique art form in its own right. Artists use specialized software and tools to create pixel art, carefully placing each pixel to create detailed scenes, characters, and objects.


Pixelation is a visual distortion that occurs when an image is displayed at a lower resolution than its original size. This results in a blocky or pixelated appearance, where individual pixels are visible and the image lacks detail and clarity. Pixelation is often seen in digital images that have been enlarged or zoomed in beyond their original resolution.

Pixelation can also occur intentionally in digital art and design to create a specific aesthetic or style. Some artists use pixelation as a creative technique to add texture, depth, or retro charm to their work. However, in most cases, pixelation is considered a technical flaw that detracts from the overall quality of an image.

Pixel Density

Pixel density refers to the number of pixels per inch (PPI) or pixels per centimeter (PPC) in a digital display or image. It is a measure of the resolution and clarity of an image, with higher pixel densities resulting in sharper and more detailed visuals. Pixel density is an important factor in determining the quality of displays, such as monitors, smartphones, and tablets.

Pixel density is often used interchangeably with terms like “resolution” and “retina display,” which refer to the sharpness and clarity of images on high-resolution screens. Higher pixel densities allow for smoother lines, crisper text, and more vibrant colors, creating a more immersive viewing experience for users.

Pixelation vs. Anti-Aliasing

Pixelation and anti-aliasing are two techniques used in digital imaging to improve the appearance of images and reduce visual artifacts. Pixelation occurs when an image is displayed at a lower resolution than its original size, resulting in blocky or pixelated visuals. Anti-aliasing, on the other hand, is a process that smooths out jagged edges and reduces pixelation by blending colors and shades along the edges of objects.

While pixelation is often seen as a technical flaw that detracts from the quality of an image, anti-aliasing is a method used to enhance the visual quality and clarity of images. Anti-aliasing is commonly used in computer graphics, video games, and digital art to create smoother and more realistic visuals, especially when displaying images at lower resolutions.

Pixel Artist

A pixel artist is a digital artist who specializes in creating images using pixels as the primary medium. Pixel artists use individual pixels to craft detailed and intricate scenes, characters, and objects, often with limited color palettes and resolution. Pixel art is a unique form of digital art that requires precision, patience, and creativity to create visually stunning images.

Pixel artists often work with specialized software and tools to create pixel art, carefully placing each pixel to achieve the desired effect. They may draw inspiration from classic video games, retro graphics, and pop culture to create nostalgic and visually striking artwork. Pixel artists are highly skilled in manipulating pixels to create unique and engaging images that captivate audiences and evoke a sense of nostalgia.