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CSS Pixel Art Generator – DZone Web Dev

Recently, I read an article outlining how to create CSS pixel art with box shadows. I thought it was a really cool idea – and thought it’d be interesting to make a generator to let you create exportable pixel art from the browser using this effect. In the Codepen demo below, you can draw your pixel creations, and then click “Generate CSS” to get your pixel art in CSS, which you can copy into your web pages. Works better in full screen!

How it Works

As described in the article, we use scaled-up box shadows to act as pixels on the screen. We can scale these up and down to make our pixel art bigger or smaller.

Since each box shadow is 1px by 1px, we can create a piece of pixel art where every “pixel” is 1×1. If we want each pixel to be 20×20, we would simply use transform to scale it by 20x:

css Copy
transform: scale(20);

To achieve the effect we are after, we then use Javascript to create a UI that lets us draw our pixel art creations. The code for the UI can be found on codepen here., or if you like, find it below:

Overview of JavaScript

To get this all to work, we have to use Javascript. The first step was generating a grid of pixels using a simple loop:

let config = {
    width: 40,
    height: 40,
    color: 'white',
    drawing: true,
    eraser: false

let events = {
    mousedown: false

document.getElementById('pixel-art-area').style.width = `calc(${(0.825 * config.width)}rem + ${(config.height * 2)}px)`;
document.getElementById('pixel-art-area').style.height = `calc(${(0.825 * config.height)}rem + ${(config.width * 2)}px)`;
document.getElementById('pixel-art-options').style.width = `calc(${(0.825 * config.width)}rem + ${(config.height * 2)}px)`;

for(let i = 0; i < config.width; ++i) {
    for(let j = 0; j < config.height; ++j) {
        let createEl = document.createElement('div');
        createEl.setAttribute('data-x-coordinate', j);
        createEl.setAttribute('data-y-coordinate', i);

This ultimately creates about 40×40 pixels, or 1600 new HTML elements. You can easily scale this up for bigger experiments, but 40×40 works fine.

Tracking a User’s Mouse Movements

We can then track a user’s mouse movements with three events: pointerdown, pointermove and pointerup. Since we have to apply this to all pixels, we use a loop to loop over each pixel to add the event.

Then, if a user continues to hold down, we can track which pixel they are over using e.target, which returns the current HTML entity which is being hovered over on pointermove. If they are using the eraser, we can take that into consideration here.

document.querySelectorAll('.pixel').forEach(function(item) {
    item.addEventListener('pointerdown', function(e) {
        if(config.eraser === true) {
            item.setAttribute('data-color', null);
            item.style.background = `#101532`;
        } else {
            item.setAttribute('data-color', config.color);
            item.style.background = `${config.color}`;
        events.mousedown = true;

document.getElementById('pixel-art-area').addEventListener('pointermove', function(e) {
    if(config.drawing === true && events.mousedown === true || config.eraser === true && events.mousedown === true) {
        if(e.target.matches('.pixel')) {
            if(config.eraser === true) {
                e.target.setAttribute('data-color', null);
                e.target.style.background = `#101532`;
            } else {
                e.target.setAttribute('data-color', config.color);
                e.target.style.background = `${config.color}`;

document.body.addEventListener('pointerup', function(e) {
    events.mousedown = false;

Finally, we set up a few events on the colors and eraser, so we can track what tool and color is being selected:

[ 'click', 'input' ].forEach(function(item) {
    document.querySelector('.color-picker').addEventListener(item, function() {
        config.color = this.value;
        document.querySelectorAll('.colors > div').forEach(function(i) {
        config.eraser = false;

document.querySelectorAll('.colors > div').forEach(function(item) {
    item.addEventListener('click', function(e) {
        document.querySelectorAll('.colors > div').forEach(function(i) {
        config.eraser = false;
        config.color = `${item.getAttribute('data-color')}`;


When I saw the original article, I thought it was really cool to create pixel art with just CSS – but it would be even cooler to create a way to export pixel art creations – and it wasn’t so hard with just a little bit of Javascript. Here are some useful links to the source code:

Credit: Source link

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