Building Large Pieces From Prefab Chunks, A Pixel Art Technique

I have no idea what that title is because I'm not sure what to call this technique. I'm not the first to use it, but I can't find any other examples at the moment. I've definitely seen it used for vegetation before.

It involves building larger pieces out of a small set of premade pieces. I know this sounds like a tileset, but it's used very differently.

The main differences between this technique and using tiles are:

  • The pieces do not have a set size
  • The pieces are not aligned to a grid
  • The pieces can overlap

Here's an example I just started working on, with a rocky cave:


All of the rock texture you see is created with those 5 pieces in the middle. This was far quicker than texturing the whole rock by hand, especially since this is only a small crop of the total size. I created this in photoshop where each copy of a tile is on a separate layer, so they can be easily tweaked later on. I could have made each piece a smart object (which would make updating one update all of them), but I prefer to be able to quickly modify a single piece, and am pretty confident that I wont need to change them later.

It works especially well when there are large chunks of solid colors where the pieces can be allowed to blend together, and probably only works on organic subjects (you wouldn't want to use this on a building - tiles are much better suited).

You can easily add more tiles as you go to fit edge cases, and this expands your building set. They can be rotated, so really every piece you create is 4 pieces. And you can quickly change the layer order, or erase parts of tiles to fix how they overlap.


  • can easily cover large areas with texture
  • much easier to hide repetition than tiles
  • faster than creating tiles


  • Pieces must be specifically designed for the process
  • Only works on organic subjects
  • Probably best stored as as a static image, rather than a tilemap
  • Can look messy if edges don't overlap properly

Have you ever seen this technique, or used it yourself? Do you have any suggestions on how to implement this technique? Share your examples, experiments and thoughts!

Cool! I've seen people on the internet refer to this techinque as "organic tiling", Owlboy is famous for it:
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A while ago I tried the technique myself with decent results: