The other day while editing some of my Iceland photos I accidentally scaled a photo down to 15 pixels wide instead of 1500 pixels wide, and I liked what I saw. Just a few blocks of color were able to maintain the mood of the photograph even though the details were completely lost. Before I knew it I was getting out my watercolors. This project is simple, but if you hate tedium you might want to skip it. I gravitate toward time consuming, monotonous tasks (especially when they provide a beautiful end result), so I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
photo editing software
basic math skills
square tip watercolor paintbrush
First, open the photo you want to work with in Photoshop (or your preferred photo editing program). Resize the image to about 10–20 pixels wide, and zoom in until you can see the individual pixels. Play around with different widths to see what you like best. The larger your image the more detail your painting will have, and the more time consuming your painting will be. For me 12 pixels wide was the sweet spot that gave me the amount of detail I wanted without being too daunting. You may need to experiment with several photographs before you find one that will look interesting simplified into pixels.
This is where you need your math skills. Once you’ve finalized your image, use a ruler and pencil to lightly draw a grid on your paper. The grid should have as many boxes as there are pixels in your photograph, but it still needs to fit on your piece of paper. My grid ended up being made up of .75″ squares.
Grab your paints and paint brush. Keep your pixel-ized reference photo handy and paint each grid square the color of the corresponding pixel. Watercolors worked beautifully for this project. I could easily mix and tweak colors, and the effect of the paint gathering at the edges of each box is gorgeous. It works best to paint every other box, let them dry, and then go back and paint the ones you missed so the watercolors don’t bleed into each other. Don’t worry too much about staying in the lines perfectly or mixing the exact colors. Imperfections are what will give your piece depth.
After a few hours of painting squares your eyes might start to cross, but don’t stop! It will be worth it when you end up with a neato painting.
What do you think? Are you going to make your own? I really love how this turned out. I think I’m going to have to go frame shopping.