What this tutorial is about:
In this tutorial I'll use an image taken off the web, some information from http://www.bricklink.com, and Photoshop CS2 to create a guide or "map" for building the imagine into a LEGO mosaic!
What you will need:
For most people, the hurdle here will be a copy of Photoshop. There are plenty of other solid image editing platforms available, I'll be showing how to do this step by step with Photoshop, but chances are the same effects can be replicated with any other "real" image editing programs (not touch-up programs that may come for free with your camera or computer). Beyond this, you will need to have a photo or digital image of some sort to use as your template, and a large selection of identically sized LEGOs to work with.
In this example, I'll be using the color palette available with 1x1 bricks; this can easily be modified to use 2x2 bricks, 1x1 plates, 1x1 tiles, etc. The choice of element is up to you, and I'll show you how to narrow your color palette based on the element you choose in a bit!
For my example, I'll use an image that should be familiar to all of us here on Eurobricks, our friendly admin Hinckley, apparently on a roller coaster!
I pilfered this image straight from the webpage, and opened it immediately in Photoshop.
The first task is to decide how large of a mosaic you want to make. This can be the most important decision of the whole process as this will have a huge impact on how many pieces you will need, more so than you might imagine! In any event, select a suitable size for your collection. At this point we'll want to resize the image so that each pixel of the image is equivalent to a stud in your mosaic. For this example, I'll be reducing the size of this image from 100x100 (meaning 10,000 total studs!!) to 25x25 (or a mere 625 studs).
To accomplish the image resize, I'll select the [Image] menu, and choose [Image Size...]. From there, I'll enter the Width and Height desired in the boxes, and select [Ok].
To bring this image into a clearer mosaic-esque focus, zoom the image in a good amount, 1600% should be sufficient. This overall process of image resizing, followed by a zoom will make my window in Photoshop look like the following three windows in order:
Adjusting the color palette:
At this point, the image is already starting to look like a mosaic, but this is simply the beginning of the process. Now we have what Photoshop can approximate as the original colors of the image, after it has been substantially reduced. But these colors are not necessarily equivalent with the color palette of LEGO elements that we'll want to use. What we need to do is define a custom palette of colors that is specific to LEGO, and apply this to the image, forcing Photoshop to match the existing colors to the closest available colors of our beloved ABS.
To do this, first we need to determine what components we want to use to construct our mosaic. For this example, I will be using 1x1 bricks, but you can adjust the steps to suit your needs!
In order to adjust our color palette, we have to know what colors are even available in our chosen element. To find this out, I'll use the catalog resource available on www.bricklink.com:
-Navigate to www.bricklink.com
-Select the Catalog tab
-In the top search area, select Brick from the drop down labeled --- All Categories --- and click [Go!]
-Select the first element in your list, the 1x1 brick (3005)
-In the top right corner, click on (View Them) next to the word Sets
-The first list now will show all of the colors that this part has been constructed in, it should look like this:
Now that we know what colors we have available to us, we can construct our color table for the image. Back in Photoshop, we can choose [Image], then [Mode] and finally [Indexed Color...]. The menu you select should look like this:
This will bring up the Indexed Color window:
Before we begin to edit the color table, we must make one quick change to the options. Be sure your Dither mode is set to None. Now we can edit the color table and have the desired effect!
From the first drop down (Palette), select [Custom...], which will bring up the [Color Table] window:
At this point, you will need to load in the colors of the elements available to you. One method to do this is to clear the current color table, and select entirely new colors. An easier method, if you plan on using 1x1 bricks, is to download the saved color table I used for this tutorial from my brickshelf (LegoColorPalette.act). Whether you start from scratch, or from the table provided, you may want to edit your table to remove the possibility that Photoshop will use certain colors. For instance, you may not have any Light Pink 1x1 bricks, so why give Photoshop the option to use it? It can simply be removed and Photoshop will use the next closest available color should the need arise. Further, new colors may be available in the future, and you may want to add new ones to your table.
To remove colors from the table, hold down the COMMAND key (on Mac OS X... I apologize, I'm not sure what the hotkey is when working in a Windows environment). The cursor will become a "scissors" icon. Simply click on the color to have it removed.
To add a color to the table (or change an existing one), click on the color and the color selection window will appear. Select the color you want! (Advanced Tip: during this time, all Photoshop windows outside of this window will have the Eyedropper Tool enabled; this means you can simply click on a color in another Photoshop window and you will automatically get that color. This is particularly useful if you make an image of the colors available from Bricklink, as above, and open it in Photoshop first. Doing so will let you select the color without having to "approximate".)
Once you have your color table loaded and edited to your desire, select [OK] and close both popup windows. And guess what has happened?! Photoshop has now applied the limited color selection to your existing image, essentially forming your image into LEGO-only colors! It should look something like this:
Constructing the mosaic:
Now it's time to actually put the mosaic together. To make life a little easier (how can it get any easier?!?!), you can turn on a visual grid over your image, to make it really obvious where each stud belongs. To do this, first you need to set the resolution of your grid to be 1 pixel square. Select [Photoshop] then [Preferences] and finally [Guides, Grid & Slices]. The selection path should look like:
This will bring up the preferences window. In this window, find the area labeled Grid, and set the Gridline and Subdivisions to 1, and the Gridline unit to pixels.
Now, to turn on your grids, select [View] then [Show] and finally be sure that [Grid] is checked. It should look like this:
This will make your window look like the example below:
Wow! Now we're talking!!! At this point it's just a matter of following the map. Pull out your 1x1 studs and start building. When it's all said and done, you'll have something like this (note I faked a few of the colors as I ran out of reddish brown and light pink!):
If I zoom the image out (ie. back away) it will become a little more clear (with the original for comparison):
Now I have a nice mosaic of Hinckley riding in a roller coaster that I can hang on my wall!
Although this tutorial may get a little deep into areas of Photoshop you may not have delved yet, it does provide a really clever way of having your computer plot your LEGO mosaic for you from an existing image. Also remember that the higher resolution you work on, the more bricks you will need, but the clearer the image will be... the example I made is 25x25, an extremely low resolution, and the results show I hope that this has been helpful and informative!