How to create a LEGO mosaic

UPDATE: the kids have created a business based on this idea. If you’re interested in having a mosaic made from your photo, please visit www.thebrickbrothers.com.

When my oldest son was born in 2001 LEGO offered a cool online “Brick-o-lizer” that would take an uploaded photo and turn it into a five-tone grayscale grid of 1×1 bricks from which you could create a wall-hanging mosaic. LEGO would send you the exact right amount of bricks in bulk. Putting it together was as easy as paint-by-numbers. I did this for him and for his little brother in 2003.

My daughter was born a few weeks ago and so naturally I went back to the Brick-o-lizer to create her mosaic. Imagine my horror to find out that it isn’t available anymore. How could I deprive my baby girl of her LEGO mosaic? Well. Obviously. I couldn’t.

So, here follows instructions for doing it manually in Photoshop. (But before we begin, let’s be sure to acknowledge the unbelievably talented people who create LEGO mosaics in full color without a grid at all. I bow to your supremacy.)

01_source_crop.jpg

First, prep your shot as a square. For portraits, tight in is best. People will naturally view your mosaic from a distance or squinting to maximize contrast so details external to the person in the portrait will be lost (and a benefit-free pain in the ass to snap into the LEGO grid for you).

02_mosaiced.jpg In Photoshop, resize the image to 440 x 440 pixels and apply the Mosaic filter in Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic. Choose a cell size of 10. Then play with the brightness and contrast with an eye towards highlighting the most important details of the portrait.

03_gray.jpg

Change the photo to Indexed Color, select a Custom palette, and choose six shades of gray. The easiest way is to click on the grid and then when the color palette comes up choose Web colors only. Select white, black, and then a light, medium, and dark gray.

04_gridded.jpg

In Preferences > Guides, Grids, & Slices set the Grid to a prominent color, gridline every 10 pixels, and subdivisions 1. Turn on a grid with View > Show > Grid.

You’ll need to do some manual computation. The grid is 44 x 44 which is 1,936 bricks. Eyeball or, if you prefer, count as many of each of the five colors you will need.

You’ll then need to go to the LEGO shop and order the bricks.

You’ll need one X-Large Gray Baseplate , one set of 2×4 Roof Tiles Steep Sloped Black, one set of Black Roof Tiles 25° (2×2, 2×4, Corner), and then as many 1×1 Studs in White, Light Grey, Medium Grey, Dark Grey, and Black as you need.

Once it all arrives, use your gridded Photoshop image or print it out and enjoy a few hours of mind-numbing bricklaying.

05_complete.jpg

25 Responses to “How to create a LEGO mosaic”

  1. Waya says :

    WOW!! That is truly amazing! I’ve been looking for this for my sons’ room and the LEGO folks even told me to visit their website but I couldn’t find it any where on their site! This is awesome!! Both my sons love Legos and this will be in their room soon, if I have the patience to do all this. THANKS for the brilliant idea!!

  2. Rob says :

    For those (like me) who don’t own Photoshop, it looks like Lego still offers the deal:
    http://shop.lego.com/shopmosaic/default_s.asp
    -Rob

  3. John says :

    The feature is still there, but I think it is busted when you go to print out the grid, save your mosaic, or purchase the bricks. Just an error screen.

  4. scott mcginnis says :

    Um…1×1 white studs appear to be no longer offered. Which is a shame because I was going to make this for my wife’s b-day this month.
    Can you think of an alternative?

  5. ozgur alaz says :

    Great idea
    i want one for myself
    I also dugg the story
    Please add your diggs to make story a homepage story of Digg
    http://digg.com/design/How_to_Create_a_LEGO_mosaic_I_want_to_make_one

  6. John says :

    There are a couple of alternatives for the white studs. You could darken the brightness just a hair, making most of the whites the light gray. Also, if you only have a dozen or so white squares and you have some LEGO sets at home you probably have enough. (I didn’t need to order white bricks for instance since there were so few.)
    Also, there are bunch of LEGO bulk resellers on the web. See http://www.bricksinbulk.com/ for one.
    Good luck!

  7. Ivan Minic says :

    Kewl1!!

  8. Connie says :

    Great idea – we linked to your post from
    http://blog.simplehuman.com.

  9. Watti says :

    Hey I ordered all the pieces and am ready to do a picture. However, I am not sure how to do the border. The pictures does not show enough detail. Can you describe the order a little?

  10. John says :

    Most of the bricks are black slopes. The corners where these would meet are 4×4 inverted black slopes.
    Good luck.
    John

  11. Brian says :

    This is a great idea. My customers are always looking for ways to personalize something for thier childrens rooms and this would fit in perfectly. I’ll pass them on to your site. Thanks.

  12. Priscilla says :

    This site will take the lego thing a huge step further! Pixel blocks has an on-site pixel-ater!
    http://www.pixelblocks.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/pbonline.woa/wa/deferred?vu42f0lctu

  13. Shanynn says :

    I love this idea! Does anyone have suggestions for finding the white and black 1×1 studs? Lego discontinued them. ;-( I found limited numbers on e-bay, definitely not enough to complete the picture. Would this concept work with the blocks instead?

  14. Scott says :

    Any Ideas on doing color versions? I would like more detail than the black and white ones

  15. Shanynn says :

    OK, so my picture is under way… yay! How do you hang it when it’s finished?

  16. Mike Dugdale says :

    Looks like a simpler version of the Tori Amos instructions posted at http://www.bluedust.com/lego/

  17. Brian says :

    Nice tutorial!
    I tried doing one of a friend of mine’s son Graham – it looks pretty cool as a mosaic, but you definitely have to be farther away to appreciate it. [Brickworkz.com] (look for the image at the top of the page.)

  18. Tobias says :

    I think that with some dithering you would achieve much nicer results. Make a palette of the available colors (which could include other LEGO colors as well) and dither your truecolor image to this (very restricted) colors.

  19. Asa says :

    If you want to buy the specific amount you need, check out http://www.bricklink.com
    It’s an online “Lego Marketplace”. Kind of like eBay for Lego lovers.

  20. Nicole says :

    Were od you buy all of that lego you have if you dont anwser me i’ll be very mad!

  21. Matt says :

    I completed one for my fiance last year, but I increased the contrast 65% and had much better results. It allowed more white, and thus more definition of facial features. Give it a try!

  22. Amilia says :

    A fantastic site, and brilliant effort. A great piece of work.,

  23. Simon says :

    I will definitely try this – my way is a little bit more creative / harder / more expensive:
    http://simoncpage.co.uk/blog/2008/11/23/creative-lego-art-design/

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