Physicalpixel Portraits

Ari Krupnik makes physical versions of digital images, representing each pixel with common objects such as matchsticks and dice –

I’m a software engineer by trade. My work mainly involves transforming bits that represent one abstraction into bits that represent another. In the immortal words of Fred Brooks, “the programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff.” Every once in a while though, one wants to see a physical manifestation of one’s work. I wanted to make something silly, entirely without purpose, but tangible and at least somewhat original. Inspired by Eric Harshbarger’s LEGO mosaics, I asked myself — what other common objects can one turn into physical pixels?

Dice seemed like a good choice. They are uniform in size and offer 6 distinct shades of grey, depending on which face is up. One nice side effect is that you never have to worry about inventories – you never run out of any particular color; each die can represent any of the 6 shades. In 1994, when I had a summer job as a tour guide at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, one of the exhibits involved constructing Lincoln’s face out of dominoes. Even at 18×18 “pixels” the face was recognizable — at a distance. Lincoln’s, of course, is a very distinctive face. I looked for another similarly recognizable face, and thought of Che Guevara. I did a 20×20 mockup (unglued dice laid out on my desk), and it seemed to work. Of course, being a software engineer and all, I didn’t just lay the dice out, I wrote a little Python program to calculate the layout with a bit of help from PIL.

Cnc Phypixel Art Process
Cnc Phypixel Art
Ari will be at the Bay Area Maker Faire displaying his work – here’s hoping he brings some of the new CNC-generated drill/hole pieces he’s been working on(seen above). read more – Physical pixel art

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Camera Car Detail
Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset May 3rd and 4th at the San Mateo Fairgrounds, CA ( It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things. Buy tickets now and save, discount ticket sales end on April 25th, 2008.

If you’re in the Bay Area, or plan to attend Maker Faire add “makerfaire” to your Twitter, we’ll be giving away tickets and will have updates before and during Maker Faire!