When I moved in I bought an IKEA Ramvik table and while trav­el­ling this sum­mer I had an idea (don’t ask why): dec­o­rate its top with Lego bricks used as pix­els. Here are the steps I went through. If you don’t care about those steps and want to see a nice time-lapse video, scroll to the end of the article!

Lego bricks

First things first. What are the Lego brick sizes and col­ors avail­able? Oddly enough this ques­tion is not that eas­ily answered. Prob­a­bly because Lego’s site is crappy, or because nobody really cares… I even­tu­ally found Brick­ipedia which hap­pens to be a much richer resource than the offi­cial ones. Every­thing I was look­ing for was there: the Lego “unit” is 8 mil­lime­ters and the color palette is pretty sim­ple.

Table specs

Know­ing my table size I had var­i­ous options, depend­ing on the “pixel size” I’d choose. Of course the num­ber of bricks (and the price) would also vary. So I cre­ated a dynamic spread­sheet on Google Docs that’d do the cal­cu­la­tions for me… Here it is, with all the options pos­si­ble (French, sorry).

iframe: <a href="https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AmyvU-n2aOBpdG5oNUN6UW0xcUJ4a2E3eXFrTTJIVnc&amp;hl=en&amp;output=html&amp;widget=true">https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AmyvU-n2aOBpdG5oNUN6UW0xcUJ4a2E3eXFrTTJIVnc<span class="amp">&amp;</span>hl=en<span class="amp">&amp;</span>output=html<span class="amp">&amp;</span>widget=true</a>

I chose the 4x4 option, quite cheap and still offer­ing a cool num­ber of pixels.

Design

36x16 pix­els of free­dom, that’s it. I tried lots of dif­fer­ent designs, from lo-fi pho­tos to pixel-art draw­ings. I decided to go for a Heavy Oblique Futura.

Actual size:

Look­ing good.

The Lego palette

I set my type to white, on a black back­ground. The anti-aliasing process cre­ates gray-scale pix­els to smooth the curves, which is great, but Lego bricks aren’t avail­able in all col­ors! To have a real­is­tic pre­view of what it would look like I had to cre­ate a Pho­to­shop Color Table match­ing Lego’s gray-scales (if you’re inter­ested, just ping me [UPDATE: here they are]). Here’s a com­par­i­son between Photoshop’s default gray-scales (left) and Lego’s palette (right):


You may notice that Lego’s black is a lit­tle bit light and the grays are yellowish.

Time to order bricks!

Already? Nope, not that fast. Before order­ing I had to know exactly what to order, that means count­ing the pix­els. Well, I’m not this kind of guy. I’m a devel­oper; I hate repet­i­tive chores, you know.

So I fired up Flash Builder and came up with Palet­te­Counter a sim­ple, Open­Source, app to count pix­els of each color. I also added some kind of “assem­bly instruc­tions gen­er­a­tor” to help us build it. Handy.

Time to order!

Really? Yup. I placed an order on lego.com’s Pick A Brick and received it a cou­ple of weeks later. Yay!

Let’s do this

I’m not going to describe the process (that hap­pened this sat­ur­day), just have a look at this time-lapse vid. 1020 pics shot in about an hour, yummy. Thanks to Céline and Julie for help­ing out!