Thursday, April 4, 2019

Everything You Need To Know To Create Pixel Paintings With Google Spreadsheets

Everything you need to know to create Pixel Paintings with Google Spreadsheets


Out of the box thinkers have been testing the application of products beyond the functions they were designed to serve since forever. Recent examples being hash brownies advertised and sold via Tinder - a dating app, or,  LinkedIn - a social network for working professionals, being used as fertile hunting grounds to find compatible dating candidates. In a similar vein, users in the last decade have put Google Spreadsheets to the creative use of making art. Beyond the statistical functions and balance sheets calculations, the daunting grid of cells has been used as a tool to create paintings, pixel art, and more.

Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi made worldwide headlines in 2013, for his paintings created with careful manipulation of cell backgrounds in Google Spreadsheets using conditional formatting, cell size manipulation, and other tools offered by the application.

Tatsuo Horluchi with his Google Spreadsheet Paintings - Source

Creating Pixel Art with Google Spreadsheets Manually

Artists soon began to collaborate on creating art - both old and new, by a painstaking manual process of creating pixel paintings with Google Spreadsheets. Here's how: 

   1. You begin by changing the cell sizes to make each cell correspond to a single pixel in the painting. Larger grids result in higher resolution paintings, while smaller grids give paintings a pixellated appearance.

   2. Artists then fill in each cell with a colour gradient # or hexcode, analogous to brush strokes in different colours, but in digital format. Cell values can also be manipulated via conditional formatting by assigning gradient values to cells that satisfy the specified iff conditions. For e.g., If a cell is adjacent to a black cell, fill it with cyan colour.

Once all the cells have been filled in, the spreadsheet looks like the original painting. Thus were murals of impressive magnitudes created over several hours, days, and weeks.

Google Spread Sheet Art - Source

The Journey to Automation of Pixel Art Paintings

In 2016, Google invited two female illustrators, Marina Esmeraldo from Barcelona, and Mallory Heyer from New York, to collaborate on creating a mural with Google Spreadsheets as their canvas. The project, launched in association with Refinery29, had a threefold purpose 
- digital collaboration for artistic undertakings - as neither artist had met the other for real
- giving a shout out to women’s empowerment
- and pushing the envelope on the usage of Spreadsheets, termed as ‘breaking the grid’ by Google. 

Heyer and Esmeraldo created an original painting that was commissioned to be turned into a wall mural on Bogart and Thames street in Brooklyn. The project created a lot of buzz in July 2016, encouraging hordes of artists to give Google Spreadsheets art a try.

The original spreadsheet can be see online here on Google Spreadsheets.

And here’s the Spreadsheet art painted on a 13*34” wall.

Google Spreadsheet Wall Mural - Source

Technology caught up with this phenomenon soon when Indian tech blogger Amit Agarwal automated the entire process in 2018. Instead of creating the painting cell by cell, one can now use this Google Spreadsheets Art template written by Aggarwal that is freely available for downloading online, to create pixel art with Google Spreadsheets.

Google Spreadsheet Art by Gamers - Source

Creating Instant Pixel Art with Google Spreadsheets

You are just a few steps away from creating your own pixel art images.

  1. Download the Google Spreadsheets Art template by Amit Aggarwal from this link and create a copy of it in your Google Drive.
  2. Open Google Spreadsheet, click on the ‘Spreadsheet Art’ item that you can now see beside ‘Help’ in the menu.
  3. From the drop-down menu click on ‘Start’.
  4. The side-bar that appears has two radio buttons.
    • Create an automated pixel image art with colour gradient changes. 
    • Use emojis to create pixellated image art.
  5. Click on one of the radio buttons to get the prompt for uploading images.
  6. Upload the image you want to pixellate from your locally saved files. There are no restrictions on image sizes and resolutions. You can upload images of paintings to create their pixel art forms.
  7. You may now see that all the cells in the grid have a unique colour gradient value assigned to them. 
  8. The script takes a few seconds to parse the pixels and update the display. Your Google Spreadsheet pixel art is now ready with square shaped cells in the grid filled in with colours corresponding to the colours of the image uploaded.

While the script was written by Aggarwal, it was Monica Dinculescu, who added the module for emoji art to the script. Image art created with emojis fills up each cell with the closest corresponding emoji in terms of colour to create the pixellated image. ‘Emojillate’ as Dinculescu calls it, combines the art of pixellation with emojis. You can also download these pixellated art images to be shared as files. 
Emojillate - Google Spreadsheet Pixel Art with Emojis - Source

Here’s a video tutorial by Aggarwal showing how easy it is to create pixel art with Google Spreadsheets.

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