Introduction: 8 Bit Airsoft Art

If you ever had an airsoft gun, you should know that it is recommended that you do not use your airsoft ammo twice. Thus, you probably have thousands of BB's laying around your yard doing nothing, at least until now. I discovered a way for you to gather up those old BB's and put them to good use and create amazing decorations (I don't have an airsoft gun, but I still have a collection of BBs, which I will explain how I obtained later)! "Ammo Art" is my new creation, and nothing like it has ever been published before (which is why I would like credit if you ever use this). With Ammo Art, you can create your favorite 8 bit video game characters, or create very large scale creations.

Before I explain how to make these creations themselves, I would like to explain the two things that collided together to lead to the creation of this idea.
When I was 7 years old, I stayed at a family's house while my mom worked late. In this family, there was a 14 year old boy (at the time), and I usually followed him around. One day, he took me out to the back yard and showed me these unusual colored spheres that were embedded throughout the yard. These little spheres were airsoft bullets (also called BB's) that had been fired from his (and his friends') guns. I immediately developed a fascination for these little spheres; perhaps it was their multitude of colors, or the perfection of their shape. Every time I returned to the house, I would bring a small pouch and fill it up with some airsoft BB's. I eventually amassed a large collection of various colored airsoft ammo.
This event would collide with another idea I had when I was 8 years old: I was watching TV, when a commercial for Pixos came on. Pixos are small spheres that can be arranged in a pattern and sprayed with water so the pattern can be lifted and played with. I noticed that the Pixos had an unusual resemblance to the airsoft ammo that I had collected. So, I took some of the BB's, arranged them in a pattern, and sprayed them with water. Sure enough........ I got a huge mess of water and spheres.
Ever since I noticed how similar the two products looked, I became determined to make my own Pixos. I tried water activated glue and tape, but nothing worked. It was not until I was rummaging through my dad's craft box and found a hot glue gun did everything change. I have used hot glue in every single Instructable I have published so far (in some way or another), and today I continue that trend! It was about a week ago that I finally created a way to get the same final product as Pixos: good old fashioned, glue every single one together. It might be tedious, but it is a labor of love, and the final product turns out to be spectacular! Now these little creations have taken over my "workshop" (aka my room desk). These creations make great wall decor or magnets, and are an excellent DIY gift for that gamer or vintage person in your life!

Enough with the history, lets make "Ammo Art"!

Note: Since I already made Mario and the mushroom before hand, I will only be showing you how to make Boo, Luigi, the Cube, and the Triangular Pyramid. However, you can use the same principle to make the characters I have not shown you how to, or you can be original and create your own!

Step 1: Gather Your BBs and Get Them Ready

I live in a neighborhood which has some woods nearby. In these woods, kids from other neighborhoods come here to shoot their airsoft guns. The result is hundreds of thousands of BBs of a variety of colors. I frequently come out here and gather them up into a bag.

If you are in need of a specific color, you can order them online, or purchase them from a store. For me, I had a difficult time finding yellow, so I ordered a bag of 1000 yellow BBs on Amazon for $1.99.

Now, grab all the BBs you've collected. If you gathered your BBs from the woods, you need to make sure all your BBs are clean before you begin working. To clean them, I usually take a plastic water bottle and fill them with whatever BBs I collected and add water. Then, I screw on the cap and shake the bottle. Finally, I pour everything out through a strainer, and I am left with thousands of clean BBs ready for assembly. Cleaning the BBs is important because it determines how the final product will look, and how the glue will adhere to each BB.

Tip: If you want to make assembly easier for you, just organize all your BBs by color. It makes it much easier to find a certain color when you are making a figure. 

Step 2: The Stuff You Will Need

For this project, you will need:
  • Variety of Airsoft BBs, all of the same size (see previous step)
  • Cardstock or Cardboard
  • Razor Blade (optional)
  • Masking Tape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue 
  • Tons of patience
  • Magnet Strip (optional)

Step 3: Make a Prototype Board

Think of a prototype board as the breadboard for all Ammo Art. You'll need some masking tape and some thick card stock or cardboard. Depending on how large your creation will be, you will need to make your prototype board larger or smaller. To make the prototype board, grab a strip of masking tape and turn it so the sticky side is facing you. Then, take the last 3 inches of tape from each end of the strip and fold them back. Now, put it down on the paper. You should now have a strip of masking tape on the paper that it sticky side up! Repeat this as many times as you need (depending on the size of your creation). 

The reason for using the tape is because it prevents the BBs from rolling around while laying out the pattern.

Step 4: Select a Model and Select Your Colors

In this Instructable, I will be making two 2-D models and 2 3-D models. All my 2-D models are of video game sprites, particularly from Mario. Since I have already made Mario, I am going to make Luigi for the first model.

To find a pattern by which to make your Ammo Art from, search for the name of the character you want to make on Google Images, but then add either "8 bit" , "8 bit grid", or "Perler" (Perler Beads are small plastic beads that can laid in a pattern and then melted to form a figure. The patterns for Perler Beads can be used for Ammo Art as well). All these should give you an image providing a pattern for you to lay out your BBs. For example, since I want to make Luigi, I will first type in "Luigi", and then add either of the phrases listed, so my final search would be either "Luigi 8 bit", "Luigi 8 bit grid", or "Luigi Perler". You could even search for "Minecraft Patterns" if none of the phrases I listed work. 

Once you find a pattern you like, check the colors of the pattern and how many colors there are:  If the colors in the model are not the kind you have, chose a different pattern or model. In the pattern I selected, there are 5 colors: green, black, blue, yellow, and brown. These are also all colors I have. Also, check if you can see the individual squares in the grid. This makes it easier to arrange  your BBs into the pattern. Since I have all those colors and the pattern has visible outlines on each square, I am ready to begin assembly, 
The pattern I selected was created by Deviant Art member: raivcesleinadnayr. Thank you very much for creating your fantastic pattern and releasing it to the web!

Step 5: Begin Laying Out the Pattern

Get the prototype board you made, and get your collection of BBs. I went ahead and collected all the colors I would need and put them in a small tray. Now, while observing your pattern on the screen, lay out your BBs according to color, row by row. This will take around 10-15 minutes. Once you have them all lain out, make sure your pattern matches the one you are basing your model off of. Once everything is layed out correctly, you are ready to begin gluing. 

Step 6: Gluing the Pattern Together

To glue the pattern together, you will need the prototype board with the pattern arranged on it, and your hotglue gun with loaded hotglue. It is important to remember to assemble like you are reading: start left to right, and when you finish, move to the next row and continue in the same direction.

The First Row:
Always started with the BB in the furthest left of the top row. Pull it off the board, and apply a little glue to its right side. Then, grab the next BB and place it where you applied the glue. Continue this until you get the first row done. While doing this, make sure the row remains straight.

The Remaining Rows:
For all the remaining rows, there are two types of glue joints that you need to know. The first is the "Top Joint", which only applies for the furthest left BB on each row. On this type of joint, apply a small dot of glue on the top of the BB and stick it to the BB above. The second type of joint is the "L Joint". This joint is used in every other BB. In this type, apply the glue to the BB so an upside down L is formed, and stick it so the glue comes in contact to the BB on the top and the BB on the left.

Continue gluing row by row until you finish the model! My Luigi turned out great!

Step 7: Reinforcement and Finishing Touches

To make sure the model holds nicely, chose the side of the model you don't want to show. Then. apply hotglue in rows and columns in between each rows and columns of the BBs. This helps the model stay together.

To finish up, remove the strings and burrs of hotglue that are still on the model. You can do this by pulling them out with your finger, but to make the job easier, I used a razor blade. Once you've done this, your model is done!

I am very happy with the way my Luigi turned out!

Step 8: Making Boo!

Now, I am going to make another model, Boo, using the same steps I mentioned. I am going to use the same prototype board since it is still sticky. All I have to do is find a pattern, layout my BBs, glue them together, reinforce it, and clean it up! You can see the entire process for Boo in the pictures above!

Step 9: Making 3-D Models

Unlike the 2-D models, 3-D models are actual geometric shapes, not characters. This is because 3-D design is a bit more complicated, and I don't know if I have enough of each color to make the models I desire. In this portion, I will show you how to make two types of 3-d shapes: the cube and the triangular pyramid. These 3-D figures are created by making several 2-D models (cross sections), and gluing them on top of each other to form a 3-D firgure.

Just like before, grab some random colors, your hotglue gun, and your prototype board, and get ready to go!

I decided to only use white because I have several thousand white BBs, and I could use the other colors for something else.

Step 10: The Cube

To make the cube, we will need to make a bunch of 2-D squares, and glue them on top of each other. Decide how wide you want your squares to be; I want mine to be 6 BBs wide. Since my squares are 6 BBs wide, I will need to make 6 of these squares, requiring a total of 216 BBs.

To begin, lay out these 6 "6x6" squares on the prototype board. Then, glue each square using the exact same technique from the 2-D models. Once each square is done, just glue them on top of each other by applying some glue on top of a layer and putting another layer on top. And ta-da! Your cube is done!

Step 11: The Triangular Pyramid

Creating the triangular pyramid is a bit different from making all the other models, because unlike the other 3 I made in this Instructable, the pyramids BBs are arranged in a brick pattern, not neat columns and rows. However, it is much more fun to put together.

First, you need to decide how large your bottom layer is going to be; I want mine to be 7 BBs wide on each side. Lay this out on your prototype board. Then, add a row on top of this one with 6 BBs, then another with 5 BBs, then 4 BBs, and so on until 1 BB. Once you've done this, make another triangle with a width of 6 BBs, and another with 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, and finally, a single BB. When you finally have all this laid out, go ahead and begin gluing them together, but this time, start with the bottom row, and use the same technique. However, position your L Joints so they are in the bottom-middle of the BBs to account for the overlay pattern. Once you've made all 7 triangles, put some glue on the largest one, and put the next largest one on top. Repeat until you put the single BB on top! Congrats, your Triangular Pyramid is done!

Step 12: Making Magnets

You can make your creations into awesome gift magnets for those vintage video game lovers in your life. To do this, get one of your finished models, your ready to go hotglue gun, and some magnet strip. First, turn your model over to the side with all the hotglue reinforcements on it. Then, glue a small section of the magnet strip onto the center of the back, and let the glue dry. Ta-da! Your magnet is done! This makes an excellent gift for gamers or people who loved the 8 bit gaming period.

Step 13: Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for Ammo Art. This is one of my favorite creations, so please give me credit if you plan on using this. Ammo Art provides a way to upcycle those plastic BBs and preventing them from littering the woods. It might be a little tedious to make some of the models, but it is fun, and completely worth it in the end. If you have your own Ammo Art creations, take a picture of it and comment it! If you have any suggestions or ideas, comment them as well! I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, and thanks for viewing!


Henry Jones (author)2016-08-26

You had trouble finding yellow? Huh, where I live, that seems to be the most common. Black seems to be the place where I have trouble

Woodworker_17 (author)2015-04-02

Very cool, I shoot a lot of airsoft

ngoc2005 (author)2014-09-27

I'm like it?
Do you like this picture?✌

Zoe_Elizabeth (author)2014-02-23

Those are so cool!

Verticees (author)Zoe_Elizabeth2014-02-23

Thank you!

Daltsy666 (author)2013-11-30

This is so awesome. It's so simple, but I can tell you, I've never had this idea. Seriously, this is fricken sweet. Nice work man.

Verticees (author)Daltsy6662013-12-01

Wow thanks! I hope you try it out, and if you do, post a picture of your creations in the comments!

JMRaphael (author)2013-11-30

This is so cool! What if you used a piece of window screening instead of masking tape? It might cost a bit more, but the BBs would settle into the spaces in the screen, and you could get perfect alignment and spacing. I like this a LOT!

Verticees (author)JMRaphael2013-11-30

I'm so glad you liked it! I don't have any screening with me, but if you could come up with a way to create a more efficient prototype board, I would be glad to present it with full credits to you! How about you try it out with the screening, and tell me if it works efficiently or not! Thanks for your kind comment!

out-of-the-box (author)2013-11-30

this is very cool! well worded and a great unique idea! never have I saw potential in scrap bbs. well thanks to you that has changed! I will be attempting this soon for sure. great idea and thanks for the share!

Verticees (author)out-of-the-box2013-11-30

Thanks so much! Every time I looked at a BB, I knew there was something I could do with it!

M3G (author)2013-11-29

Cool idea

Verticees (author)M3G2013-11-29


About This Instructable




Bio: Welcome to Verticees Papercraft. I am specialize in paper model design. You can view all my work at my website:, or at my ... More »
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