Introduction: 8-bit Centerpieces

Make your own awesome 8-bit centerpiece for your next video game-inspired dinner or event. It's simple, requires very little in the way of toolsor artistic talent, and stores flat for future use! Are you having a Super Mario Bros. themed wedding? Why not use characters instead of numbers to differentiate tables? These centerpieces are also great for childrens' parties - the possibilities are endless!

Step 1: What You'll Need

 - One sheet of paper-coated foam core board, 20" x 30" (see here for details)
 - Exacto-knife and cutting board
 - Long ruler
 - Pencil and eraser
 - Graph paper
 - Black fine-tipped permanent marker
 - Assortment of colored permanent markers
    (for this project, I used red, light green and dark green for the piranha plant)

Step 2: Preparing the Foam Core

First, you'll need to create a reference drawing of the 8-bit image you are going to use as your centerpiece, which in my case, happens to be the Super Mario Bros. piranha plant. Find a good example of your image on the internet, which you can then print out, or draw onto your graph paper, using one square per pixel. Make sure to pay special attention to color placement, as a lot of these images are quite iconic, and bad coloring could make or break your final result.

To scale the image larger on the foam core, you'll need to draw a grid, using the pencil and ruler, where each square will be larger than the ones in your reference drawing. For example, in my reference, I used a scale of 1 square = 0.5 cm, which I then doubled to 1 square = 1 cm on my foam core, creating a final product twice as large as the original. You can use this scale, or make your centerpieces even larger, though I found this height to be just high enough as to not hide your dinner companions from view. Draw your scaled grid onto both sides of the sheet of foam core.

With the aid of your reference drawing, transfer the outline of your image onto the foam core. You'll also want to transfer the outline of the base of your image, which in my case, is the green pipe. This crosspiece will act as the support  which will allow the centerpiece to stand on its own, while still remaining 2D.

Step 3: Cutting Out the Forms

Working on a cutting board as to not damage any other surface in your home, use the exacto-knife to cut lengthwise along the side of your centerpiece, separating it from the rest of the foam core sheet. This will make cutting out the rest much easier.

Next, begin cutting away sections that are not part of your final design. Foam core is a remarkably easy material to cut through, and 8-bit images are all straight lines, so this part is very easy-going. Remember to check the underside of the sheet to make sure your cuts go all the way into the corners before ripping the cutting away. This will make for much cleaner corners, and no rough bits hanging off the back of your centerpiece. Proceed the same way with the extra base section.

To make the crosspiece, stand the base section sideways on the center of the base of the main piece. Trace along both sides with your pencil. Reverse the pieces and do the same on the extra base piece. You're only going to cut half of this center notch out to be able to stand the two pieces together. On the main piece, cut out the bottom half of the notch. On the extra base piece, cut out the top half of the notch. Test the stand by sliding the two pieces together perpendicular to each other. Remove more from the notch if the fit is not right and test again.

Step 4: Adding Color

Going back to the reference image, you are now going to transfer your color placement to the cut out piece of the piranha plant. Think of it like a homemade paint-by-numbers: Designate one color your "number 1" and outline everywhere that colors goes. I chose black, since it determines the placement of all my other colors. Using the permanent markers, fill in the section, coloring 1 pixel at a time. I found this to be important, as large blocks of colors tended to look patchy when colored in sections and not by pixel.

Continue filling in the image using the paint-by-number technique with each subsequent color until your image is completely colored. One important note: if you are coloring in a section using a lighter, more transparent color, such as yellow or red, make sure to erase your pencil grid lines before you do so. Otherwise, you'll see the grid through the coloring.

Flip the piece over and color the second side in the same way. Color both sides of the extra base section as well.

Step 5: And You're Done!

Slide the extra base section into the notch in the bottom of the piranha plant centerpiece and stand it on a flat surface. That's it! If your notches are cut properly and the fit is snug, you won't even need to glue the pieces together. Make as many centerpieces as you have tables to decorate. Switch images to add variety and color to your decor, and above all, have fun with it!

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