Introduction: 8/16-bit Sculptures!

Look at that picture below, does that look like a special effect? If you said yes, you're wrong. That is 100% real, and in this Instructable I'll show you how to make your own.

I should start out by saying that this is not my idea, it comes from a guy by the name of sWooZie, a while back he posted a video of a pretty awesome sculpture of Ryu from Street Fighter and after looking through his videos, I found this guide on how to make one, and I thought that I was up to the task.

So far I've made multiple sculptures, Ness, Megman, and a 1-UP mushroom.

Before we get into things, I'd like to thank sWooZie for giving me permission to write this up.

Basically, what we will be doing is cutting up some timber into squares, these squares will then be painted and act as individual pixels in your sculpture. I know some of you will ask, "Why not just get a plain slab of timber and draw a grid on it?" the answer is, that doesn't give the same effect and it also makes painting a giant pain. This method gives you a very nice finished product. You're looking at about 2 - 3 days of hard work to finish this, I did mine over a week, very relaxed like.

Step 1: Gather Materials + Tools

This is a rather easy step, you only need to get a few things in terms of materials:

Timber - You want to get dressed pine. Look for 1" x 1" timber, but really any size will do, the ratio of height to thickness doesn't even need to be 1:1. I, personally, couldn't find any 1" X 1" timber so I ended up getting 31mm x 18mm.

I would also recommend you get a wide plank of timber to use for a base, I just used some scrap I had in my garage.

On a side note, if you desire, you can get primed timber, this has a coat of primer on it that allows for easier application of paint, the downside to this is that you have to sand off the primer on the edges of your timber when gluing, and this is very time consuming. Primed timber is also slightly more expensive then regular timber.

Glue - Just get regular old PVA wood glue, any brand will do.

Paint - This is the tricky part, there are two ways you can get the colours you need, the first is to just buy tubes of acrylic paint in Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Black and White and then mix your own colours, this is quite cheap.

The alternative is to go to a hardware store or paint shop and ask them to mix your colours for you, I went to Bunning's Warehouse and asked them how much it would cost, they told me $8 per small (100mL) pot, this is very expensive if you are using many colours like in mine, but in some respects makes working easier, because you don't have to worry about running out of your home mixed colours and having to start all over again; this is especially painful when mixing skin tones.

You'll also want to get a few small nails and screws for when you put this on a base, if you're going to put it on a base, that is.

Overall for your materials (if using the cheap paint method) you're looking at around $25 - $70 depending on the type of timber you get, how big a sculpture you're making, and how much paint you use.


Drop-saw - This makes cutting the timber a breeze and is essential unless you want to spend 15 - 20 hours sawing the wood by hand. Not everyone has one, but if you're lucky you might be able to find a friend or neighbour who does and will let you borrow it.

Hammer - Self-explanatory.

Screwdriver - Self-explanatory

Paint brushes - You want to get (if you don't already have one) a brush that is about 1/3 - 1/2 the length of your pieces when cut, any smaller and the paint probably won't go on thick enough with the lighter colours.

Sand Paper - If you get primed timber, this is a must for sanding off the primer so you can glue it, otherwise you probably won't need any, but it's always a good idea to have some garnet paper handy in case you get rough edges on your timber.

Step 2: Getting an Image

What you want to do is find yourself a picture of your character, in case you didn't already know, the character images on 8/16-bit consoles are called sprites.

The easiest way to find these images is to google them, you want to find a relatively small image with nice sharp edges and no blur. The main things to search for for say, a mario sprite would be "mario sprites", "super mario sprites", "mario sprite sheets", etc.

Once you have the images, open them in GIMP or Photoshop, whatever you use, and seperate them from their sprite sheets (if they were on one) and scale them up; make sure when scaling to set the interpolation to none, otherwise you end up with anti-aliasing everywhere.

After you get an image, print up a nice big version of it to use as a reference.

Step 3: Cut Your Timber!

This step is rather self-explanatory, get your timber and your drop-saw and start cutting. You want to end up with perfect squares, I recommend putting a stop behind the blade so that when you cut, you always end up with the same size pieces.

After it's cut, you may want to lay out the pieces in the shape of your sprite to get an idea of how big it will be. When you do this, make sure you are constantly checking your template so you don't leave out a row by accident or misplace a block, in the second last picture, this is apparent.

Step 4: PAINT!

Even though very easy, this is by far the most time consuming step, unless you have an air brush, but I didn't.

Start off by counting how many blocks of each colour you will need from your template, once this is done, paint, paint, and then paint some more.

If using the cheap painting method, make sure you mix a lot of each colour you use, you do not want to run out, ever . This step takes around 10 hours if done by hand. After it's finished, you should lay it all out again to make gluing easier.

Step 5: Sand Off the Extra Primer. (Only for Primed Timber)

This step is only necessary if you bought primed timber, it takes around 1 - 2 hours.

First up, make sure you're paint is completely dry, and then take your pieces outside or anywhere away from where you're going to glue together, because trust me, that dust will get everywhere .

Now that you've done that, lay down a sheet of sand paper (I wouldn't get any coarser than 80 grit because you'll get a really rough surface) on a table or bench and start sanding off the primer on the unpainted sides of your squares; you may want to leave a side un-sanded on the edge pieces to make painting them easier once the whole thing is glued.

You do not need to get the primer completely off, just a good rub to get most of it off will do; keep in mind, if you sand too much, your pieces won't fit right. Also, make sure you have at least 3 sheets of sand paper, it wears quickly.

Step 6: Glue That Stuff Together.

Pretty simple step, just make sure to keep checking that reference sheet, I made a couple of mistakes, but nothing a little perseverance and effort couldn't fix.

The method I used was this:
  I would take two rows from my layed out pieces.
  Separate each row into groups of four.
  Further separate the fours into twos.
  Glue each set of two together.
  Glue the twos into fours.
  Glue the fours together.
  Glue the two, now glued, rows together, making sure to keep straight and weighed down to prevent warping.
  Glue the double row to the main body, again keeping straight and weighted.
  Lather, rinse, repeat.

While gluing, make sure you wipe off any glue that may run out the sides when you're pressing the pieces together.

Step 7: Touch Ups and Base Attachment.

Touch ups - Basically, get out your brush and paint the edges of the sculpture black, you'll probably want to also touch up any areas that may have become scratched.

Base attachment - The final step, and I have no pictures of it, sorry. Anyways, get your base material, cut it to size and paint it as you see fit. Next center it to your sculpture's body, now just find some evenly spaced points, and drive some thin nails through them. You could use screws if you want, but they're not entirely necessary.

Step 8: Gain Geek-cred.


You have finished, stand back and admire your work. :)

Overall this project does not cost a lot of money, but it can be very time consuming I recommend a weekend or two if you want to do a really good job; do not try to rush it.

Step 9: Special Thanks

I'd just like to mention a few of the people who helped me during this project, it wouldn't have been doable without them.

sWooZie - Thanks for the idea.

My dad - Thanks for the help putting this together, and for driving me around to buy stuff.

My grand dad - Thanks for letting me use your drop-saw.

Instructables - For being an awesome website, and featuring this in less than a day. :D

If anyone has any questions about how I made this, etc. feel free to ask and I'll answer your questions as best I can. Also, if anyone makes one of these, I'd love to see some pictures.

rate and comment now plis.