If you’ve ever wanted to recreate a digital photo using Legos with the help of only a web browser, this instructable is for you. I came up with this idea for the Toy Building Blocks Contest of August 2013, but I was certain there was no way this was a new concept. That turned out to be true. Years ago, Lego had an online system called “Brick-o-lizer” which helped you to create a Lego-based picture from a digital image. I don’t know why, but they discontinued that service. To fill that void, a former Brick-o-lizer user named John Tolva posted instructions on his blog on how to create a Lego picture using Photoshop (by the way, my system does not use the same approach as his). His sons took that a step further and built a business that will create Lego pictures for you (www.thebrickbrothers.com).
So obviously this instructable gets zero points for originality, but hopefully gets a few points for nostalgia. I call my system “Brix Pix.”
Since I’ve never seen the Lego Brick-o-lizer, I don’t know how flexible it was, but here are some features of BrixPix that I think might be useful:
1. It lets you choose the resolution of your Lego picture.
2. It tries to create a list of bricks that minimizes the overall cost.
3. It lets you create black & white or grayscale pictures (I will update this in the future to support color).
Before we begin, let me make it clear that I have no affiliation with the Lego Group. Also, although I tried to ensure the system works correctly, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the system in all cases. Therefore, if you use this system, you agree not to hold me liable for any outcomes associated with this system. In other words, if you promised your son you’d build him a picture for his birthday, and you ended up 3 bricks short and couldn’t finish in time, please report it to me so I can fix it but do not take me to court for spoiling his birthday.
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Step 1: Upload Your Image
With your web browser, open: http://www.dalekim.com/BrixPix
Click on the “Browse…” button to select a digital photo from your computer.
Enter the target width of the Lego picture. Feel free to start with the default and adjust after viewing the preview. Keep in mind that you can buy Lego baseplates in 32x32 and 48x48 sizes, so you might want to create a picture that fits within multiples of those dimensions.
Enter the contrast, which helps to add more detail to the Lego picture. You can also start with the default and adjust after viewing the preview.
Select the color scheme. Currently the two options are black & white and grayscale. Grayscale uses black, white, dark stone grey, and medium stone grey, the 4 grayscale shades currently sold by Lego.
Click on the “Make Lego Picture” button. If you like the preview and the estimated cost, then you’re good to proceed. If not, adjust the width and contrast and re-submit.
For the output, you'll get a preview picture, a pick list of bricks you need, an estimated cost (if you buy online), and a guide on putting your picture together.
Step 2: Buy Bricks From Lego
With the generated pick list, you can buy Legos from your local store or order them from Lego.com. Although I don’t include it in the pick list, be sure to buy large baseplates on which to build your Lego picture. At physical Lego stores, you can buy bricks by the cupful, which appears to be much cheaper than buying them online. However, their inventory is typically much more limited.
Since my time was limited in getting this instructable together, I made a small black and white picture of Abe Lincoln with dimensions of 24x31. And, I had to paint a bunch of the Lego bricks that I bought locally since they didn't all the bricks I needed. Also, for the sizes that weren’t available, I bought smaller pieces to make up the bigger piece (i.e., I made a 1x12 brick with 3 1x4 bricks).
I used the standard thick bricks for my prototype, but if you order online, it appears that “plates” and “tiles” are slightly cheaper. All the bricks I needed for my Abe Lincoln picture fit in a large cup (with even a little room to spare) which costs $14.99, which is much better than the estimated $28.85 online.
Step 3: Follow the Guide
Follow the guide to put the picture together. In the guide, each line has an X,Y coordinate which represents the position on the picture board. Each line also specifies the color and size of the brick. Place the brick on the board based on the specified orientation (horizontal or vertical) with the upper left corner of the brick at the X,Y coordinate. Be extra careful to put the brick into the proper orientation, or else you’ll later curse at me for giving wrong instructions, when in fact all you have to do is rotate a previous brick.
It took me only about an hour to put my Abe Lincoln picture together, so hopefully you’ll find the guide to be very helpful. Oh, and I might eventually add a feature to the site where you can upload your masterpieces for everyone to appreciate.