Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lego Mickey Mouse Mosaic

I had wanted to make some sort of Lego mosaic for a while now, but I couldn't figure out what kind of source picture I wanted to use.  Whenever I tried it with people, the colors just looked pretty far off unless you did black and white.  That's when I started looking at cartoons.  My wife's office is full of Disney paintings we've done, so I knew she'd probably like a Lego Mickey mosaic.  I found this source picture online titled "Mickey Salutes America" and decided it would be the perfect picture to make a mosaic out of.

I used a program called Mosaic Creator to generate the mosaic.  For the input pictures, I used the color swatches of the Lego Bricks and set the output cell size as 1x1.  For the total output size, I based it on the standard Lego base plate size of 32x32, and chose an output of 96x124.  Doing the math, that meant there would be 96 studs * 124 studs = 11,904 studs. 
Mosaic Creator will give an output file showing what each cell should be.
[9,18] Light Bluish Gray.bmp
[9,19] White.bmp
[9,20] Medium Blue.bmp
[9,21] Dark Bluish Gray.bmp
[9,22] Medium Blue.bmp
[9,23] Medium Blue.bmp
[9,24] Dark Bluish Gray.bmp
[9,25] Dark Bluish Gray.bmp
[9,26] Medium Blue.bmp
[9,27] Medium Blue.bmp
[9,28] Medium Blue.bmp
From there, I could have gone off and ordered 12,000 1x1 Lego bricks that were the correct color, but I wanted to take it a little further.  Lego bricks certainly are not cheap, and even the cheapest 1x1 bricks are 4-5¢ each.  Multiply that by 12,000 and you're looking at $600.00 just in 1x1 bricks.  This project was starting to get a little expensive. 

I knew that while 1x1 bricks were 4-5
¢ each, you could also find 1x2 and 2x2 bricks for about the same price.  My next goal was to find where I could combine sections of the mosaic and use larger bricks.  I imported the list that Mosaic Creator generated into Excel and I wrote a program that would scrub the original and replace sections of 1x1 bricks with larger bricks.  In the end, I was able to make a section that looked like this to this.  You can find out more about the program I wrote here (link).

My program also told me how many bricks of each I would need to order. 
From there, I went to a great site for buying Lego bricks in bulk called
Bricklink.  There are multiple sellers who have their own stores with a wide variety of stock, and in some cases pretty different prices.  It was a little confusing at first to navigate but eventually I was able to find all the pieces I needed.  There are some power sellers there where you could buy every single brick you needed but their prices are a little higher.  In the end, I placed orders with 4 separate sellers and received my bricks within a week. 

The next stop was to the Lego Store at Downtown Disney to grab some base plates.  I also went to Home Depot to get some plywood to mount everything to and some glue because I knew I didn't want this coming apart.

I read that the best glue to use to keep the Lego pieces from coming apart was a PVC glue called MEK that would slightly melt the plastic and then fuse the two pieces together.  The glue came in black and clear, and while I started with the black I wasn't really happy with the results since it occasionally dripped or squished up to the surface.  Also, I had read that the best way to apply it was to smear a thin layer on the base plate and then place the pieces.  I found that when I did this, it melted the base plate too much, and the Lego pieces didn't fit flush next to each other.  I eventually found that I liked dabbing the pieces individually on the glue brush before I placed it.  This made it so there was just enough glue to hold them together, and they also snapped onto the board when they were placed. 

I used Liquid Nailz to stick the base plates to the plywood.  The base plates are starting to peel away from the plywood right now, so I haven't figured out what to replace it with.  Possibly double sided carpet tape.  Anyway, while gluing the plates to the plywood, I had to make sure they were still spaced correctly so I placed 2x2 bricks all along the seams while I glued it down.

Here's the work in progress.  My wife and I made each 32x32 section on a different board before we transferred it to the final board.

And here's the finished product.

Total cost:
  • 1x1, 1x2, 2x2, 2x4 bricks including shipping = $205
  • (12) 32x32 blue Lego base plates = $60
  • Glue and plywood = $20
  • Total - $285
Total Time:
~6 hours to assemble all the Legos
not sure how many hours it took for planning, ordering, etc.

All in all, this was a really fun project. 

1 comment:

  1. Will have to remember this one for Flag Day next year - June 14th. GREAT JOB, Joe !!