Look what I made!!! Look what I made!!!
I last spoke about this little project back in January … it took me a while to gather all of the pieces, mostly due to a little color mishap, but I think I’m pretty happy with the end result and now I’m really looking forward to doing my next one! But first, I thought I’d share just a bit about the steps that I took to put this one together and a few of the things that I learned along the way…
1.) Designing My Mosaic
First thing’s first was to come up with my basic design. I knew I wanted something simple that would fit on a 32×32 base plate for starters, so I ended up doing a mock-up first in Excel, though if I get to do a big one later, I’ll probably try to use Photoshop instead. The transfer was actually really easy, though, because I was using all 8-bit graphics which are already pixelated. I simply searched Google Image Search for the ones I liked, and then copied them pixel for pixel over into my grid in Excel.
If you want to check out the final Excel doc that I made, you can download that here – there are also a couple of other samples that I was playing with in there as well!
I’d guess that I probably spent the better part of an afternoon trying to pick the right sprites – I wanted something classic, but also colorful. At first I was just going to do Mario, but then I thought about being infatuated with The Legend of Zelda growing up and the sprite of Link holding the Triforce above his head seemed pretty cool. I struggled with something for the third position for a while – my first instinct was Mega Man because I played Megan Man 2 to death when I was a kid, but as you can see in my spreadsheet, he’s just too big and would almost need his own base plate all by himself! I also dabbled with some of the Final Fantasy heroes (spoiler: they’ll probably be my next mosaic…), but ultimately ended up coming back to the original Dragon Warrior – a game I got for free from Nintendo as a free gift one year for being a subscriber to Nintendo Power…
2.) Counting the Bricks
Next was to count up the number of bricks that I needed for each color – I did this using math, though if you download an app to do it for you, it’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of it for you!
The design you see above ended up requiring the following:
- Yellow – 60
- Tan – 38
- Lime Green – 52
- Dark Orange – 78
- Red – 64
- Tan – 43
- Reddish Brown – 71
Dragon Warrior Hero:
- Blue – 91
- White – 55
- Tan – 31
- Black – 441
3.) Pricing & Ordering the Bricks
Now admittedly here’s where I learned my first big lesson because originally I had wanted to do this project using 1×1 plates as opposed to 1×1 bricks because I thought that having a thinner profile would make it easier to frame and eventually display on the wall … but what I failed to take into consideration was just how much more expensive plates are than traditional bricks! It ended up literally being about 25% of the cost to go with bricks instead of plates, and considering that ultimately I’d like to do more of these, I figured it only made sense for my pocketbook to go with the cheaper bricks.
I should probably note that I’ve seen some builders consolidate bricks down into larger sizes to help save costs (i.e. buying 1 2×4 brick instead of 8 1×1 bricks), but for my first run I really wanted to try it using the smallest ones and besides, I didn’t feel like doing any of the extra calculations to break them up like that anyways. Now if you’re using an app like Photobricks, it’ll do a bunch of that crunching for you and even later spit out a data file that you can somehow feed into BrickLink to aid in your search, but I ended up just doing mine the manual way…
Anyways, I ordered all of my bricks through BrickLink, which frankly for this particular project was a gigantic pain in the butt simply in terms of trying to figure out how to place as few orders as possible to save on shipping costs … but it’s still cheaper than paying $0.10/brick from Lego Direct. The problem is that you’re not going to find a single seller with everything that you need, so I ended up doing a lot of shopping cart juggling to see who was the best to order what from. I ended up with 5 orders which totaled about $75, or roughly $0.05/brick after shipping costs with about 450 extra leftover because I over-ordered in just about every color just in case, and also in anticipation of future projects.
Black was probably my worst color to find due to the large quantity – I actually had black bricks in every single one of those 5 orders because there just wasn’t anybody who could sell me 500 at a time at a decent price.
I also had a huge snafu with the Dark Orange because low and behold, it was actually sent to me by mistake – the seller thought it was Reddish Brown. Unfortunately, this caused two problems because although I actually liked that one for Link better (I originally was just going to use Reddish Brown for both Link and Mario), not only did I not have enough Reddish Brown to finish up Mario, but I also didn’t have enough Dark Orange to finish Link and had a devil of a time actually figuring out what color it really was! The guy who sent them to me in error didn’t know for sure, the other guy who sent me Reddish Brown wasn’t sure, and so basically the main reason that I wasn’t able to post all of this a month ago was because I ended up putting in three new orders (one of which got lost in the mail) of different shades of brown and orange to try and figure out what it was that I actually needed!
At the end of the day, I am very happy with the color choice, but jeeesh! 😯
So in summary, at the end of the day my total cost was probably right around a hundred bucks including the base plate itself, though again, that does give me a small amount of inventory for my next mosaic.
4.) Assembling the Bricks
This was the fun part! 😀
I had originally wanted to wait until I had everything for all of my orders, but that didn’t last long and instead I worked a little each night to place whatever bricks had come in the mail that day. Here are a few in progress shots of that taking place…
P.S. While you’re building, do keep an eye out for non-Lego bricks that got tossed in with your order – I was surprised to find half a dozen or so black bricks without the Lego logo on them by the time that I was done! It wasn’t enough to complain, especially because I was buying in bulk and had bought extras, but it’s still something to look out for if you’re a little obsessive compulsive like me! 😉
P.P.S. And if you really want a challenge, try putting them all on your base plate facing the same direction, as in LEGO from left to right! My wife suggested it mostly as a joke, and after about three hours of re-building, my mosaic was just about as OCD as one can get! 😛
5.) Gluing the Bricks
The one step that I actually still need to do is figure out how to glue the whole thing down to its base – the bricks don’t all stay in one place on their own, so it’s definitely a necessity unless you’re going to leave it resting flat on a table and probably also take it apart again later. I’ll post separately once I figure out how to do this, and also how to mount it to the wall – I think I saw another mosaic builder just use some sort of spray adhesive and then glue picture frame brackets to the back of the plate, so we’ll see.
All in all, this was a whole lot of fun and I’m definitely looking forward to building out more from here! That said, I’m also kinda glad that I limited myself to a single base plate for my first attempt – figure that’s still 1,024 bricks, which can add up quickly based on just how many colors exist in your design. Eventually I’d still like to do a much bigger video game mosaic to cover a wall in my office, and my wife still wants to do a Disney-related one, too, but next I’ve decided that I’m going to do at least one more NES-themed mosaic – most likely Final Fantasy based, although I really like the Megan Man one, too, so in that case I might have to pick 3 more just so I have an even number to display on the wall!
That said, I’ve always been amazed by mosaic designers and just thought it’d be pretty much the coolest thing to hang up on your wall, and now that I’ve been bitten by the bug I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to be buying a lot more 1×1 bricks in my future!
Boy, are these things ever addicting … when do I get to start my next one?!
Update: Six months later, the follow-up post where you can see this thing glued and framed can now be found here…