How to Create Pixel Drawings and Emoji Art with Google Spreadsheets

You are using Google Spreadsheets for budgeting and project management but did you know that the same sheets application can help you create impressive pixel paintings in minutes? The Google blog recently published a story of two illustrators who created a bright and beautiful wall mural using Google Spreadsheets.

Marina and Mallory connected on Google Hangouts to plan and sketch out ideas, and creatively “hack” Sheets in order to make art: resizing cells into thousands of pixel-like squares, merging cells to create color blocks, creating vibrant color gradients with conditional formatting and cell values, and other cool things we had no idea you could do with Sheets.

The idea is simple. Each cell in the spreadsheet corresponds to a pixel in the painting. You compute the color of the pixel and make it the background color of the corresponding cell. Now resize the spreadsheet cells in small perfect squares and your spreadsheet will look exactly like the original artwork.

How to Paint with Google Spreadsheets

If you would like to create your own spreadsheet art but don’t have the time to carefully paint every cell manually, here’s a simple workaround for you. You can take any photograph, vector art, or any other image and use a Google Script to convert that bitmap image into spreadsheet art.

Here are some examples of art created with Google Spreadsheets.

Watch the video tutorial or open this Google Sheet for sample artwork.

Create Pixel Art with Google Sheets

It takes two easy steps to make pixel art with Google Sheets.

  1. Open the Google Spreadsheet template and create a copy of the sheet in your own Google Drive.
  2. Go to the Spreadsheet Art menu and upload the image from your desktop. You can use images of any size or resolution.

The underlying Google Script will now parse every single pixel of your image and write the corresponding hex color codes in the cells of the spreadsheet.

It will then set the background color of every cell same as the color of the corresponding pixel. If you have chosen the ’emoji’ option, the cell will be filled with the closes emoji that matches the color of the pixel.

In the last step, the script will resize the cells and turn them into perfect squares. That’s it. Your spreadsheet art is now ready.

The latest version of the Spreadsheet Art project can transform your pictures into emojis pixels as well. It takes the average color of the pixel, finds the closest emoji and adds it to the corresponding cell in the sheet. The emoji module is based on the work of Monica Dinculescu.

The end result may appear slightly pixelated (video) because we have used a small image as the source template but impressive nonetheless. You can download the Google Sheet as a PDF file or save it in Microsoft Excel format.

Check this Google Sheet for more examples.

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