Sunday, June 06, 2010

Fun with Mosaics and Collages

I am very excited to be playing with (free!) photo mosaic software, and creating images such as this photo of my son David, made up of 1000 tiles of little David images.  Pretty cool (click the image for a larger view, and also roll back a distance from the computer to see the overall image):
Photo mosaic - portraits within a portrait
Created by AndreaMosaic.

The first time I think I saw a photo mosaic like this, was in 2006 in Disneyland.  They had some beautiful mosaics, such as this one of Walt Disney with his famous Mickey Mouse, made up of tiny Disney character drawings and images:
Photo mosaic at Disneyland
I remember thinking at the time that I would love to one day make a mosaic like that, and maybe there would be software available to help.

Recently, I have been inspired by many bloggers who create wonderful photo mosaics (which are really more like photo collages), many of who participate in Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.  My first attempt at such a collage was through Photoshop, but that was painful and time-consuming.  Then I was told about the Mosaic Maker at Big Huge Labs, and was able to create mosaics more easily and successfully, but the interface still left me frustrated, especially controlling which image would be placed where.

Then I heard that Google's Picasa was useful for creating mosaics.  I don't know why I hadn't tried Picasa yet, since I am a big Google fan, and my husband has been urging me for years to get some software for photo organization (I currently save them in folders named by date - usually month - and topic, but it is a painful process to go back and find anything from previous years).  Since Picasa is free (that price is right!) I decided to try it.  I was not prepared for what I would discover, and have yet to discover in the days to come.

Picasa is the most amazing software.  After I downloaded it, it proceeded to search through all my folders, including connected network folders, to find and index (it doesn't actually move the photos, just index them) all sorts of images which I didn't remember that I had (and certainly not where!).  The result is a set of thumbnails which are organized by date and folder name, and can be scrolled through very quickly to see the images.

Then it started on the face recognition.  Oh my!  It automatically locates all the faces in the photos it indexes, and allows you to name them.  Once you identify the first few people in the face images, it uses feature recognition (oh my goodness, I know this is possible, but this was very amazing for a free program!) to categorize other images of faces that are similar.  The interface is very easy to use.  As it finds faces and guesses who they are, you can click Yes or No and correct it with a different name where it goes wrong, or tell it that you don't want that face named at all (e.g. it will find each separate face in a choir).  The success rate was incredibly high, well over 95% correct.  As it learns which faces are which, it gets better and better at classifying, and automatically classifies from the remaining faces.

I left it chugging away for hours, and checked on it occasionally to correct it.  The results are presented as thumbnails in "folders", one for each person you wish to name.  For example, within hours, it had assembled 1,600 photos of my daughter April and 1,200 photos of my son David.  Each face is presented as a thumbnail image (see sample below of 9 photos from David's 1,200 photos), and from that image, you can easily click to see the whole photo, including Picasa's list of who else is in the photo (which you can update if any names are incorrect), and you can click to go to the image in the original folder.  You can select the entire "folder" or images in the "folder", and export either just the face images only, or the full images, to a specified folder on your computer.

Picasa images
When I saw this, I immediately saw the potential of photo mosaics made up of the little faces.  Sadly, Picasa has a mosaic feature but it is the photo collages, not photo mosaics.  Having said that, the collages were very easy to use, and allowed not only images and collage shapes to be specified, but it was easy to drag the photos around, and the software rearranged them accordingly.

But it wasn't hard to find some free (creditware) mosaic software - AndreaMosaic - which received good reviews, and for very good reason.

AndreaMosaic allows you to specify the primary image, and then a folder of other images which will be combined together in a mosaic to create the primary image.  There are a number of other parameters you can specify, such as how many tiles and in what pattern, what orientations of the images you will allow, what colour variations are allowed to make it a better fit, how many times the same image can repeat, etc (see below):

AndreaMosaic - Free photo mosaic maker
When I first clicked "Create Mosaic" I didn't believe it worked, since it took only seconds to prepare the mosaic, even the one with 1,000 tiles shown at the top of this post.  Even when I increased to 10,000 tiles, it took less than 1 minute to create the image (below):

Photo mosaic made up of 10,000 faces
Created by AndreaMosaic.

At this number of tiles, it takes very close examination to see that those are 10,000 tiny images of David.

Pretty cool. I think this has potential to keep me busy for many many hours. I can't wait for the next opportunity to play a bit more.

PS. Couldn't help but come back and create one mosaic of my daughter April, using this image of her in a floral wreath crown she created, back in July 2007:

Floral wreath crown
Here it is, in 1,000 tiles.  Again, click for larger image, then step back from the computer to view:

Photo mosaic portrait with 1000 tiles


Kate said...

I've been impressed with bloggers' mosaics, too. This is great and I love your photos. May have to give this a try.

Kellys Art Journaling/ Sharing The Journey said...

This is so cool. Thanks for sharing the process too! I think I am going to make one of my boys.

Mosaically said...

Hey these mosaics should have been made at then they can be embedded onto the site, and people can zoom into see the photos.

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