New Perler bead art! (Donkey Kong Country, Pokemon, and Harvest Moon)

GEEZ. I don’t know what’s been up with me but I’ve been avoiding posting anything here for WAY too long. And it’s not like I don’t have the time. Just haven’t been feeling up to doing social things, lately. Or maybe it’s laziness. I dunno.

Anyway, as promised almost three freaking weeks ago, I’ve had new Perler stuff I’ve wanted to show off for a while now. I had a lot of downtime this past winter after the new year and I was trying to put a lot of effort into making things I’ve promised my friends for a while now.

One of my friends and I are huge fans of the Donkey Kong Country series on Super Nintendo. He asked me if I could make him the four playable characters from those three games, and although I said yes, I put it off for a while because the Donkey Kong Country sprites are more complicated than your average Super Nintendo sprite.

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The first character I made was Dixie Kong, first introduced in Donkey Kong Country 2 and then starred in her own game in Donkey Kong Country 3. She’s got a helicopter spin to slow her fall, making her great for gaining a lot of horizontal movement across pits and other hazards. This sprite is from Donkey Kong Country 2, when she completes a level and rocks out on an electric guitar with her hair. You could say she’s playing… hair metal. 🙂

I’m not sorry.

Anyway, Dixie was the easiest of the four Kongs to make, mostly because there were more yellows and purples to mix things up. As you’ll see from the other Kongs, the hardest part of these characters was staring at sprite sheets zoomed in at 800% and trying to differentiate a hundred different shades of brown from each other and deciding which of the five or so shades I had to use and where. All right, there weren’t really a hundred shades of brown, but there were a lot more than I was used to.

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After Dixie I made Diddy Kong. He first showed up in the original Donkey Kong Country and then starred in Donkey Kong Country 2. He’s probably the most nimble and fastest of the four characters, so players that enjoy faster moving platform games with greater control probably prefer playing as Diddy Kong. The sprite I used was also from Donkey Kong Country 2, when Diddy finishes a level and beat-boxes with a boom box in a very 90s style.

Honestly, I’m not too happy with how Diddy came out. Something just looks off, both with the colors and the shape. Diddy probably took me the longest to do because of redoing him so often because I was unsatisfied. He had more shades of brown than Dixie and I didn’t have enough to match, so I had to make some decisions about what to use and where. The sprite also, strangely enough, didn’t have Diddy’s shirt. There was just this awkward brown shadow where it should have been. I filled that in with dark reds for his shirt instead; he just seemed naked without it.

While I didn’t like how it came out, everyone else I showed it to did, so maybe I’m just being too hard on myself. :3

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Next I made Donkey Kong himself, strangely only playable in the first game. It’s pretty weird that a series called Donkey Kong Country only has the titular character available to play as in one game. But I mean whatever. All three games are great and I love them and their characters each. Donkey Kong is a bit bigger and slower than Diddy and Dixie, but there’s a few bigger enemies that only Donkey Kong can defeat with all that extra weight. He can also do this ground slap thing to make hidden items unearth from the ground, but I don’t think anyone actually uses it. Not until Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii, anyway.

Considering that he’s basically naked except for his tie, I thought Donkey Kong would be the most difficult of the Kongs to make, with even more shades of brown to deal with. But strangely enough, he wasn’t as frustrating as Diddy. There were actually some yellow-oranges thrown in there, so that helped mix things up a bit. His sprite is from the intro to Donkey Kong Country, when he interrupts his father Cranky Kong playing the music from the original Donkey Kong arcade game and busts a move with his own radical jams from his 90s boom box.

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Finally, I made Kiddy Kong. Everyone hates Kiddy Kong. And the only game he’s in, Donkey Kong Country 3. I like him though. He’s a toddler, and I think he’s funny. And this is coming from a person that doesn’t even like kids! I don’t know what everyone’s problem with this character or Donkey Kong Country 3 is. They feel just as natural a part to the series as any of the other characters or games. To me, anyway. Even the friend I made this for hates Kiddy Kong and the third game, so I don’t even know why he wanted me to make him.

Kiddy is bigger and slower like Donkey Kong, and also has some enemies only he can defeat. He can also tumble roll forward, and if you do so off a ledge and just as you’re about to hit water, you can bounce off the surface and reach greater heights (although I could have sworn I’ve done the same thing with Dixie once, as well).

Honestly, I think Kiddy came out the best. He was the easiest, too. The baby blue onesie was a sight for sore eyes. I forgot to take a picture of him at home, though, so I snapped a photo when I gave the Perler art to my friend and he tacked them to his wall.

It was such a relief to finally have these done. I thought complicated Perler art was finally finished. But boy was I wrong.

To be fair, though, my next project was easier.

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This is Dugtrio, one of the original Pokemon taken from the original Pokemon Red and Blue versions on Game Boy. Why Dugtrio, you may ask? Well last fall, another one of my friends felt like playing a Pokemon game. I had also been in the mood for some Pokemon, and we decided that it would be fun to play through a game together. We decided on the original one, as we were both still very fond of it. I played through Blue, and she played through Red. “But wait!” she said. “Since you’re playing Blue and I’m playing Red, why don’t we pursue out childhood dreams and complete the Pokedex! As mature 20-something adults!”

And so, from last fall through the middle of this past winter, we played through the original Pokemon games on Game Boy, on actual Game Boys with non-rechargeable batteries, using a link cable to trade version exclusive Pokemon. It was a long, arduous, unnecessary journey, but we did it. And it was amazing.

I’ll leave the nostalgia and personal gratification for another time perhaps. But Dugtrio was her favorite member of her team so I offered to make her one out of Perler beads to remember the time two mature, 20-something adults played a video game from the 90s and spent too much time capturing every Pokemon because advertising from 20 years ago told us it was the right thing to do.

But I couldn’t stop there. I had to do more. I thought it would be cool to make custom trainer Perler sprites of us in the style of the Game Boy games.

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I’ve got to say I’m pretty impressed with myself. It took a loooong time, but after copying sprites for so long, it was legitimately satisfying to gain some experience making a custom project. It wasn’t easy, though.

So from past experiences working on my Princess Kenny project from a while back, I thought the easiest way to make this was to take a photo of my friend, layer a grid over it, and use the spaces in between each line as pixels and create the Perler piece like I was using a sprite sheet. Long story short, it wasn’t working out as well as I wanted. I wanted more realistic proportions so that’s why I was going by the photos, and while I got them the Perler art just wasn’t turning out great. I tweaked bits and pieces here and there to make it look more like a character from the games without having the character look too much like a little kid (since most of the trainers from the games are kids).

Eventually I started using the rival’s final battle sprite as a reference, since the poses he and my friend were in were similar. That helped, and it was looking better, but still not great. The rival is a guy and my friend is a girl, and I needed help with curves.

After looking through more trainer sprites, I eventually turned to Pokemon Gold and Silver sprites from the next generation of games on the Game Boy Color. They still had the same size and aspect ratio as the original Game Boy games, so they actually helped a lot. And lo and behold, Whitney, the third gym leader, was in an almost perfect pose to use as a better base. I changed the head and clothes up, obviously, but the shape improved a lot after referencing her. And in the end I think it turned out great. My friend loved it, too! I also made an overworld trainer sprite, too, but that was so easy I don’t feel like there’s anything I really have to say about it.

And finally, the same friend actually commissioned me to maker her some custom Perler art. I was very hesitant to take money, considering she was a good friend and I’ve made her stuff for free before, but she insisted and kind of forced me to take something for my time and effort.

She’s a big fan of the Harvest Moon games, at least some of the earlier ones. They’re a series of farming/life simulating games with a cute look to them. She wanted me to make the main character and a cow from Harvest Moon 64. I thought it was going to be complicated, considering the game is from the Nintendo 64 and anything past 16 bits tends to get too complicated to make Perler bead art. But since the game was cartoony and I thought it used sprites, I didn’t think it would be too challenging.

Well as it turns out, I couldn’t find any sprite sheets for Harvest Moon 64. I’ve never played the game before, just seen screenshots. And the game’s characters looked extremely similar to those from Golden Sun on the Game Boy Advance (I think they’re made by the same company?). Now that’s a game I’m very familiar with, and I know there’s sprite sheets for that. So I was surprised there weren’t any for Harvest Moon 64.

Eventually I decided to layer another grid over a screenshot and I worked from there. Except it turns out I didn’t even need a grid, because the screenshot became pixelated enough to work from. Problem was, it was pretty difficult to tell where the character ends and the background begins. This was another tough project. Like the Donkey Kong Country characters, there were a lot more colors to boil down to the few shades available as Perler beads, and nothing I seemed to do looked as good as in-game. Eventually I just started calling my own shots.

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I’m still not thrilled with how the main character turned out. Something feels very off. Maybe the eyes? I don’t know. I really wish there were more blues to choose from so I could have done something better with the hat and overalls. But my friend loved it, and I guess when the person that’s paying you likes it that’s all that matters, right?

 

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I think the cow came out much better. First of all… it’s a cow. Black and white and greys. Even with the bigger color scheme of the Nintendo 64, it’s not that complicated with black and white and greys. But I thought it was boring by itself, so I made a nice little meadow for it to roam in. And I think the meadow helps make this one of the best Perler projects I’ve ever done.

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And finally, partially because I took forever making these and partially because I wasn’t happy at all with how the main character looked, I made a little magnet of the main character, but from the Game Boy Advance game Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. I think he looks much better like this.

And this is about half of the new pieces I’ve made since I shared my latest Perler update almost seven months ago. As you can see, I’ve been stepping up my game with these Perler projects, but I was happy to go back to something a little simpler. I’m not sure if the next post will cover more Perlers or not. I just finished an interesting book – Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami. But it was kind of confusing and I’m not sure if I can make a proper post about it, but I’d at least like to try. If that’s not up for the next post, then expect more Perler stuff, this time focusing on Undertale.

Thanks everyone for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

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New Perler Bead Art!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I originally had a different post planned for this week, but I wasn’t really liking what I had written. So here’s some more Perler bead art instead! 🙂

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First up is Storm Eagle from Megaman X. He’s the boss of my favorite stage (a lot of people’s favorite stage, actually), and it’s my favorite because of the music. Anyone who appreciates retro game music who hasn’t heard it before should probably go look it up after reading this post. 🙂

Anyway, this is definitely one of my better ones. I’m learning how to iron together bigger projects more effectively, and I think this one didn’t have any issues whatsoever. Finding the right shades of purple wasn’t easy, though; Perler doesn’t seem to offer a great range of purple shades, so I had to improvise. If you look really closely, you can even see I used some striped beads to give the illusion of another shade of purple. It actually worked out pretty well! I have a bunch of spare striped beads, and while I don’t want to get into the habit of relying on them, it’s good to know they can get the job done if needed.

DSCN1320Next up is Cloud from Final Fantasy Tactics. Although I haven’t been pursuing it very well, I’d like to make each character from Final Fantasy Tactics out of Perler beads. I chose Cloud next because… well, it’s Cloud! Final Fantasy VII was a big part of my high school experience, and seeing the main character show up as a secret one in Final Fantasy Tactics blew my mind back then. These days I can’t help but wonder if his inclusion was shameless promotion for Final Fantasy VII, but…

… I don’t care. :X

Cloud was pretty easy to make. He’s not particularly big, so ironing went well too. It was kind of weird using so many browns and golds in the hair, considering he’s blonde, but in the end I think it turned out well. 🙂

DSCN1326The next few are all from Pokemon Sapphire, a game that also played a large role for me during high school. As anyone that’s read this blog for a while could tell you, Pokemon was a huge interest for me when I was a kid, as it was for virtually everyone else. When Red and Blue were released, every kid in school was super into it. But by the time Gold and Silver came out, the kids’ interest was fading. Eventually it came to a point where if you liked Pokemon, you were a loser. I still played Silver and my best friend next door played Gold, but a big part of the charm of Pokemon — the communal interest — had been lost. We had to like it in secret for a while.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire came out when I was a freshman in high school. To my surprise, one of my friends got it and really loved it. I actually saw a handful of people really interested in it. It wasn’t a popular thing to like, especially as a high schooler, but there was enough of a following that bounced back to make my interest peak again. I got Sapphire for my birthday that year and ended up putting close to 200 hours on the game by the end of high school. :X

Between learning the game’s new mechanics, training up level 100 Pokemon to battle against my friends, keeping an unnaturally close eye on growing berries, challenging the Battle Tower, attempting to fill up the Pokedex, and faffing around with secret bases, it’s no wonder Pokemon Sapphire took up so much of my time back then.

Like Cloud, the Pokemon trainer you play as (his name is Brendan, apparently) didn’t take long to make. He’s really small. So small, I’m thinking about turning him into a keychain. It’s the pose from when the trainer uses an HM move; back then, I thought it was the coolest thing.

Besides from Ralts, of course.

DSCN1329Early in the game, you take a new trainer named Wally out to catch his first Pokemon. Out pops this thing. I don’t know why, but I thought this was the coolest, most adorable little thing in the entire game so far (all 20 minutes of playing it). I searched for an hour in the tall grass before I found one of my own. Later that day, my friend told me it evolves into one of the best Pokemon in the game.

I’m not sure how this one came out, though. Something I’ve noticed about Game Boy Advance Sprites is that they’re more complex than Super Nintendo and surprisingly PlayStation sprites. There’s a lot of smaller differences in color shades that you probably wouldn’t even notice until you saw a sprite of one zoomed in. As a result, sometimes some of the Perler art I make from medium-sized Game Boy Advance sprites looks a little weird unless you’re looking at them from far away.

DSCN1331Ralts’ fully evolved form, Gardevoir, became an instant favorite of mine. Ralts took a while before he could hold his own in battle, but by the time it became a Gardevoir it was one of my best Pokemon. Not to mention this Pokemon looks classy. It’s so elegant, it almost looks like it’s wearing some kind of gown. It was usually my go-to Pokemon.

Maybe because it’s bigger, so more shades can spread out a little more, but I think Gardevoir came out much better than Ralts. It’s definitely one of my favorite Perler pieces so far, nostalgia aside.

Hope everyone’s having a good week. 🙂

How To Make Perler Bead Art

 

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Last year, one of my favorite YouTubers started making video game sprites from Perler beads. My first question was, “what the hell is a Perler bead?” My second question was, “how can I do this?”

Perler beads are fusible beads from my childhood, apparently. You arrange a picture or pattern on a pegboard and iron them together to create art. I certainly don’t remember them. Most of my art projects involved Crayola brand stuff. I didn’t usually go for the projects that required outside assistance, like the use of irons.

But after seeing video game sprites from Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Game Boy games made out of Perler beads, I’m pretty ashamed I never tried this sooner. ESPECIALLY as a kid. I’ve always loved game sprites. I’d even go so far as to say they fascinated me. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because I was a super organized kid, and seeing pixels so perfectly arranged was appealing to me. Maybe it was because sprites were essentially the same as flip books, and if you put them all together they made a moving picture. Maybe it was because I was weird.

Even though I’m not really interested in modern video games, the old stuff still holds a special place in my heart. And after wanting to try making pixel art for a year, I finally bought some Perler beads and a pegboard. So naturally, after a few weeks of making stuff, I feel entitled to provide a tutorial to anyone willing to listen. Lucky you.

First, go get some Perler beads. I got mine at Michael’s. I’d assume any arts and crafts store would have them, but if they don’t, you can also go their website. I got a large pegboard for $15, and a container of 11,000 beads of various colors for another $15. They also sell smaller, interlocking pegboards for cheaper (the large pegboard doesn’t connect to other pegboards, so if I wanted to make something bigger, I’d have to buy a bunch of small ones to snap together), as well as packets of 1,000 beads of individual colors (pick up a packet of black beads if you want to make video game sprites). Also, if it doesn’t come with your pegboard or container, buy some ironing paper (it’s reusable, so you don’t need to buy a lot).

At first I started small, and sifting through the container of unsorted beads wasn’t a big deal. If you’re just trying this out with no goal in mind, this will be okay, but eventually it’s going to get really annoying to look through every bead for a certain color. It’s going to take a while, but if you don’t mind, buy some containers to organize your beads and separate all of them. It’ll really help out in the long run.

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11,000 beads are a lot of beads. This isn’t even half of them.

Next, figure out what you want to make. A lot of people recreate sprites from video games. You don’t have to, though. Go through Google image search and type in something you think you’d want to make in Perler bead form. You’ll probably be able to find something you can copy directly. You can try to find sprite sheets, too. Open them in a program that allows you to zoom in and see if you can eyeball what colors you need to place where. You can also look for different websites that pixelize or place a grid on an existing picture.

After that, just start placing beads down. Depending on what you’re working with, it may be easier to start from the top or side of the picture and work your way over. Sometimes it’s better to make an outline and fill in as you go. Other times, you may just want to work on one section and work your way out. Play around with it and see what works best for you.

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I started making the outline on this one first, mostly because I wasn’t sure if my pegboard was going to be big enough. I wanted to make sure there was enough room to work with.

Be careful not to bump whatever surface you’re working on. Try to work on a flat surface, too. You don’t want your beads popping up and scattering. You can place beads with your fingers, but since you’re working with something so small, you might want to use a pair of tweezers (or nail clippers in my case, because god forbid I can find the tweezers in my house when I actually need them). They also sell this tool for the sole purpose of picking up and moving Perler beads, so you might want to look into that, too.

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I started filling in the rest color by color. If I ever run out, I can make a note of which color to pick up the next time I’m at Michael’s.

Sometimes you might question whether or not your project is working out. I’ve always had this problem with art of any kind. Sometimes I think the head’s too big, or the hands, or whatever else I’m working on. Keep working on it. Sometimes you need to see the whole picture before smaller parts of it start to look right. If you’re really hating it, you can always start over.

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Finally done with Mega Man X! Hard to believe this SNES sprite had four shades of blue in it. You never know how detailed these things are until you look at them up close!

Now it’s time to iron. Ironing can be tricky. This is definitely the one aspect of making Perler bead art that requires the most trial and error. First, heat up your iron to a medium setting. Don’t put water in it. You don’t want steam. We’re just dry ironing here.

Position your ironing paper over your work. One sheet should do, but if you’re working on something really big, you might need more.

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Some people use alternatives to ironing paper, for whatever reason. I’m not sure how well they work out, but ironing paper has always worked fine for me.

Once the iron’s heated up (please don’t put your hand on the iron side to test this; you should be able to feel the heat coming off if your hand’s sort of near it), it’s time to start ironing. Small projects should be easy. Iron in a circular motion over the project for 10-20 seconds and wait for it to cool a little. Bigger ones might need a little more practice. Individual beads tend to stick to the paper more often and come out of the pegboard when you move over to iron another area.

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Ironing’s easier when you’re not holding a camera in one hand. Also, I have no idea why my hand looks so wrinkled here.

Also, put something heavy on top while it’s cooling. These things have the tendency to warp if they don’t remain flat.

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I hope three encyclopedias from the 1960s will be enough.

How long should you wait? It depends on how big your project is. 5-10 minutes usually works for me. The directions that come with the Perler beads don’t mention anything about ironing again, but you might want to go over it another time or two. Sometimes the beads don’t fuse all the way…

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… and then this happens.

You don’t want to have come all this way to find clumps of beads still stuck to the ironing paper when you finally peel it off. If this happens, put your beads back where they’re supposed to be and keep ironing. When you think you’re ready to iron the other side, slowly and carefully peel the ironing paper off. You might want to hold some of the art down while doing this.

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It’s like opening up a treasure chest! So excited! ❤

Okay, the next part’s a little weird. You’re going to want to iron the other side so the beads fuse evenly and prevent any more warping. If you’re working on something small, you can usually flip the art over and fit it back onto the pegboard. The pegboard is great because the beads don’t move. However, I haven’t had any luck getting bigger projects back onto the pegboard. So you’re going to have to put it on the table as is and iron without having both the art and paper sliding around.

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Also, use caution when removing bigger projects from the pegboard. With only one side ironed, they’re still a little flimsy. I feel like they’re ready to fall apart if I’m not careful.

Same procedure for the other side. Iron in circular motions, put something heavy on it to prevent warping, wait for it to cool, repeat until satisfied. If you can’t get it back on the pegboard, the big problem here is keeping everything still. The ironing paper slides around more than you’d think. I tried taping it down, but that didn’t work well. You can try weighing it down with something on the edges. This worked fairly well for me, but I’m still looking for a better way to keep everything still. Don’t get frustrated, keep trying until you finish!

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If I made these when I was a kid, I would literally make every single character from everything and play with them nonstop.

It might take some getting used to, but this is really, really fun. I just put on a movie or some YouTube videos and lose myself all day in making stuff like this. It’s really great if you’re either looking for something to do for a day or wanting to try making more complicated pieces of art out of this unlikely medium. It’s also great for distracting yourself if you’re depressed or anxious and need something to do to take your mind off things.

Here are the other projects I’ve done so far:

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The 1-Up Mushroom from Super Mario World. This was the first one I made. Pretty easy, only needed three colors.

 

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The Fire Flower from the same game. This one’s cool because it looks like it has a shading effect.

 

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One of the Metroids from… Metroid. You can’t tell from the picture, but there was a lot of warping with this one. It’s stuck in this raised state and feels like it’ll break if I bend it. This was before I started putting books down between ironing.

 

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Samus from Super Metroid. This is arguably the most complex one I’ve done so far. There are a lot of different colors, and this is the only piece I’ve done without a black outline.

 

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The ? block from Super Mario World. I made this to warm up before starting the Mega Man X piece.

 

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Link obtaining the Master Sword from it’s pedestal from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While I used just one picture from Google image search to make the previous projects, I used a few different ones for this. Link’s color scheme differed from image to image, so I mixed and matched until I was satisfied. Also, I don’t think the hilt is this detailed in the actual game. Someone got pretty cool and creative when they originally made this.

 

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My smaller projects, placed next to a CD case for size comparison.

 

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My larger projects, for the same purpose.

So obviously, I didn’t make these from my imagination. For now I’m just recreating game sprites from pictures I find online, put eventually I want to make more complicated pieces. I’d like to make the cover from one of my favorite books (A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore), as well as the hand holding up the soap from the DVD cover of Fight Club.

As to what you can do with these? I’ve seen some people turn these into magnets or keychains. Some other people decorate their walls with them. I don’t know if I want to put everything onto my wall, but we’ll see. Some people got really creative with decorating rooms. Check out Google image search for some ideas. They’re really fun to make, and honestly, that’s the most important thing to me right now. I’m sure I’ll want to find something to do with them once I have a box full of them, though. 🙂