• Log In
  • Sign Up
    • At my wedding this past May, one of the things we wanted to do was provide art prints for our guests to take home as gifts. We wanted something uniquely "Chicago" since we just moved here last year, and it's where we had the wedding.

      Since I do a lot of pixel art, I thought it might be cool to make a Pixel Chicago landmarks series. I was fairly positive this wasn't explored much before... or at least I couldn't find anything on google image search.

      We had 11 tables at the wedding, so we decided to do one landmark per table. Here's how they turned out!

    • Cloud Gate, created by artist Anish Kapoor, is casually known as The Bean. One of the challenges with this one was achieving the smooth curvatures while using square pixels. Using pixels for round shapes is always a little challenging and you have to kind of nudge pixels around here and there until it feels right to the naked eye. If you squint your eyes, you’ll usually be able to notice if there are pixels out of place.

      I used a couple of photo references to get the reflections right and exaggerated some of the colors — added more reds — so it popped off the blue background.

    • I’ve always known it as the Sears Tower, but it was changed to Willis Tower in the last decade. This one was pretty fun since it was all just vertical and horizontal lines.

      The main challenge here was getting the colors right. While the building itself is black, using blues instead of blacks made it feel more like it was reflecting the sky or a sunset.

    • This next one is for the Art Institute of Chicago. Initially I was just going to do the entire building, but felt like it looked too much like other buildings in the city, so I just isolated out one of the two lions that sit on the front steps. It’s still pretty recognizable, and was less work!

    • The Chicago Theatre is a pretty unique building with some cool detail so I had fun with this one. Pixels are fun since they force you represent things with less visual information. It’s almost like solving a little puzzle trying to use just a few squares to give the impression of intricate detail.

      I did make one mistake in this piece. It’s supposed be Chicago Theatre, not Theater. Oops!

    • You may know these as the Corn Cob Towers (they kind of look like corn cobs). If you’ve ever seen the Marina City Towers, you know that they’re round, cylindrical buildings. This was actually quite challenging to get right.

      My first couple passes at this ended up looking super boring… literally just a bunch of vertical and horizontal lines. I need to give it some dimension, so I segmented out the building to create a nice gradient across it. This helped make them look cylindrical. Finally, I messed with the color combos until I found a nice palette. Using dark purples and pinks helped it pop off the orange.

      Fun fact: I think I actually did this one to scale. Marina City has 61 floors, and I think I have all 61 floors represented here. I counted kind of fast so it’s possible I’m off by a couple.

    • Navy Pier is one of the more iconic Chicago landmarks. I couldn’t decide how to tackle this one at first. Should I show the whole pier? Just the front? Just the ferris wheel?

      I decided to just do the ferris wheel since it was the most iconic part, but it looked pretty lonely and not very festive by itself. I had to add the swings and carousel to give it a little more color and variety, even though they don’t actually sit right there next to it in real life.

      Finally, I added the fireworks since that’s where they have the big fireworks display every July 4th.

    • I had a similar debate with the Field Museum as I did with the Art Institute: whether to represent the entire building or not. I decided I already had a lot of buildings in the series so instead, I picked Sue the T-Rex. 

      Sue is no longer on display at the Field museum but was for many years, so I figured it was ok. Also, I just wanted to make an 8-bit t-rex.

    • The Chicago Picasso, or just The Picasso as it’s commonly called, is a famous sculpture in Daley Plaza by… Picasso.

      This one was interesting to do in pixels because of how unconventional the shapes and angles were. It’s not a perfect representation, some of the proportions are a little off, but I guess that’s what cubism is all about!

    • I didn’t know this until after I made this, but I guess it’s no longer called John Hancock Tower! The name is now just 875 North Michigan Avenue, which is too long and boring anyway.

    • This one was a little more challenging than the others since Buckingham Fountain itself is actually a lot larger and more detailed than what I have shown here. It’s much wider and spread out, with more water spouts. I had to condense a lot of its features in order to fit it in a square canvas, but hopefully it captures the gist.

    • Finally, we have Wrigley Field. I’m a White Sox fan, but I had to do Wrigley since it's such a crowd pleaser. It really is a beautiful ballpark.

      This was the most fun of the series for me. I’m a huge baseball fan so that had something to do with it, but I also loved trying to capture the fanfare and detail of this building, which is arguable the most iconic Chicago landmark around.

    • Here are a couple photos of the prints that were set up at each table at our wedding. They were also used as our seating chart.

      I think people liked them. There were extra prints and people ended up trading them like trading cards, which was kind of cool.

    • Love this behind the scenes look into your motivation and design decisions.

      What’s your reaction to services that automatically pixelate photos so they look like “pixel art”?

      Knowing a person like yourself dedicated time and energy to make a pixel piece is a big part of why looking at work like this is so satisfying. I imagine that it takes an incredible amount of focus and persistence.

      I’d love to see a side by side of your work and the pixel program’s!

    • Since pixel art tends to be so time consuming, I'm all about finding ways to save time without losing quality! I've never used that software you linked to and would love to play around with it. I'll definitely do a side by side when I have a chance.

      I've generally steered away from automated pixel art software because they're not always very reliable or do what I want. I find they tend to just look like pixelated or blurry photos. Perhaps they could be useful as a reference, but I like the pixel shapes to be super clean and separated into layers, so would probably have to go in and draw a lot of the shapes anyway to achieve that.

      Also, I don't always want the pixel to art to look 100% photo realistic. Here's an example from a Muhammed Ali jump rope pixel animation I did next to a pixelated photo reference (full animation can be viewed here). You can see how I needed the photo to understand the position of the arms in that frame, but also how it would be pretty difficult for software to bridge the gap between the photo and where I ended up.

    • Thank you! I use a service called Printful for printing my pixel art. I like their thick matte paper option, which I used for these. They do a good job with solid colors (rarely any striping), and it's pretty affordable.