Design, CG Graphics & Inspiration
How to make a high quality and beautiful Photo-mosaic

How to make a high quality and beautiful Photo-mosaic

About 6-7 years ago I really became interested in such an interesting thing as a photo-mosaic. At the beginning I tried to do it manually. A great number of layers in Photoshop and a bunch of wasted time slowed this process on three years. But with the time, I became more and more interested.

And so I began to study software for creating photo-mosaics, and I’ve tried a lot of it. And ultimately I chose the best.
So we will discuss the best software for creating photo-mosaics.

Prehistory

First, I’d like to tell about the programs that I’ve tried.

AndreaMosaic www.andreaplanet.com/andreamosaic/
Metapixel www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/schani/metapixel/examples.html
Imosaic www.imosaic.net/gallery.htm
MOSAnICk www.radivarl.demon.co.uk/nick/mosanick/mosanick.htm

And a lot of different programs that I even don’t remember now. All the applications above are quite adequate and anyone can use them. But sometimes it’s not enough for creating a quality photo-mosaic. Somewhere in early 2008, I came across a share-ware program aolej Mosaic Creator. It was just a super find. Now I’ll tell you how to create real masterpieces with its help.

Where to start?

Step one

The most important thing here it’s the idea. The idea of photo-mosaic defines the way of its creation and the tools you are going to use. I will make a few examples of mosaics, which I personally did.
As a gift to one banker I’ve made mosaic sized 1.1 meters by 1.1 meters where his portrait was made up of modern banknotes of 160 countries. An Institute Logo sized 2 meters by 1.5 meters. I’ve used the pictures of 2000 graduates of the institute. There is a great amount of possible variants. All you need is to turn on your imagination.

Step two

You need to collect photos or images to be used as a mosaic cells. I will describe some of the requirements, which I myself brought out by practicing.

1. Depending on what pattern (image) puzzle you choose, it is necessary that the entire library of photographs must be either vertical or horizontal orientation (I usually use a horizontal)
2. It is desirable that all the corresponding sides of the pictures were roughly in the same ratio. 3×4 will suit perfectly. But it depends on the pattern.
3. If you have a lot of pictures with different orientations, they must be cut under the desired format. This should be done manually.
4. Quality of the images may not be very high. On the practice it became obvious that the best mosaic can be obtained with the element sized not more than 3 cm. Taking into account that an adequate print resolution, which is used for operations of this type, is 300 dpi., it means that the size of the image in 400px. by 300 px. is quite enough.
5. Probably the most important is that the pictures mustn’t be repeated and be very similar. The most unpleasant thing is when a couple of clones are placed side by side on the mosaic.
6. The optimal number of photos for a project is about 2000. Although it depends on the type and size of the mosaic. If you’ll take less than 500 it will be of a very poor quality.
7. It will be a little harder with portrait photos, faces must be placed closer to the center of the photo, because it doesn’t look very nice when a person’s face in a cell is cut in half.

Step three

The selection of the base picture or photo is also very important for the quality of the mosaic.
It has the following requirements:
1. The lines on the photo must be clear. If it is a logo or a picture – you can improve the contrast in Photoshop. If it is a photo, it is desirable that it will be a kind of passport option, but more fun.
2. If an image or logo is made of thin lines, then you should make the lines thicker.
3. If there is a text on the base image, it is desirable that the text font will be made without any curls. Arial, Verdana would suit perfectly.
4. If a portrait photo has any dissimilar background, it is desirable to cut the background.

If you have prepared all three points you can begin to create the mosaic.

Creation

Take an application from this site www.aolej.com/mosaic/download.htm
I’m not going to tell you about the installation I think everyone can cope with it.

I won’t describe all the features of the program. I’m just going to tell you how to create simple and beautiful mosaics. In this mosaic, there are two important things – an interesting idea and a mosaic pattern. When the basic image is ready you need to put it into the Source Image tab.

The next thing that should be mentioned is that the whole base of images for a mosaic must be in one place, preferably in the same folder. So you should do the Add Dir and add all pictures or photographs into the database.

Then you need to adjust the size of the mosaic and the number of vertical and horizontal cells. There is a really cool tool that will help you to manage with it, it is the Size Calculator. All you need is to insert the parameters of mosaic (I usually do use centimeters), and the number of columns and rows. It is best to set the cells’ sizes in pixels, on the basis of the aspect ratio of the images from your database, and only then to count lines and columns.


In the next tab you need to choose a pattern of mosaic. Here you can turn on your imagination. I recommend using the patterns’ editor. Also recommend you to put a marker on Source Image in Background. It fills the gaps between the cells (if such are provided in the pattern) of the base image.

The following tab contains key settings that affect the quality of the mosaic.
Cell recognition quality – for its better quality, it is desirable to make the value above 150. The higher the value, the longer it will generate a mosaic and higher the quality will be.
Minimal distance between the same image – it is desirable to set the maximum – 9.
Max cell image repetition – it should be counted. If our mosaic has 1,833 cells, and we have 534 pictures in the database, then the number should be 4 (1833/534 rounded up).
Filling grid – this tool will help you to make a mosaic of a certain shape (eg heart) or to use different pictures for different areas of the mosaic.

In Cell Enhance tab you need to set two parameters:
Single Cell colorize – the level of tinting of the whole picture. You should not use more than 15% because it greatly decreases the quality of the mosaic.
Detail Cell colorize – the level of tinting of the picture’s parts. You should not be use more than 10% because the details of the base image will begin to exude.

The next is the Masking tab. Here we use an alpha mask to let the edges of our mosaic’s cell have more gradual transitions. The program has a lot of different masks, the choice is large, if some do not fit, then you can edit it in Photoshop.

So when all the settings are made, you can begin to generate the mosaic. Depending on the size of a mosaic, a computer processor and memory, this process can take up to 30 minutes. In this picture, the result can be the size of even 1,2 GB (I had such a thing too, the developers claim that the upper size is limited only by disk size). It must be noted that the mosaic should be generated in bmp format without any compression, etc.

Well, click on the green Play and wait.

The Result

From my own experience I should say that to get good results you need to make at least 10-15 hits with different settings. That if the base image is verified. If the base is new – you will have to search for duplicates.

Here are the examples of mosaics

Several practical advices:
1. If you haven’t enough pictures, try to dilute them with other photos- of the alike theme.
2. In Goggle Picassa there is a function of face recognition. If you have a base of many group photos with good quality, then it can be used to collect the faces and fill the base with unique photos.

  • Splashnology Editors,
  • May 7, 2011

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