My second needlepoint project: Pixel Tree

My second needlepoint project is almost done; I’m stitching in the blue-gray between the orange checkerboard squares. Apparently, I like to photograph and post this stuff when it reaches 70% completion. Here it is:


I found the tree design while searching for “Pixel Art Tutorial.” I came across this great page full of swords, potions, and white-haired warlords scowling into the wind (all traditional eight-bit subjects). Here, pixel-artist Mithlomion shows you how to add greenery into your three-quarter-view adventure game:

Marianne from local needlepoint joint Fireside Stitchery showed me how to stretch a canvas onto a lightweight frame (wooden bars, rabbet joints, lots and lots of brass thumbtacks), and I bought a bunch of short hanks of tapestry wool (three-ply yarn; you separate the strands and stitch with just one at a time.

The challenge was to get the design on to the canvas. Since the design has so many different scattered pixels all over the place — and I didn’t want to freehand it yet — I tried making color separations.

I opened the tutorial image in Photoshop cropped to just the tree, and zoomed way in to the pixel level. Then did a “select color range” on each of the seven colors, floating each color as a separate layer. I then added register marks around the border, and a number to each separation to keep the colors straight. Here’s what the color separations look like:

Jesus, and I thought fly tying was an exacting hobby.

Next, I monkeyed with the pixel resolution and device resolution of the file to match the canvas’ 18 threads-per-inch resolution. I tried sending a 53-pixel-wide file to the printer at a device resolution of 18 pixels per inch, but the printer’s own scaling algorithms softened the hard edges of the pixels, and everything looked mushy.

> Image Size dialog” border=”0″ align=”right” style=”padding-top: 10px; padding-left: 10px; padding-bottom: 10px;” />
So, after a few false starts, I rezzed up the image to 10 times its original size, using Photoshop’s Image >> Image Size dialog. I used “Nearest Neighbor” for the resampling, to preserve the hard edges of each pixel. Then I set the device resolution to 180pixels per inch, and sent to the printer. This resulted in a nice, clean print of each color separation at the right size, theoretically suitable for tracing directly to the canvas.

I cut out each separation, put it on a light box, and laid the canvas over that, marking each thread intersection to be stitched with a Pigma marker (in needlepoint, a “pixel” corresponds to the cross where two threads of the canvas join; the yarn gets stiched around that.) Marking in four shades of green would be impossible to tell apart, so I mapped the colors: black for the darkest green, green for the next lightest, red for the next lightest, et cetera. The canvas ended up looking like a thermal-heat map, or a particularly lurid paint-by-numbers design.

Frankly, this didn’t work so well. Needlepoint canvas isn’t a strictly regular 18 threads per inch, and unless you possess superhuman canvas-stretching skills, it’s not really square, either. So I think I was working against the medium, here, and the registration ended up being pretty significantly off. For example, my canvas has a _lot_ more of the lightest green (separation 7) than the original art does.

Of course, this does not matter — I think the design looks cool, and each step of the process was (mostly) a Fun Learning Adventure. One solution would be “start freehanding it, you obsessive nerd!” However, I enjoy having pixel-level control over the design before it’s stitched, so I think I’m going to continue to find a way to assign each thread-intersection a color explicitly. Like counted cross-stitch, except I much prefer the wooly texture and thick dimension of needlepoint. Maybe if I get really good at stretching a canvas square, I’ll have better luck maintaining precise resolutions.

Here’s a closeup of the mostly-finished design. What do you think?


3 responses to “My second needlepoint project: Pixel Tree”

  1. ?
    Your hobbies: you mentioned half-life (yes, I got the Gordon Freeman jokes), I’ve seen pictures of the Ultimate Water Gun, and I’ve seen that tattoo machine, but I’ve never heard you speak of needlepoint, and I’d have never guessed. But that makes your comment about clomping around in your loud shoes all the more funny 🙂


  2. I just want to say, i feel really honored that you’re doing this.. Since i did that tutorial.. Hehe, well i just wanted to say that.. And keep up the good work :).
    By the way, i found this by Googling “Mithlomion” in Images.


  3. Wow, how random is it to find a mith tutorial. I used to be in the elysuim forums, and his tutorials are what encouraged me to pixel in the first place.


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