Underwater Programming Laboratories

Photo Mosaic

A few years ago a co-worker introduced me to photo mosaic images. Mosaics have been around for centuries. Originally it was the art of creating images or patterns by placing different coloured pieces of glass, stone, or other materials side by side to produce a pattern or image. Mosaics are created today using this basic principal on walls, ceilings, and floors as decoration.

Photo mosaics are a next generation of mosaic based on the original. Originally photo mosaics where used by the space program in the 50's to produce compound or larger images by taking smaller images over an area and stitching the edges together. The concept of using photographs as tiles to produce an image like the original mosaics is simple in theory, but a very time consuming process to take all the required images and manually place them to create the larger image. In 1993 Joseph Francis is believed to be the inventor of the modern day computer generated photo mosaic by developing software to do all the work.

The two sample images are photo mosaics I created. Each one is based on a theme. The lighthouse taken on Prince Edward Island is composed of individual images taken from all over Prince Edward Island. The harbour mosaic was taken at Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia. Those tiles are images taken from Lunenburg, Peggy's Cove, and Halifax. I find it more interesting when the tiles share something in common with the subject of the image, but it is not required.

North Point Lighthouse - P.E.I. Harbour in Peggy's Cove - Nova Scotia

To create a photo mosaic you need three things. You need a photo to turn into a mosaic, a series of photographs to use as the tiles, and software to do the work for you. The software I use and will be demonstrating is AndreaMosaic. The software is free and can be downloaded from here. Once you have downloaded the software, installed it, and started it up we can begin. When you start the software, you will see the following.

Click on Select Tiles to open the tiles dialog.
  • Select New Archive and select the folder where your tile images are stored.

  • Try a folder with about 500 images for the tutorial. The more the better, but it will slow the process down.

  • Next, click on Save Archive. This will create a file that you can use later to access the tiles. Just use the default name and location for now.

  • You should now see a list containing all the images in the folder you selected.

  • Click OK to return to the main screen.

After you have returned to the main screen, click on the + button under Original Images and the select the image that you want to convert into a photo mosaic. After selecting the image you will see a screen like the one below. Click on Create Mosaic and wait for the software to do its thing. When it is complete it will ask to open the folder with the result in it. Click Yes and then look at what you got.

You should get something like below. When viewing at smaller sizes, it impresses me how much detail seems to be there. That apparent detail is lost very quickly as you zoom in on the picture.

If you adjust some of the settings like below, it will create a larger image with more tiles. For the harbour photo mosaic I select 50 mega pixels with 20,000 tiles. I also selected all the Tile Variants to allow the software to flip and rotate the tiles to best match the original photo. The result is below.

Take note of small details when you increase the number of tiles in the photo mosaic. It is truly impressive how this software can find tiles to reproduce them. Play around with the different settings until you find a tile and size combination that looks good for you.

Now go out and have some fun with your camera.

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