Pixel Art – Getting Creative with Spreadsheets!


** Make yourself a copy of the spreadsheet by clicking this link! **

What is Pixel Art?

Pixel art is based on using pixels as elements on which the art is based. According to Wikipedia, a pixel “is the smallest controllable element of a picture represented on the screen”, typically represented by a tiny, tiny square that you may be able to see on a monitor or flatscreen display.

Using pixels to create art beckons back to a simpler time, with less sophisticated graphics, but it’s a good place to start when learning about things like computers, computer animation, graphics, and yes, spreadsheets!

See some cool examples of pixel art here.

How can I use this spreadsheet?

The spreadsheet is formatted to behave depending on the input it receives. For example, each square (called a cell in a spreadsheet), or pixel, in the creative space will change colors depending on what number is inputted. For example, if you enter the number ‘1’, the cell will turn red. Try any number between 1-10 to see what happens.

The spreadsheet also keeps track of various calculations, like the sum of all the cells in the creative space, the average, the mode, and median. Use this to explain what those terms mean, and have students explore what impacts the variables as they go.

Here are some quick ideas for how to use the Pixel Art spreadsheet:

  • Create art with the lowest total sum.
  • Create something with an average of 5.
  • Create something with a mode of 6, but using several other colors.
  • Make mini-geography maps.
  • Make emojis, icons, and favicons.
  • Create pumpkin designs for halloween.
  • Create snowflake designs.
  • Plan school mascot designs.
  • …and many other ideas…
“Scandinavia from Memory” by A. Johansson
“Sad Jack” by A. Johansson

How does it actually work?

The spreadsheet itself is formatted with conditional formatting, where cells (or pixels) fill with various colors depending on the number. The actual technical stuff works like this, using an if/then statement: [ if the cell has a number 1 in it, then fill it with red color ] or [ if the cell has the number 4 in it, then fill it with yellow ]. You can edit the conditional formatting yourself to either add more colors, or edit the ones already setup. Start by going to Format > Conditional formatting…


Can I hack it?

Of course! Once you make a copy of the sheet, it’s yours to do whatever you want with it. Why not add additional color scales? Or graph something using the calculated numbers? Or, use a cool formula like [COUNT] to figure out how many of each color you’re using? The possibilities are endless.

“Hacked” by J. Timmons

How do I get started?

Make yourself a copy of the spreadsheet by clicking this link!

Happy hacking (and making art, and learning about spreadsheets!) We’d love to see what you come up with. Feel free to post in the comments with a link to your art.


Once you’re done designing in the spreadsheet, why not create a masterpiece using Post-It notes?

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