Andre Veloux creates Lego portraits of iconic women. One portrait can have over 5,000 pieces. He walked us through the process of making one of these incredible portraits. Visit Insider.com for more stories.
Following is a transcription of the video. Narrator: This portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is made up of about 5,000 Lego pieces. But zoom into her blue eye again. You've got a square blue Lego. Diagonal to that is a rectangle one, and another rectangle is perpendicular to that. Then, separated by a row of black, another square blue Lego. To you and me, this pattern doesn't translate into an eye, but that's how artist Andre Veloux sees the world, in pixels. Each portrait starts on the computer. In Andre's case, two computers. He uses them to turn a regular image into one that can be recreated using Legos. He plays around with the contrast and saturation of the image in Photoshop to get the picture just right. The higher the contrast of the photo, the better it translates into pixels. Then he crops it into the shape of the canvas and moves the image to his other computer. From there, he uses a separate program to turn the image into pixels. Each pixel corresponds with a Lego stud on the canvas. So if he's creating a piece that is 64 studs by 64 studs, he'll turn the image into 64 by 64 pixels. But figuring out the colors? That takes a little more work. Andre Veloux: Each person you take for a portrait has their own color balance, if you like, and that's depending on their skin tone, and their hair color, and their general appearance. And so you need to choose a Lego palette with colors that will be complementary to that and won't clash in any way. Narrator: And his palette is already pretty limited. The official Lego palette that Andre uses has 51 different colors, 33 of which are solid. The remaining ones are considered special bricks. And contrary to what some people might think, Andre doesn't use any custom bricks other than the ones engraved with his signature. Andre Veloux: So I will just reduce the Lego color palette, take out some of the primary colors that I don't want to appear in the portrait. And that way, you get a more realistic and kind of photorealistic portrayal of the portrait. Narrator: Taking out a handful of colors limits his range even more. And it's possible Andre might have to change a color or two during the building process. He begins the physical portrait by creating the canvas with baseplates. This is the only part of the whole piece that he doesn't make with official Lego products. Andre Veloux: After a lot of trial and error, I found out these are aftermarket ones. This is the only thing I use that is not made by Lego. This is another company that makes standard baseplates, but they're thicker. So this gives it a much stronger structure for the whole piece, and it holds together better. Narrator: Andre uses Legos to attach the base plates together to form the canvas. Then, using placeholder bricks, he maps out the general shape of the section he's going to work on. These are brightly colored bricks that won't blend in with the colors he's actually using. Once that's done, he lays down the first bricks. Because the process involves a lot of rearranging bricks and swapping out colors, it makes it difficult for him to know exactly how many bricks he'll need of each color. Andre Veloux: When I build a piece, I'm always running out of stock of the pieces I need. So I have to then put some kind of placeholder in and leave it there until the stock actually arrives. And when the stock arrives, I can replace them with the pieces you need. Narrator: Because of this, it can take Andre up to three months to complete one portrait. He doesn't like to keep these portraits flat, and that could mean adding layers of texture to the hair, face, or the background. This vastly increases the amount of Legos he needs. Creating texture in each specific section requires using different kinds of bricks. For the hair, Andre might use varying sizes and colors of stacking bricks, thin plates, and slanted, single, and square bricks to create a textured effect. Sometimes, deciding what bricks to put down is also an economical choice. Andre Veloux: I have all the black around the edge now, so it doesn't really matter what color I use in the middle because it's not gonna show on the edge. So, I can fill the middle with whatever color I want. I have all the large plates stored in a tub right here; you can't store large ones in these things. So I can put a gray plate in here, because it doesn't matter because it won't show. So I just take this and I fill it in. I try to use the most economical-priced piece for the middle section, because Lego is not the same price for each color. Some colors are much harder to find and cost a lot more. So you don't use those as much. Narrator: Next, Andre moves on to the face. He makes it using a majority of flat plates that vary in colors and hues, and it can be tricky to get right. If one or two bricks are placed in the wrong spot, he might end up with something odd-looking pretty quickly. Because this can easily happen, it can mean putting in and taking out bricks hundreds of times, which can do some damage to Andre's fingers. When he gets it right, it all starts to come together. Andre Veloux: I mean, that's kind of why I call it magic. Because you can see nothing for so long, and then you suddenly see it all. Narrator: But the most important step to give the portrait its realistic feel? The eyes. Andre Veloux: The principle element is the eyes and the lips, specifically the eyes. You have to design the eyes so they're going to make a connection with the viewer when it's produced. That takes the most time. Because if you think of a single eye in one of my pieces, it's probably got a pixelation level of say, like, 10 by 10. Incredibly small amount of information, but because our brains are so attuned to faces, in particular eyes, you can make it work in a very powerful way. Narrator: After putting the final piece in place, he wipes off any fingerprints to reveal the finished portrait.Join the conversation about this story »