Don’t Send A Photo, Send A Spreadsheet


Digital photos layered with Instagram filters just aren’t enough for some nerds – we need to combine those with Microsoft Office, because who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet? Matt Parker over at Think Maths has found a way to do just that by opening a digital photo as an Excel spreadsheet!

Breaking a digital photo down to its basics, it is simply a display of red, green and blue sub-pixels. Cameras simply measures the amount of light in the three colours, gives this a value between 0 and 255, and records all of these values on a spreadsheet of sorts for interpretation later on. So, in theory, this could be recreated in Excel to create your own office artwork.


spreadsheet art pixel
image from

Well, why not? Matt gladly admits he had far too much time on his hands when he went through painstaking process of doing the whole thing manually by opening up the raw digital photo information to see all the RGB data. From there it was just a long drawn out process of converting all this for Excel to be able to display. Conditional formatting of each Excel cell means that each has its own value, and therefore a colour shade. Putting all these together will recreate the picture with simple alternating rows of red, green and blue.

Luckily this has all been automated for easy use with some great image converting code by Andrew Taylor, so you too can create your spreadsheet masterpieces with a little patience. We have tried it a few times with surprising results. Processing takes a little time and it’s best viewed zoomed out to about 10-20%, but they look pretty good and it’s great for a bit of fun.

spreadsheet art image

Try it yourself over at Think Maths and send someone a spreadsheet instead of a boring photo today. The limits are endless and we want to see what can you come up with so show us your creations on your social network of choice.

Last Updated on November 27, 2018.


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