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“Rasterbate” is not a dirty word

May 7th, 2007 by Raj

For those in the world of graphic design to "raster" an image is to convert it from it’s vector roots to one represented by pixels; however for everyone else on the Internet if you’re talking raster odds are you’re talking about "The Rasterbator". Developed in 2004 by Finn Matias Arje The Rasterbator is a small web based application that takes JPG images and blows them up as big as you like. Ironically it has nothing to do with raster images, it uses another graphic technique called “Halftoning”. Halftone images replace the solid colours we see in an image and split them into a series of dots to make them appear as a solid colour from a distance. Next time you’re flipping through a magazine look closely at its images and you’ll be able to make out the coloured dots fooling your eyes, even better get up close to a large billboard and you’ll see dots as big as your head in some cases. This is the magic behind The Rasterbator and the reason that it is able to create a distinguishable picture of any size from such a small file.

The online interface to use The Rasterbator is extremely simple to use. It accepts any JPG file up to 1MB in size*, of any image size and can be colour or black & white. After loading in your image you simply scale it to the physical dimensions you’re after, select your output paper size and away you go. There are other options available to you including further cropping of your image and paper orientation but it’s all very well explained.

Rasterbate PDF

Once you’ve configured all of your requirements The Rasterbator will churn away momentarily and produce a PDF file for you to download. Opening this file reveals nothing more than a lot of pages with large dots that look like junk but in actual fact you’re staring at one small corner of your greater image. Now the true fun begins; after you’ve dried up every drop of ink printing the hundred odd pages of dots you’ll notice that there is a white border around each of them. Some people choose to leave this, me I was lucky enough to have a guillotine I could borrow, others well you can always use scissors but after about page ten you’re really going to regret it. To give you an idea the image I decided to create I had 72 pages to trim which took nearly 60 minutes with a guillotine! One thing to keep in mind is to never change the order the pages are printed in because if you do you’re when it comes time to putting them all together things aren’t going to look right at all!

Now that you’ve got all your pages pretty and neat it’s construction time. Depending on the size of your masterpiece some people like to tape the backs of each page together, this is fine for something about 10 pages or so but it becomes quite heavy and if you’re sticking it to a wall in the end the weight often has the picture falling off. For me I live in a rented apartment so I’m using some paint safe Blu-tak to stick each individual sheet up next to each other. This too can be a tedious process especially if you’re being pedantic about trying to have everything line up perfectly. Big tip here; it’s never going to line up perfect, just let it go before your head explodes… You can watch a video of me putting up my creation below; a process that took a good hour to complete.



Direct Download (5Mb, H.264)

The Rasterbator is a fun tool that some people have taken to the extremes (The world’s largest Rasterbation is 7 metres wide & 10 metres high using 1225 sheets of A4 paper) but in reality it’s a great, cheap way of putting up some great pictures over a large space. It’s never going to look 100% but it’s not really designed too and that’s where the charm of it comes into play. Have a play, put up a giant photo of your dog on your door or something else equally as stupid. Check out the JPG Mag Rasterbator competition gallery for some inspiration.


* There is a downloadable version of The Rasterbator available (Windows only) that allows you to use a JPG image of any file size.
UPDATE: Mac instructions here

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