Friday, June 09, 2017

The Legend of Perler: A visual essay


It started off simply enough: I decided that I wanted to start a new Perler project over the April Easter break. I was feeling inspired by playing the new release The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so on a whim I decided to dig back into the archives and to try to make a project that had been on my radar for a long time: the logo from the original NES The Legend of Zelda.

I (wisely) realized that doing the whole screenshot might be a bit much, especially without mini beads, so I settled on creating just the main part of the logo, using a T-shirt I had recently acquired as my inspiration.

I had never attempted anything this large or ambitious before, but I figured I would just start and see what happened. It was at about an hour in that I realized that I had perhaps started something that might take a bit more time than I had initially expected. I did, however, (mostly) remember to take pictures of my travails at various points through the process, so I thought it would be interesting to recount my journey in a visual essay.


The Start


Here's my progress after the first and second hours, respectively. It was at this point that I realized that this project might take a bit more time than I had expected, as it took an hour to do the initial outline alone. I also realized that I did not have enough boards or enough space to do the whole project at one go, so I knew I would have to finish it in pieces.

Hour 1 - The basic outlines

Hour 2 - Filling in the Triforce
Hour 3 - Filling in the middle letters 
Hour 4 - After filling in the greenery and the sword, the first section is ready for ironing!

Hour 5(ish) - The starting section is ironed!

The Legend continues...


I knew by this point that it was only going to become more complicated as a result of my insufficient planning at the start of the project, and I realized that I would likely have to add the other pieces - the top, the "Z", the "A", and the tip and hilt of the sword - one by one. I realized that the main difficulties would be in figuring out how to line up the beads on the boards, as well as lining up the ironed sections successfully.

Hour 6 - It took awhile to figure out the beading, but it looks good so far.

Hour 6.5 - The top and "A" are ready to be ironed!

It was at this point that I decided to try something I had not tried before: the "masking tape method". The method involves placing masking tape over the top of the beads on the board; I used painter's tape since it is wider and easier to remove afterward. Once all of the beads are taped down (overlapping the edges of the tape, of course), it is easy (in theory) to flip over the boards, keeping the beads in the same arrangement. This method is recommended for preserving the boards, since they can warp from the heat of the iron if the beads stay on the board during the ironing process; it is also recommended for larger projects that will be completed in pieces, like this one. It is also not easy, as I soon discovered.

I struggled with the initial tape placement, and I had to do a fair bit of Perler surgery to make it work after I flipped it over. Despite my best efforts, however, there was still one small section that I had to give up on and rework later; of course, it happened to be the most intricately detailed portion of the whole piece that used the most colours.

Hour 7.5 - The top and "A" that survived to be ironed using the masking tape method.

Hour 7.5 - The aftermath of the small section that did not survive the initial taping.
It took a fair bit of effort, but I managed to get the rest of the top lined up fairly well with the existing piece. I wasn't able to connect the "A" at that time, but I was just happy that it was working so far.

Hour 8 - The pieces that ironed together.

Getting closer to finishing...


After some time away from the project in part due to silly things like work and life (as well as needing to go pick up another bag of red beads), I resumed work on re-beading the top and adding the "Z" on the left side of the logo. My three-year-old nephew was particularly keen on helping with the beads, but of course it happened to be in that most intricate section that had not worked with the tape method previously. It was also quite fortunate that the edge of the "Z" ended exactly on the edge of the board. I had not planned for that to work out that way, but I was glad it did.

Hour 8.5 - The restoration of the section that did not survive the first attempt at the masking tape method.

Hour 9 - The last letter is outlined!
I neglected to take pictures for a couple of intermediate stages at this point, but suffice to say that the whole process was becoming a lot easier by this time. Despite my previous failure, I decided to again attempt the masking tape method - and it worked this time! I knew that my troubles were far from over, though, as the real trick would be managing to line up this new ironed piece on both the top and the sides in such a way as to hide the seam. As you will see, I was proud of the result, even though it took a lot of ironing.

Hour 10 - The masking tape method worked this time!

Hour 10.5 - The ironed piece to be added to the existing base.

Hour 11 - It worked!


The Finishing Touches and the Final Product


At that point, there was not much left to do to finish the project. I had to add the already-ironed "A" to the right side of the base as well as designing, ironing, and attaching the hilt and tip of the sword.


Hour 11.5 - The final two pieces
And suddenly - DA DA DA DAAAAAA!!!! - it was finished! Here's the final breakdown of some of the numbers I calculated:
  • 5,852 beads
  • 9 colours used
  • 16 boards (including two with one and three beads, respectively)
  • Over 12 hours total work over the span of three weeks
  • 6 ironing sessions, for a total of about three hours
  • 2 trips to Michael's to purchase extra beads (black, red, and cheddar)
  • 1 mistake that no one except me will ever notice
Hour 12+ - The final product!

Conclusion


Image result for it's dangerous to go alone take thisThis was by far the largest bead sprite project I have ever undertaken, and it was my first large project in years, so as you might imagine, I learned a lot throughout the process. I was happy to finally use the masking tape method successfully, but I also learned that I will need to do more preparation for future large projects in terms of planning for boards, beads, physical space, and time. I don't know if I will attempt another similarly ambitious project in the future, but I did really enjoy getting back into the hobby, so I imagine that I will work on some smaller projects over the summer, like some coasters and fridge magnets.

And for anyone wondering where I managed to convince my wife to allow me to put this up in our house - I didn't. I ended up giving the piece as a wedding gift to friends of mine who had initially introduced me to bead sprites when they were working as my camp staff five years ago; as I think about it, however, I probably should have made this scene for them. Maybe I already have my next big project lined up...

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