Creating Christmas Cards with Primitive

I'm a bit of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas cards, well cards in general to be honest. They're nice enough but you open them, prop them up for a while and then throw them out. As such I don't see the point of buying expensive cards for each person.

Instead, I look for multi-packs, but I'm not talking about the stuff from the supermarket, I show my love by hunting down some cool ones, going well off the beaten track (and not on the high street).

I've thought about designing my own for a while, but my graphics skills are a little lacking. Then I stumbled across an announcement about Primitive by Michael Fogleman.

An owl, taken from Michael Fogleman's Github page
It uses vector-based geometric primitives (rectangles, triangles, ellipses, etc) to recreate an image. They look awesome and it gave me an idea.

So I downloaded the Go application he'd created and started looking for images to use as the starting point for my own, bespoke Christmas card. (Incidentally, if the command-line aspect is a turn-off and you have a Mac, you can grab a copy on the Mac Store, more details here.)

By way of example (these aren't the images I used, just some examples), here are a couple of images offered by Flickr users under a Creative Commons license. To be fair, either of them would have been good for a card as-is.

Festive ... or something :) by Iain Farrell

Oh Christmas Tree.. by John W.

Primitive provides a number of options to affect the output, from the type of shape to how many are used to reconstruct the image. To show the range it offers, I ran each image through the Primitive tool at different settings (this still only scratched the surface). Click on the images for larger versions.

500 triangles

1,000 triangles

2,000  triangles

4,000  triangles
For a subject this complex you can see the benefits of a higher number to provide a more refined image, but it's still perfectly easy to interpret, from a visual perspective, with a lot fewer and becomes more abstract. Using triangles it's almost cubist.

I went through a few more options on the bauble to show the range (as before, click for larger versions):

500 triangles

500 rectangles

500 ellipses

500 bezier curves

500 shapes (combo)

1,000 triangles

2,000 triangles

4,000 triangles
As you can see, it's possible to get very creative and end up with something as expressionistic or realistic as you want, except with a nice effect that makes it look painted rather than photographed.

So go have an artistic streak and see what you can come up with.

Massive thanks, obviously, to Michael for such great work and for releasing it so the rest of us get to play too!

Incidentally, if you're a fan of the work this app produces, Michael's created a bot posting a new image with random settings every 30 minutes to a dedicated Twitter account called @PrimitivePic. Check it out.


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