Upcycle Design Report – Keyboard Pixel Art



My inspiration for my project stemmed from the materials I had available to me in terms of objects I could upcycle. I had quite a few obsolete electronics which I knew I wanted to utilize in my project. Of those, I was drawn to an old keyboard as I thought it would offer the most options for upcycling. I was especially interested in using the keys to create something as they were all square and so had more flexibility in how they could be incorporated into an art piece. To summarize, my main inspiration for this project was the square keys on a keyboard.

When searching for art that incorporates recycled keyboards, I was inspired by a few of the following sources:



A lot of the art I saw used many keyboard keys, but in my case I was limited by the amount of keys on one keyboard. I thought their upcycling ideas were intriguing, however I wanted my project to conform to an aesthetic that better emphasized square fundamental drawing units, thus drawing me to pixel art.



I envisioned a small piece of artwork that would use around 90 square keyboard keys. I thought that the best medium to make my artwork would be on a canvas, as it would showcase the keys well. An image that I particularly liked was the pixel art elephant shown below. I also appreciated the elephant being a symbol of good luck, and thought it would make a nice project.

Pixel art elephant


For my upcycle aesthetic, I focused on the pixel art aesthetic. I was drawn to this aesthetic as the object I want to upcycle in a computer keyboard, and I want to reuse the keys to compose a piece of art. The genre that most closely matches artwork rendered from many small squares is pixel art.

Pixel art is art drawn with pixels as the only building block. Some characteristics of it are that it is usually “low resolution,” meaning that the art purposely omits detail. This is meant to evoke nostalgia from 8 and 16-bit computers and vintage video game consoles. Also, pixel art conventionally employs a limited color purpose to further mimic vintage computer art. Traditionally, pixel art is made using digital methods, however it can also be made in the analog world, since a pixel can be represented by any small object.

Fabrication process: (5 photos)

My fabrication process began with first cleaning the keyboard I intended to use for this project. After doing this, I stripped all the keys off the keyboard:

The keyboard used for the upcycling project

Pile of removed keycaps

Following stripping the keys, I cut the stems of all the keys so that they could lie flat on the canvas. This means that it would be much easier to glue them to the canvas.

After this, I layed out the keys in the final pattern I intended to use, and traced an outline:

Initial layout of elephant

Around the outline, I painted a background. I initially thought of doing a pixel art background, but then instead decided that a more vibrant background would provide a nice contrast.

Background painted

Finally, I glued all the keys down in the shape of an elephant. To do this I simply used hot glue on the canvas, which worked very well. I went through and touched up any areas where there was paint missing as well.

Final artifact:

The final artifact!

Additional photos of completed upcycle project

Functional and aesthetic goals:

I think my functional goal of using as much of the keyboard as possible to minimize waste was met. I ended up using 83 keys, meaning only 7 were left unused.

Aesthetically, I also feel I met my goal. My main goal was making an interesting and recognizable art piece, and I believe I was successful in that. The elephant has a distinct shape that I am happy with. One aspect I could certainly improve is the background, since that was limited by my painting skills. With more practice, I could have made it more visually interesting.

Plans for future:

I plan to hang this project up with a few of my other paintings. Since it’s relatively small I’m confident I’ll be able to keep this art piece with me for the foreseeable future. I plan to hang it up in a location where the lighting helps accentuate the raised keyboard keys.

Presentation link:

(Will be inserted on presentation 2/24)


Previous Post
Nat Geo Collage
Next Post
Upcycle Biophilic Violin Picture Frame (real plants)

2 Comments. Leave new

  • The elephant must have given you good luck because I think your final piece is great. I can defiantly tell it is an elephant and I like the use of painting the background to set the scene of where the elephant is. Are there any keys that you placed in specific places or was the placement random? I noticed in the pixel are that the ear and feet are different colors, is this something you would attempt to do in the future? The keyboard keys defiantly achieve the aesthetic you went with and I really like the minimalism of the pixel. good work!

  • Alexander Hernacki
    February 25, 2023 11:56 pm

    I appreciate the visual contrast between the pixel art style of the elephant and the much more fauvist background, and I think the use of extra key caps to make art is a great idea! did you try or consider any techniques to make the edges of the key’s more distinct from the background?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.