Abraham Lincoln in Pennies (2013 version)

18 February 2014 - Filed under art + projects

Over the holidays, I spent a couple of days creating a portrait of Abraham Lincoln out of pennies. (1,617 of them, to be exact.)

The portrait is actually a recreation of one I did in 2005, and incorporates several learnings from the first go-around. The 2013 version here is based on a better known photo of Lincoln, and his face is more closely cropped to maximize the number of “pixels” used for defining his features. I also used a tighter penny tessellation (one with offset rows), which reduces the blank space between pennies and improves the quality of the image. The offset tessellation made placing the pennies a bit trickier, and I ended up writing a simple command line tool to compute the exact color and placement of each coin.

I just got the portrait back from the framer on Friday, and figured that President’s Day was as good a day as any to post about it. Here it is.

Here’s a close-up of Lincoln’s left eye:


Thank you to Kelly for all of her help sorting and gluing (and for being really patient with me!), to Jesse for his Objective-C coaching, and to Mahmut and Jaime at Richard Sumner Gallery in Palo Alto for doing such a wonderful job with the framing.

2014-02-18  »  Clay


  1. Matt
    18 February 2014 @ 6:05 pm

    This is really awesome, would love something like it for the Automattic office.

    Also I dig your iFrame product (clever name, HTML throwback). I was searching a ton for something like it last holiday season, ended up going with a Kindle HDX for screen/price ratio, but haven’t found a great frame yet.