Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

How to Set Pixel Art Conditional Formatting

Pixel art is an easy and fun way to get students started with spreadsheets! Pixel art grids are easy to make in spreadsheets and so fun!
Minecraft sword in pixel art
How to Set Pixel Art Conditional Formatting

A fun use of spreadsheets is to create Pixel art. Students can draw and represent objects as pixel art by coloring cells in the spreadsheet grid. This is not only a fun activity, but a good excuse to get students started with spreadsheets… a valuable life skill. You will need to know how to set pixel art conditional formatting. Here is a tutorial.


What is Pixel Art

Essentially paint by number, pixel art in Google Sheets is a medium for creativity. 

If you do not want to take the time to manually setup pixel art conditional formatting, install my Add-on that does it for you!

Screenshot of Google Sheets with a pixel art Minecraft sword
By typing numbers into the grid, pixel art conditional formatting produces an image.

Set Up Pixel Art Grid

Before setting up your pixel art conditional formatting, you will want to resize the rows and columns

To create pixel art you need all of the cells to be squares instead of rectangles. You can resize columns by highlighting the columns and placing your cursor in between the column indicators. Resizing one column will resize all of the columns to the same width.

GIF of google sheets resizing the columns.

The Awesome Box

Clicking on the “awesome box” to the left of the column indicators will highlight ALL of the cells in the spreadsheet. 

Screenshot of Google sheets with arrow to the awesome box to the left of column indicator A

Insert Columns

After I click on the “awesome box” and resize the columns to create a grid of squares for my pixel art I realize I need the spreadsheet to have more columns. Highlight the columns and right click to insert additional columns. The number of columns you highlight is the number of columns you can insert.

Screenshot of right click to insert 26 columns to the right.
GIF of resizing columns in google sheets and adding more columns

Manual Coloring

To manually generate a picture in Google Sheets, students can simply use the paint can. Using the paint can in the toolbar students can click on a cell and fill the cell with a color. 

Setting Pixel Art Conditional Formatting

Faster and more consistent, students can do spreadsheet pixel art paint by numbers style. Students can type in numbers into the cells to create the patterns they desire. Conditional formatting will automatically fill the cell with a color the student defines the number to match with.

Pixel Art Conditional Formatting

To set pixel art conditional formatting, click on the awesome box to select all of the cells. Right click in the spreadsheet to choose “Conditional formatting.” This will open up a side panel to define the rules for formatting. The range should read 1:1000 indicating you are applying the conditional formatting to all 1000 rows.

Add a rule that says is the value in the cell is a 1 that it would have a particular fill color. 

GIF of setting conditional formatting in a spreadsheet

Make sure that you have the text color be exactly the same as the fill color. This will make the number disappear.

Select “Add another rule” for each of the number values students will use in their pixel art. If they are using 10 colors, they would need to create 10 rules to define the color that corresponds to that number.

Image of google sheets showing that the conditional formatting rules say is equal to 1 and the font fill and color are the same.

Collaborative Google Sheets

Remember that Google Sheets is collaborative. Multiple students can work together in a spreadsheet to create pixel art. Asking students, in small groups, to create an image that represents their learning can make for interesting critical thinking discussion. Coming to a consensus on what to draw and the process of collaboratively figuring out how to create the image would be a fun and challenging activity for students.

Publish Pixel Art 

Using the File menu students can choose to publish their pixel art. This gives them the option to obtain a link to their published art or an embed code to place in their digital portfolios.
Publish to the web

Example of Embedded Spreadsheet Pixel Art

Note that for this embed code I had to add height=”450″ and width=”600″ to the embed code.
modify the embed code to include height and width

Lesson Suggestions

Submitted by Richard Parker (@teacherparker)

Richard created a graphic using pixel art and asked students to calculate the fraction of the man that is green.
what fraction of the man is green

9 thoughts on “How to Set Pixel Art Conditional Formatting

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 All Rights Reserved.