Screen Pixelators

I had a go at making a large TV Pixelator a few years ago and it was a lot of fun and has been one of those projects I’ve been meaning to have another go at, so here it is.

I intended to have a quick play making a screen for my laptop, then use my saved toilet roll tubes for another large TV screen pixelator, but I ended up trying different ideas and so now I will have to start saving tubes again…

You can get an idea of the effect from these photos, but video is better and live is the best – the magic is in the movement.

Pixelator – Different sized circles

This made with tubes of different sizes and they are packed in together. You can even see the difference between the good quality tubes that hold their shape and the cheap ones that squidge.

Some quick notes:

  • I discovered that the toilet roll tubes that I collect are not great quality (recycled paper of course), so for precise designs better quality tubes would be preferable. They are all a little quirky and squashed looking in places but I don’t mind them looking hand made.
  • The first screen I made was from a sturdy box with a lid. I intended it to be reusable with the idea of slotting different shapes or grids of shapes in. It had been through the post a couple of times and was slightly damaged so I mended it with gummed tape. The screen is made from greaseproof paper stretched on a cardboard frame so that it can be removed. I managed to get the screen size lined up well with my laptop screen.
  • I found that toilet roll tubes cut in half (2 per tube) worked fine so then I only needed half the number of tubes. However this then affected the screen design – there was a gap between the tubes and screen. Perhaps I would have got sharper shapes without a gap?


I had masking tape that was 36mm wide and this was a great fit so it was quick and easy to fit together. It didn’t just fit neatly in my screen though and needed packing to get it centred.


Respect to bees – it’s not easy to make a honeycomb structure! For the hexagons I found that the grid I made was strong, but squashy so the shapes were distorted. I didn’t use any maths to work out angles – I relied on the 2 widths of masking tape I had.

I added a frame of thick card and this really helped pull. the shape together. By this stage it was too big fit in my box! My greaseproof paper wasn’t large enough, so I used tracing paper – slightly thinner so let more light through. This grid is a free standing screen.

The hexagon grid was the one that took the most time to make, and it took a lot of masking tape.

Regular circles

The light floated a bit too much in the background so I added smaller paper tubes in between that I made by rolling the paper around a handle.


I’m not sure if this is the right term for this shape. This one was the wonkiest – not easy to fix together using tape. I think this design would be better using wood glue and pegs. This is another freestanding one. It doesn’t let the light through as well as the others


Finding good sound and music to try them out on was a lot of fun. I tried to find images that move with the music. Disney’s Fantasia (1940) was my favourite from my first pixelator and this time I discovered more such as the work of Len Lye (A Colour Box, 1935) and Oskar Fischinger (An Optical Poem, 1938).

We made a compilation for friends and family. I expect it’s something that’s good to have on the side rather than to sit and watch it from beginning to end.

What I did discover is that although my screen fitted my laptop size – the aspect ratio is different for much of the footage online – and different again for the older works I was interested in.

All in all

Who’d have thought you could have so much fun with toilet roll tubes?

It’s given me ideas of how to make pixelators by weaving – so without all the tape. So now I just need to collect some more tubes!

The Light Fantastic

Some projects about light…

On a roll!

Things made from the humble and versatile toilet roll tube.