Turn any image into delightful splash of colors and order
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This is just a fun little project, that turns any picture into a histogram. A few examples:

For each pixel in the image, it maps a component of a color space to X axis and then counts how many pixels share the X coordinate. This number becomes Y coordinate of a pixel.

How to use it?

You can drop your images directly onto the website, and it will work in "screensaver" mode, automatically playing images. You can also paste images directly from the clipboard.

Random images

Random images that appear when you click "Try random image" button are collected from reddit. I used BigQuery to find top images of 2017, that point to i.imgur.com domain.


I'm using WebGL to perform animation. Each image is not rendered like a normal texture, but rather as a giant array of points. Each point happen to have the same color as a pixel in the original image.

To perform an animation, we need to know where each pixel needs to go. I.e. its final (x, y) coordinates. Calculation of the target position happens on the CPU, while animation is entirely offloaded to GPU.

The CPU computes array of pixel's attributes, which is uploaded onto GPU. In this array, each pixel gets four elements:

[x_coordinate, y_coordinate, animation_life_span, index_of_a_pixel]
  • x_coordinate - is in [0, 1] range, and corresponds to final X position;
  • y_coordinate - is in [0, max_count] range. To scale it properly, I also note what was the highest seen count value, and pass it as a uniform value into shader.
  • animation_life_span - †his is a random value sampled from a normal distribution. It defines how fast current pixel should go from its source position to its destination.
  • index_of_pixel - just defines a sequential index, so that shader can read color of this pixel in the source image.

The initialization of this array happens in just one pass, and it looks like this:

pixel_attributes = [];

for each pixel p:
  bucket_number = get_bucket_number_for(p)

  pixel_attributes[idx + 0] = bucket_number
  pixel_attributes[idx + 1] = number_of_pixels_in_bucket(bucket_number)
  pixel_attributes[idx + 2] = random()
  pixel_attributes[idx + 3] = idx

  idx += 4

There is one caveat. Even a simple 640 x 640 pixels image has mor than 400,000 pixels. Processing them all at once will likely take longer than 16ms on mobile devices. This will result in "lagging" UI thread (any existing animation will appear to be jagged).

To address this, we need to pause processing and resume it on the next event loop cycle. Here is a simplified idea:

var lastProcessedIndex = 0;

function processChunk() {
  var start = window.performance.now();

  while (lastProcessedIndex < numberOfPixels) {
    lastProcessedIndex += 1;
    if (window.performance.now() - start > 12) {
      // We've exceeded allowed time quota of 12ms
      // Schedule processing for the next event loop cycle
      setTimeout(processChunk, 0);
      // And quit from this loop
  // when  code reaches here, it means we are done
  // so we can call a callback, or resolve a promise to notify the consumers.

Cumulatively, this way requires more time. But perceived performance will still be better.


To advance particle from A to B over time t we need to know what time t is.

A very simple technique is to use linear interpolation:

current_position = A * (1 - t) + t * B

As t goes from 0 to 1 A get closer to 0 and B gets closer to its full value.

Updating time for each particle on a CPU would require a lot of work, so instead, I'm assigning a random value for a particle's lifespan, and then use just one global counter to tell the shader what time it is now. The shader then performs interpolation according to the particle's lifespan.

Originally I tried to use a regular Math.random() to initialize particle's lifespan. But I didn't like the results very much. Sampling lifespan from Gaussian distribution gives more natural feel. Compare:

uniform gaussian

Image on the left uses regular Math.random(), while image on the right uses gaussian distribution. Which one you like better?


Due to security restrictions, we can play only CORS-enabled images. Which means images from websites like wikipedia or imgur can be animated, while images from pinterest will likely not load.

Local Development

git clone https://github.com/anvaka/pixchart.git 
cd pixchart

npm install
npm start