toucan do

Can you use a photo to create a seriously tiny black-and-white picture? There are times when an icon, logo, phone graphic or thumbnail can only have two colours.

The short answer to that is not very easily

It's interesting to see what happens to a photo when reduced in Photoshop


JPEG 72 x 28 pixels

GIF image

greyscale GIF


2 colours no dither


2 colours 100% dither diffusion


2 colours
100% dither


2 colours 100% dither noise

A photo with only two colours will often disintegrate at tiny size

You see what happens to a photo when reduced to an inch wide, and then on down to only two colours. There are not even any shades of grey. Dither (various patterns of dots) helps to model the main shapes. Photoshop offers three varieties of dither: Diffusion, Pattern and Noise.

However, most of the detail is gone.

If you want to make a two-colour icon from a photo
draw-it-yourself could be the only answer

If you don't feel you can tackle a design a whole inch wide - you can always stick to extra small drawings like this sunflower.


You could clip a small area from a larger picture. Preferably your own artwork.

Be sure to observe copyright if you are chopping chunks off somebody else's work. Even more so than photos, drawings are very much the property of the person who created them.

Photoshop as a gif optimiser

Photoshop as an icon maker

Vector images are sharp at any size

Which is best for small images? Vector or Bitmap?

History note. It's easier than it used to be to draw on a tiny screen!

(c) Valerie Beeby . Page last revised 2015

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