How To Make Art with Microsoft Excel

Lucy Stewart Tips & Advice 4 Comments

At Trackpal we are continually teaching ourselves about the power of Microsoft Excel. It’s a program that we feel is often massively neglected, underrated and misunderstood. Yeah, we know we’re total geeks!

In the office we’re always testing and exploring new ways of creating beautiful graphs and tables. During the process of creating attractive reports in various styles we have learnt first-hand how Excel can be used in extremely creative ways.

We even see the beauty where others can’t – when a formula makes everything fall perfectly into place it’s a wonderful thing!

However, even we were in awe when we saw images circulating on Reddit of artwork made by Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi.

Cherry Blossoms at Jogo Castle (2006) 

Cherry Blossoms at Jogo Castle

Making Art with Excel 

The 73 year old creates stunning artwork portraying Japanese landscapes using Microsoft Excel.

Horiuchi first started using Excel about 13 years ago shortly before his retirement because he saw it as a cheaper alternative to Adobe Photoshop or other design software.

“I never used Excel at work but I saw other people making pretty graphs and thought, ‘I could probably draw with that’,” says Horiuchi.

His technique involves creating custom shapes using the Auto Shape tool and layering these shapes on top of one other. Using this painstakingly meticulous method he creates beautifully complex and vibrant images.

He first gained recognition in 2006 when he entered his work into an Excel Autoshape Art Contest. (Yes, we didn’t know they existed either!) and has created many more pieces since that have made it into the Gunma Museum of Art in Japan.

“Kegon Falls” (2007)

Kegon Falls

Don’t believe this could be done in Excel?

You can download the original Excel file to understand the techniques he uses here. Have a play around yourself! You’ll be amazed!

We were really curious ourselves and downloaded the file to take a deeper look into the method that he uses. We were astounded by the number of layers and the time that has gone into his work.

How did he do it? A step by step guide

Here is a close up of ‘Cherry Blossoms at Jogo Castle’ which demonstrates the level of intricacy in his artwork. Click on pictures to enlarge.

Close Up


In the image below I have selected all of the top layers that make up his beautiful artwork – ‘Kegon Falls’.

All layers selected


This image shows some of these layers moved to the side.

Many layers


Let’s take a closer look at a very small layer. In this image I have dragged some of the flower shapes to the side.

Flowers selected


The shapes are grouped together by right clicking which makes them easier to manoeuvre. You can group layers again and again to build up bigger sets of shapes.

Grouping layers


Ungrouped layers


Here is a close up of an individual flower made of two layers.

Flower close up


In the image below I selected the inner layer and it’s ‘Edit Points’ by right clicking.

Edit points



By selecting a shapes edit points you can create it into any custom shape you desire.(With a lot of skill and patience!)

edit moving

In the image below you can see how Horiuchi created depth in his shapes by formatting them with a gradient colour.

In the Format Shape section he could also set the Transparency to create a lovely overlapping appearance.


So that’s pretty much it. Simple, eh?

Leave your comments below if you’re as impressed with Horiuchi’s work as we are. Big thanks to the man himself for allowing his work to be dissected.

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