Image glitching

I’ve been experimenting with a new way of editing photos lately. Image glitching. Glitched images contain file errors which produce weird and wonderful visual effects — trippy colours, fragmentation and abstract shapes. Sometimes these errors happen by accident but it’s also possible to add them yourself — which is what I’ve been doing. Take a look at this before and after to see how it works:

Pale pink cosmos flowers

Before — no glitching

Fragmented flowers

After — with glitching

Mind boggling right? To make glitched images you use a technique called databending. It sounds very complicated but it’s really not if you just want to have a bit of fun.

Databending takes a similar approach to circuit bending, using software to intentionally disrupt the information contained within a file.

How to databend

Choose an image in jpg, tiff or raw format and make a copy of it. Then open the copy using a text editing program like TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad/Notepad++ (PC). This is the sort of thing you’ll see (don’t be put off by it):

Image code

Now just start cutting bits of text out, moving them around, copying code from one image into another… just see what happens. Save the image and open it again to see the results. Occasionally you’ll edit the image to breaking point (it’ll go black) but that’s okay, just make another copy and start again. It’s pretty addictive!

I’m in the process of trying to work out how editing different parts of the file changes the image and how I could create a controlled editing process. But to be honest, I really like the unpredictability to mindlessly hacking away. Here’s what I’ve created so far:

Fragmented cycling image

Me cycling with no head

Fragmented flowers


Fragmented building

Upper House, Gothenburg

Fragmented leaves

Autumn leaves and berries

^ Created using the code from two images.

Fragmented plane window

Sky view

Fragmented street

Stockholm street

I’ll carry on experimenting and let you know if I discover anything useful. If you give this a try let me know how you get on in the comments below. Happy databending! 🙂


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