Convert Your Images into Sound

Today I am going to give a quick how to tutorial on what I like to call ‘Image Sampling’ which is converting an image to sound and then editing the glitched mess into a track or playing it on its own. Converting an image will create sounds that many cannot make with standard synths adding a nice touch to any electronic production:

1. Download Audacity freeware. Operates for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

2. Convert the image into an uncompressed format such as .bmp or .tif. As jpgs are compressed data there’s always more chance of completely breaking a picture rather than glitching it. This can be done is photoshop or any other image editing software.

3. Open audacity go to File > Import > Raw data and choose your uncompressed image for glitching. Under encoding use either U-Law or A-Law but remember which one you picked. Using U/A law simply imports the data while bending or glitching the image. When you are finished click import!


4. Now press play and listen to your creation!

What you are seeing is the image data displayed as a sound file. From here you can play around with different effects to tweak and edit your glitchy goodness.

5. When you are done, simply go to File > Export and choose AIFF (Mac) or WAV (Windows) then export into a folder you will remember.

6. More advanced steps from this stage include importing your new glitched sample into a sound editor such as Garage Band (Mac free), Ableton (Paid), Fruity Loops (Paid) and creating a track from it. Here is an example of what can be done with adding a drum beat and a synth sound:

Have fun glitching!


Technical Process Explained

A technical process I’ll use often in Photoshop is utilizing the Blending Modes for layers, and layering these blending modes to create an atmosphere and a mode. For instance I’ll show you a simple walkthrough of this process.

First off I’ll need an image, I’ll use one of a praying mantis I took a while ago.


So first I’ll load the image in Photoshop, then I’ll open up a nice textured image such as a scan of some wrinkled paper, or an image of some rusted metal. I’ll drag and drop into the window, with the paper texture on top of the original layer.


Now this is the blend modes option for the layers.


It is located in the layers palette, here:


From this menu, you can choose from these blend modes playing around with the six sections of the menu. These sections are separated by their functions, the first section, being Normal and Dissolve are normal blend options, then section two is the Darkening modes, or Additive Modes, then the Lightening or Subtractive Modes, then Contrast Modes, followed by Comparative modes, and lastly the Composite modes such as hue, saturation, and luminosity.

These differing modes have subtler effects between the modes, however they all act in one of these methods. For instance, “Multiply” will darken the image, while the “Screen” blend option will lighten the images.

I will play around with a blend option until I find one I like which creates contrast and a nice texture.


Note the nice texture created in the background of the image. I choose the Overlay blend mode for this initial layer.


Now I will add the rust photograph to add another layer of depth to the image.


Here’s the image after applying the “Darken” blend option to the image at 59% opacity.


And now the final image after a little more manipulation.

You can really see how adding different layers of images with blend options can layer to create an interesting effect.