Tutorial on Databending and Glitch Art

by Paul Weiner

Databending and glitch art are intriguing new media art processes that rely on editing the underlying data composing digital images, videos, and sounds to create something new. Conceptually, databending presents opportunities for artists to exploit the imperceivable systems that control the digital world. While glitch art might sound like something only for hackers and the most computer literate people, tools are showing up all over the internet to help everyone make glitch art.

Here’s how it works:

Save an image as an uncompressed file such as .bmp, .raw, or .tiff.

Uncompressed image files contain more detailed data than compressed files such as .jpg extensions. Thus, uncompressed files have more data available to edit than compressed files do, and your image is less likely to completely break when corrupted.

Converting a .jpg to a .bmp, .raw, or .tiff can be done in virtually any image editing software by clicking either “save as” or “export as” and changing the extension of the file. Here, I am using GIMP, which is a free image editing software.

Click “File” and then “export as.”

In the bottom right hand corner of the screen, click “select file type” and scroll down to select “windows BMP image.” Then add a .bmp extension to the file name and click “export.”

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Technique #1: Audacity

Audacity is a music editing program, but its effects can be exploited to corrupt and glitch your image files.

Download Audacity for free at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/.

Open Audacity and click “File” and “New.”

Click “Import” and “Raw Data…”

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Select your .bmp file.

Set the Encoding to “U-Law” and Byte Order to “Big-endian.”

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Select part of your sound wave, but avoid the very beginning (about .25 seconds) because it contains the header. If you edit the header, your computer won’t be able to read the file anymore.

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Click “Effect” and select any effect you want.

Here’s my original image:


Here’s what some of the effects look like:









High Pass Filter:




Click “File” and “Export…”

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Set the format to “Other uncompressed files” and click “Options…”

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The header should be “RAW (header-less)” and encoding should be “U-Law.”

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Save your file and open it up to see your new artwork! If you have any trouble opening the new file, try changing the extension from .raw to .jpg

You can also listen to the sound your image has rendered. Most likely, it will sound kind of like this:

Technique #2: TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows).

Open the file.

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Scroll down at least 1/10 of the way into the file. You should see a bunch of data jargon. The first part of your file is the header. If you edit the header, it will break the entire image.


Now try adding symbols like %, $, {, }, etc. all over the file or copy/paste large parts of the data and move them to new places or delete information all over the file.



Save the file and open it to see what you’ve created!

Here’s the original image:

tutorialorig copy

Here’s the glitched image:


Technique #3: Glitch Art Codes

The easiest way to make your own glitch art is probably to use Georg Fischer’s free glitch editor website, which is available at http://snorpey.github.io/jpg-glitch/. The application is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, there are four levels on which you can adjust your glitch. This process is more intuitive, and you can play around with the sliders until you find an image that you like.


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