Creating Art For Cards

August 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

Christmas Card digital art project

Christmas Card digital art project

A Closer View Of The Process

With the children’s book complete (I will post some samples to coincide with the official launch of the book, within a week or so), I now begin another project for Margo of, this time creating a series of cards where children’s faces can be inserted into that of the main character. I started with this Christmas card.

I had a rough idea in mind of a traditional scene with a child riding either a polar bear or reindeer. I spent days researching reindeers, trying to understand how their bodies differed from regular deer. I saw that the reindeer’s bodies appear more square, with a beard and patch of fur on the front of the mature adults. I was unable to find clear images of legs and was wondering if I could use elk legs instead. I found out that reindeer are related to cariboo, and are not as delicately built as elk or regular deer.

Important Tip ! – Let The Image Mold Itself

Luckily Margo is a delight to work for. She gives me a very loose idea (ie: Christmas card). She allows me to take the art in any direction I choose. This works fantastic with my art style, where I prefer to allow the art to mold itself, rather than having a rigid idea in my head and forcing the image to take on that exact shape.

For example, I started with an idea of child riding either polar bear or reindeer. I began extracting many images of polar bears, combining elements from each that I preferred, ie, facial features from a few different images, leg from another, halo of fur from another, ear from another, until I had built just the right personality I was looking for. But after several hours of working, I realized that with the image of only 5 x 7 inches, and wanting the child’s face to be prominent in the foreground, the adult bear was dominating the scene.

Despite having created a beautiful bear, I immediately deleted it when I realized that it would be better to use small bears. I do this frequently with my art, and have observed with fellow artists how they are sometimes reluctant to give up an idea that they have put a lot of work and time into, even if the idea isn’t working. I think the key to a successful piece is to be willing to immediately take a 180 degree turn in another direction if an idea isn’t working. All the ‘wasted’ work I just chalk up to experience and practice of technique. I don’t view it as a loss. Each time I do this, the final result turns out much better than the original idea. I think it is important to always remain completely flexible during the creation process, as though molding clay … regarding the art to be completely pliable until the final moment.

Faces are Most Important

Although I make these images knowing that face will be swapped with the customer’s own child’s face (I deliver the finished image with the child’s face on a separate layer, allowing it to be easily replaced with another face), I still spend a great deal of time choosing the ideal face for the scene. I’ve come to realize that faces are of prime importance, even the animal faces. Faces set the mood and can inspire the entire piece. I made this child’s face by combining 3 separate images. I really love the bright eyes, sweet smile and especially like the very ordinary features, the slightly messy, short hair … just a typical sort of child who might live in a rural setting.

I also spent more than an hour tweaking the polar bear cubs’ faces, using the clone and liquify filter, giving them each an expression that brought out their personalities. I also spent a long time with the mouse and bird. All of them, even the tiny ones, play a vital role within the scene.

Creating The Background – AKA The Importance Of Sleep

I constructed the house out of 3 images, one of them being at an entirely different angle and perspective. To correct this I used the Transform / Perspective and Transform / Distort to shape them into the perspective I wanted. For the snowy background and sky, I went through too many versions to count. At one point, after working all afternoon and through the night until 6 a.m. the following morning, I finally went to sleep. When I woke up and looked at the background I had created the night before, I wondered what in the world had possessed me!! 🙂 It appeared way too busy. Refreshed with sleep, I immediately knew what I needed to do to fix it. In my prior fatigued state, I hadn’t noticed that all the house’s windows were dark. I had to add lights which I did by super-imposing a bright image, masking it completely, then painting back the portion within the many window frames. This only took a few minutes. I then added a glowing effect. I spent hours changing the rest of the background, but was very satisfied with the final results.

Anything Can Be Transformed

If you look closely, you’ll see that the fringe of the child’s scarf is constructed out of the frosty branches from the left hand side of the scene. I’ve duplicated these branches, colored them a bright orange color and used them as fringe for the scarf. I have always done this with my art. I use absolutely anything for any other purpose if it seems to work. In one of my prior images a sea anemone became the hair of a woman, reshaped and re-colored. I love doing this and it is part of that process that I described earlier, of thinking of the art as soft clay, able to easily mold it into any new shape that comes to mind. This is part of the challenge and what makes it so much fun!

I will keep you posted when this project is complete and when the cards will be available from

I Finally Chose The Fairy Wings Version

I mentioned in my last blog post that I would post a better quality image of my last digital art piece, once I decided whether I preferred wings or no wings. Martine replied and told me she prefers the ‘winged’ version. While I was waiting for her reply I came to the same decision. Above I’ve posted the final version. Thank you everyone for your generous and insightful input. Much appreciated.

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr

Return To Gale’s Home Page


  1. Martin LaBar said,

    More splendid work! Very well done.

  2. galefraney said,

    Thanks so much Martin! I’m currently working on another card in the series, this one of a snow globe. I’m almost done the girl version (each card has two versions, boy and girl, so that customers can send their child’s image to and their child’s face can be inserted, creating a personalized card. 🙂

  3. Raúl Quintana Muñoz said,

    Hi, Gale, thank you so much for your comment. That post is about a love story I had with a girl from Seattlle, who was actually from San Francisco, It was a time when I used to listen a lot to Bob Dyland, Led Zeppelin, and foremost, Leonard Cohen, I just love his lyrics. Ciaooo



  4. Recent Links Tagged With "faces" - JabberTags said,

    […] public links >> faces Off-Topic Saved by tonyparkersd on Mon 01-12-2008 Creating Art For Cards Saved by KevinMichaelMusic on Mon 17-11-2008 Mini Cooper gets DogCar friendly – Welcome to the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: