Masking With Smart Objects

February 24, 2010 at 7:17 am (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

Painted in Illustrator then imported into Photoshop

Experimenting with Smart Objects

I created the woven mesh with Illustrator CS4’s blob brush tool, then applied multiple gradients. I overlapped the layers of this weave repeatedly, moving their position so that it created more of a tangled appearance. I recolored some of the layers using Live Color, altering the color order and saturation of colors to add depth. Then I simply selected these layers and copied them via the clipboard into Photoshop as Smart Objects and continued to manipulate them. I used a Mask created from duplicating the blue Channel of an image of a man. I then clicked on this new Channel in the Channels Panel and increased its contrast using Brightness/Contrast and Levels in order to Mask away portions of the woven texture to make it appear as though the man was constructed of this substance. I also painted directly onto this Channel Mask layer with Dodge and Burn and a paintbrush set to Overlay Blending Mode. This helps to add more contrast to the edges of the mask.

Afterwards I continued adding gradients to these layers in Photoshop, and dodged and burned onto the layers themselves. I also used the Liquify filter to tweak the effect.

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Smart Objects In Photoshop

February 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Ilustrator, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , )

Advantages of Duplicating Smart Objects

I am putting lessons together for an upcoming advanced Photoshop / Illustrator class and was trying to come up with a way of delving into the pros and cons of Smart Objects, passing objects from Illustrator to Photoshop. The shapes began in Illustrator, then were brought into Photoshop as Smart Objects, allowing me to duplicate and rotate them, then make changes to the one object, ie: use Liquify Filter, dodge and burn, etc. which then updates all of the duplicated objects simultaneously. This can be very useful when using an object that needs to be repeated many times. Especially if it needs to be resized and rotated numerous times, which ensures that the crisp resolution is maintained.

This exercise will become a class lesson, which will demonstrate to students how to easily go back and forth between Illustrator and Photoshop, taking advantage of the strengths of each software to save time. For example, I never pick up the pen tool in Photoshop. I always jump over to Illustrator to draw the object because Illustrator allows me to add multiple fills and strokes, to offset stroke paths, to add numerous borders and brush strokes to paths, patterns, etc. It only takes seconds to cut and paste them into Photoshop where I can either place them as Smart Objects, shapes or pixels. I’ve now gotten in the habit of always opening both software and I hop back and forth as easily as if they were just two panels of the same program. It is effortless!

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Illustrator Pathfinder and Gradients

February 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Ilustrator) (, , , , , , , , )

Use of Gradients and Shadow Effects

Pathfinder Creates Complex Shapes

The wasps are created using a circular shape that I alter with the pen tool. I then create an arc for the stripes using the Arc Tool. After rotating it into position I Alt drag it to create a duplicate. Then I select both of them and create a Blend with Specified Steps for the stripes on the back. I then use a Clipping Mask to mask the edges and add an inner glow to the yellow body shape. The upper body and eyes are colored with gradients. I make the legs using a Brush with texture and use the Reflect Tool to create the legs on the opposite side of the body.

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Realistic Art Using Gradients In Illustrator

February 10, 2010 at 9:57 am (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Ilustrator) (, , , , , , )

Illustrator’s Pen Tool With Gradients and Textures

How I Created This Box

I made this box based on a little ornate wooden box that sits on the shelf above my computer.  It began as one of those spontaneous things. I was at my computer planning a lesson for teaching Illustrator and I wanted to draw an object.  I looked around me and chose this box because of all the little brass bits.  I wanted to see if I could make  an image that would make them look like brass.  I drew  the basic shapes using the pen tool.

The wood texture is made with one of the “wood” gradients that ship with Illustrator, but I then played around with the colors and gradient stops, then altered the angle to  mimic old wood grain.

Afterwards I added 2 separate textures on top via the Appearance Panel’s multiple fill function, setting  them to Blending Modes, Multiply and Luminosity.  I reduced their opacities until the texture begins to look woody.

I did the whole thing with the box at an odd angle above me, occasionally taking it down to examine the brass bits.     I drew it with my morning cup of coffee balancing in one hand and the pen tool in the other. I only put down the coffee whenever I had to press Alt (Opt on the Mac) to get the convert anchor point tool. 

Yes, I’m back on coffee after a long time away from it … turns out it spikes my creative ideas. After my last “artist’s block” where I couldn’t come up with any ideas and project deadlines were looming, I went back to coffee and within a few hours I was happily creating art again. But I digress …. only later in the day did I think to take the photo of the original box (below) to show you what I was using as my model.

Photo of Original Box

First I Drew These Shapes

The box was at an angle above me so I first created the basic shapes without worrying about the exact size ratios. The feet were created using a combination of shapes drawn with the pen tool and Pathfinder to combine them.

Created the Basic Shapes

All the brass bits except the circle rivets are drawn with the pen tool. The reason the shapes appear symetrical is that I draw only one half of the object, then use the Reflect Tool  to reflect the object horizontally while pressing Alt (Opt on Mac) to duplicate it. I then join both halves together using Pathfinder’s Add function and zoom in and remove any redundant anchor points.

The Brass Bits

Below is what the shapes look like when viewing in Illustrator’s Outline Mode, Ctrl Y (Cmd Y on the Mac). It turned out to be one of those days where I got lost in the moment, totally losing track of time. There was a get together later in the day for the new Illustrators Meet Up Group. But I got lost in the ‘zone’, and by the time I glanced up at the clock it was already 9 pm, 2 hours late … sigh, I had been looking forward to it, the first get together of Vancouver’s Illustrators, in an Irish pub with beer … alas, and me with my empty coffee cup, a few cold drips left at the bottom, missed meeting the Illustrators because I was too busy illustrating … 🙂

Illustration in Outline Mode

And here’s a slice of it with anchor points displayed:

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Dragon Art Completed

February 3, 2010 at 8:53 am (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , )

Dragons of Asgard book cover design

Finished the book cover

There’s a great satisfaction finishing and delivering a piece of art. After labouring a long time then finally reaching the finish line, it’s like a marathon completed. I’m usually exhausted afterwards, needing time to replenish my creative energy. This book is currently being published and should be available to the public within 2 months. The author is Scott Waring, a writer and teacher currently living in Taiwan.

Combined with teaching and putting together the course lessons for an advanced combined Photoshop / Illustrator class that I’ll be teaching in April, and now overseeing student practicum placements and teaching Illustrator, I’ve had my hands full. But with computers come technical disruptions, which can waste huge chunks of valuable time and add a lot of stress worrying about lost data.

Computer Wouldn’t Boot

Today was one of those dreadful days. I’m not a techy person. This afternoon my computer suddenly wouldn’t boot. It gave me an error message “Reboot or Select Boot Device”, and even after numerous tries it wouldn’t reboot. For those of you who are tech savy you might be smiling, but for me this presented a major time-wasting hurdle. I searched pages of Google forums but could only find a few cryptic nuggets that addressed the issue.

I exhausted the few tricks in my limited arsenal, pressing F8 didn’t help, pressing Ctrl 4 no luck, then I finally saw some small “Del” in the bottom right hand corner of my screen, so tried pressing Delete. This took me to a Menu deep inside the bowels of my computer where I could only use the up and down arrows to scroll through unfriendly-looking tabs until I came to one that said “Boot”. I managed to reset the main Boot drive to my main hard drive. But that in itself was no easy feat because the main hard drive is referred to as PM-WDC WD1200 JB-00 in this menu. Now tell me people, who would have guessed that this number refers to a main hard drive?!! This set me back to Google, where I entered this string of numbers and finally saw something referring to it as a main hard drive.

I decided to live dangerously and try altering the settings to choose this as the main boot drive.

Thought I’d Lost My Data

During those 2 stressful hours I was making a mental note of all the data I’d lose if I couldn’t get the computer to reboot. Although I’d done a recent back up, I hadn’t backed up my Outlook emails where I have all my client and student correspondence including email addresses, correspondence with clients outlining job specs and criteria, plus a lot of other little gems that I’d stored, such as bookmarks to other artists’ websites, etc..

It was a huge relief when my computer finally booted properly. I’m telling this woeful story so that if another unfortunate soul googles those fateful keywords, they might stumble across my blog entry and find the solution. During my google search I saw many others pleading for help with the same issue.

Note to self … first thing tomorrow … must back up email and other miscellaneous gems 🙂

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove

Or my gallery on Flickr

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