Photoshop Animating 3D

November 2, 2010 at 11:49 am (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, How to make a gif animation, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

Photoshop CS5 can handle 3D obj files. For this animation I made the texture transparent and turned on the visibility of wireframe and vertices. I then added a gradient overlay layer effect and some text effects. On a separate layer I created the sparkle over the letter “i” using a paint brush set to Dissolve. I then added an inner glow effect, set to red with a blending mode of Color Burn. I did the same with the text and with a few paths that I afterwards stroked with a brush that was set to “pressure” and had “angle jitter” applied.

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Making Manga Art With Illustrator

December 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Ilustrator, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , )

I made this manga art using Illustrator CS4

I’ve been preparing lessons for the upcoming Illustrator classes that I’ll be teaching beginning in January. In my usual style, I began playing with the pen tool in Illustrator and somehow meandered away from my original task and ended up creating this piece. This is very typical of the way things often go for me when I create art. I start dabbling around and experimenting (my intention at first was just to draw a simple manga figure that I’d give to students to trace, in order to teach them the function of the pen tool). But after about 9 hours of playing, I came up with a piece of art that I conceived on the spur of the moment.

The Techniques I Used

First I drew this illustration using the Pencil tool, which is great for sketching out simple ideas, but it doesn’t have any of the subtle nuances of brushes. It is merely a quick and dirty tool to jot down an initial idea. I used a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet with pen (I wouldn’t have been able to draw this with a mouse, it would have been way too awkward and clumsy).

Pen Tool

Then I used the proper pen tool to trace all the outlines. Afterwards I used the white arrow tool to refine and manipulate individual anchor points, which allows me to easily alter and sculpt the character’s shape.

Warp Tool

To further change the shape I used the Warp Tools which work much like Photoshop’s Liquify Filter. I absolutely love these tools. I most often stick with the first Warp tool, the one that simply moves anchor points. With this I added extra curl to the hair, flair to the boots and belt, tweaked the biceps, etc.

Simplify Paths

Tip: after using the Warp tool or Blob Brush Tool, be sure to simplify the paths to get rid of unwanted anchor points and to smooth out the drawing. Even with a setting of 97%, the number of points can be reduced by half without any noticable difference to the drawing. This step is necessary if you afterwards decide to add a Gradient Mesh because meshes won’t work on objects with too many anchor points. It also speeds up processing time once effects and added fills and strokes are added to the object.

Label and Organize Layers

I then added new layers below the path outline layer and used the blob brush to color the various parts, and as I’ve become accustomed to doing in Photoshop, I label each layer: Body paths, Pants, Shirt, Skin, Eyes, Hair, Boots, Background, etc. This makes it much easier when adding additional effects and Fill Layers via the Appearance Panel.

For example, The shirt is divided into 2 pieces, the top portion and the bottom portion below his arms. Because the shirt is on its own layer, it was easy to add the Inner Glow effect to the entire layer, rather than doing double the work by applying it to the individual shirt portions. Much more efficient.

Inner Glow Effect

I’ve discovered that this Inner Glow effect is a godsend because there doesn’t seem to be a proper way to add bevels or to burn and dodge shadows and highlights as can easily be done in Photoshop. In Illustrator the Inner Glow, if set carefully using blending modes can mimic a similar result as Photoshop’s dodge and burn tools. I set them to either Multiply or Screen using either dark or light edges and they can be positioned on the edges or at the center of an object, which allows me to use this effect for both burning edges and dodging center portions of an object.

Appearance Panel

I spent the majority of my time (having a great deal of fun) experimenting with added fills, textures and effects from the Appearance Panel. Illustrator’s default textures are limited so when I get a change I’ll go scavenging the web for free textures. I like to have a variety of simple textures that can be used for fabric, wood, and a dappled appearance of fur, tree bark, nature, basically anything with some natural texture that will soften the vector feel. It gives the scene a more painterly and natural appearance.

For Coloring Artwork Illustrator Rocks!

I also played for hours with multiple gradients, making them, changing them, rotating them, using blending modes with them. For me this step is intensely enjoyable! I love the ease with which you can drag and drop color swatches onto individual gradient stops.

And with Illustrator’s ability to recolor artwork with a few clicks of the mouse, it’s an obsessive-compulsive’s dream. I must have changed the colors for the shirt, pants, hair and skin so many times, way too many to count. And each time I change them, I then go and tweak the position of all the gradients again and again. This ate up a good chunk of the day, but it was entirely enjoyable. It’s the part I love best.

Each color change gives an entirely different mood and feel to the art. I liked so many of them that it was difficult to finally decide which colors I preferred. In Photoshop there is the Hue Saturation or Channel Mixer Adjustment, but they don’t allow you to choose specific color groupings and harmonies. So in this regard, Illustrator majorly Rocks !!

Creating The Background

The layers of hills in the background are created with one layer that I drew out with the pen tool in a matter of seconds, then warped a bit with the Warp Tool. I then duplicate and resize the copied layers, add different opacities, gradients and textures using Blending Modes to make them each appear different from one another.

I Love Photoshop

Once I finished the art in Illustrator, I couldn’t resist taking the image into Photoshop and adding a few final touches, just to soften up the vectors. Once a Photoshopper, always a Photoshopper.

Illustrator does many amazing things with ease and lightning speed, a wonderful stand alone software. But I suppose once I’ve fallen in love with pixels, vectors seem somehow a bit cold and stark by comparison. So I will always feel inclined to soften them up in Photoshop afterwards, ie, some of the texture on the clothes, the ground, leaves and some clouds.

Illustrator Can Be Glitchy

Illustrator’s interface looks deceptively like Photoshop but it behaves entirely different, especially layers. Each time you add a compound path, group, blend, live paint group, etc., layers order gets reassigned and nested. If you’re not careful it can strip away order and naming systems you’ve carefully set up. I’ve learned to keep an eye on this at all times by placing my Layer Panel on my second monitor and opening it up so all layers are visible. Each time I apply a significant function I examine what has taken place in the Layers Panel. I strongly suggest doing this. It’s the best way to begin to fully understand the inner workings and logic within Illustrator.

When I was learning Illustrator the Instructor didn’t fully introduce the behaviour of the Layers Panel until well into the course. Early introduction would have been far more beneficial because it is the best way to observe Illustrator’s logic and gain a full understanding of how it functions. It also saves a great deal of time to be able to simply drag and drop objects into clipping paths, groups, blends, etc.

Illustrator seems to be a lot more glitchy than Photoshop, ie: when adding effects or gradients to a path from the Appearance Panel, Illustrator sometimes deselects the object at random and I can spend 5 minutes piling on gradients and strokes, with no warning from Illustrator that this is being applied to nothing, to air, to void, to empty ether, because Illustrator decides to play tricks and deselects the object. It doesn’t beep to warn me, whereas Photoshop, like a kind and loyal friend always emits a polite beep and never deselects layers or objects. But I’m now savy to Illustrator’s tricks, I take care to avoid them.

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OpenGL A Total Joy

April 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

just_one_wish_revised_wordpress

Just One Wish

Loving New Features in CS4

Now that I have sorted out my video card driver, the OpenGL is working wonderfully. I could never go back to CS3, after experiencing the ease and time saving features. The new features in CS4 aren’t merely bells and whistles. I am using them all the time. I love the new brush shortcut that allows me to simply press Alt (Opt on the Mac) and drag the mouse to resize brushes on the fly. I use brushes constantly in my digital art so saves me a lot of time and I can see a rubylith mask outline of the brush shape, including the amount of feathering. Because my NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285 is an older video card, there are still a few glitches with brush outlines displaying with larger size brushes. But I’m becoming used to it and it’s a fair trade off for all the other features.

The new tabbed interface is a real time saver because I usually have many files open simultaneously. It’s a snap to switch between the old window set up and the new tabbed one, with just a click of a button.

Dodge and burn have been completely revamped. I loved them before and use them constantly to create , shadows and highlights in my art, but the newer method preserves color tones and is far less destructive. But what’s even better is that by clicking a checkbox dodge and burn will revert to the previous algorithym, which is great because for some uses, the older method seems to do the trick. It’s so nice to have a wider range of choices. There is now a new Masking Panel that makes it possible to refine the mask’s edges after creating it. Edges can be feathered, even shape layers. The upgrade is so worth it.

Just One Wish

The art above is an old one that I made a few years ago, but last night I was working on a new version of my website and was sizing images for the gallery. I came across this piece and at first thought that I’d leave it out because I hadn’t really mastered digital art techniques back then. But I still liked the mood so I thought I’d try reworking it. Usually I never go back to old art to fix them, even if I find problems with them. I usually just resolve to better in the new art I create. But I broke my own rule and decided to revise this one. Still not perfect because I’d have to start again from scratch to get it right, but I think it was worth salvaging.

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Lucille – A Modern Day FairyTale

February 22, 2009 at 1:50 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , )

lucille

Lucille

Enjoying Photoshop CS4

This art piece began as an experiment, just playing around in newly installed CS4. I wasn’t sure if it would shape into anything substantial, so when it got late, around 3 a.m., I saved the file and abandoned it for several days, thinking that it was probably just junk.

A week or two later, I was cleaning my desktop and saw this PSB file that I had completely forgotten about. I opened it up to decide whether or not to delete it. It was still very much in the rough phase and looked quite terrible. I wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged, but I luckily happened to be in ‘the zone’ for working, so I began playing with it.

Originally I had shaped the girl into a sort of ‘elf’, with pointed ears and was going to take it into a more extreme fantasy direction. But I wasn’t satisfied with the ears, kept adding new ones, from exotic monkeys and other animals. I was going to give her a half-human, half-animal appearance. But none seemed believable (or as believable as pointed ears can be, ha ha! … actually, this brings up an important point. Even within fantasy, a measure of believability has to be maintained, otherwise the effect just looks tacky).

I began adding a halo of hair instead, until the girl took on a very soft ethereal quality which changed the entire direction of the piece.

Allow The Art To Shape Itself

When I’m creating art for myself, unlike when I’m working for a client, I allow the art to morph into any direction it wants. This is the most enjoyable part. I love the suspense of not knowing how it will turn out, what story it will tell. For example, when the elf ears weren’t working and the halo of soft hair added a different personality to the girl, I abandoned the elf idea and began adding elements that enhanced the soft, intense features. Every new element has to match the aspects that are working.

Be Prepared to Abandon Elements That Aren’t Working

Even if I spend an hour or more extracting an element or animal, color matching it, adding lights and shadows, if the element isn’t working within the scene I don’t hesitate for a moment to delete it. I never get attached to something just because I’ve spent hours working on it. I chalk it up to ‘practice time’. For example, I tried many different backgrounds and tree trunks beneath the owl. I spent hours, tweaking, recoloring, dodging, burning, distorting, but afterwards deleted many of them … until I found one that seemed to enhance the main character’s mood and personality.

Tip – Beware of CS4’s New Layer Delete

Beware, if you have a layer selected in the Layer Palette (now renamed Panel by Adobe), if you click Delete, you won’t get a message “Are you sure you want to delete this layer?” … it will automatically delete without asking you. Advanced users of Photoshop will like this time-saving feature, but Newbies have to be careful. Several times when I was working on this piece, I accidentally hit “delete” when I was actually reaching for another shortcut key. Luckily I noticed and hit “Ctrl / Z ” (Cmd / Z on the Mac) to bring back the layer.

I also still have to sort out the issue of the OpenGL features not working, whether it’s my video card, or my operating system. Also in Photoshop’s 3D, the 3D axis is not displaying, even when I’ve selected it from the view menu. The 3D axis control is faster and simpler than using the indivual 3D tools from the Toolbox. I’m not sure if this issue is connected to the Open GL issue or whether it is a separate problem. If anybody knows the answer, please let me know. My operating system is Window XP Professional and my video card on this computer is NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285, 128 MB, version 5.44.02.63.04

Postscript — Happy Update

Miraculously, The OpenGL features have begun working, along with the 3D Axis tool. I’m not certain what caused this because I did a number of different things while trying to troubleshoot the problem. I went to the NVIDIA website to update my Video card driver. You can choose an option to have the website automatically detect your video card and download the appropriate driver. However, after I installed the new driver, I noticed that the version number was lower than my prior version. This worried me, so I then went to my PC’s Windows Update by right clicking my Desktop, choosing Properties / Settings / Advanced / Adaptor / Properties / Driver / Update Driver. Although I had done this before and received a message that my driver was up to date, this time it actually updated the driver. I think this is what corrected the problem.

I can now do neat functions like Rotate Canvas which comes in handy for painting with a Wacom tablet. And Image Toss, which might sound like some mere gimmick, but believe me, when you have an enormuos document and are zoomed in to some detail and you need to pan to another area of the image, the pan glides as effortlessly as an Olympic skater and there is no blocky redraw lag time, Yipeeeeee !!!

There is also a new handy shortcut in CS4, if you Hold down your mouse while pressing the “H” Key while you are on any other tool. While still holding down both, you can slide around to any area of the image, then when you release the mouse it zooms into that area of the image. Very quick and wonderful way to get around a large, zoomed in image.

I also finally see the 3D Axis Tool, which is the most efficient way to manipulate the X, Y, and Z movements and rotations. I was so happy and relieved when these features began working that I felt tears come to my eyes. I never realized how important they were to me until I saw my reaction when they magically appeared. I am one very happy Photoshopper today !!!

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The Dove

January 29, 2009 at 6:34 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

the_dove

The Dove

I just finished this digital art. It took about 4 days. I really enjoyed piecing together the character, who is comprised of so many bits and pieces of digital photos that in the end she becomes a purely fictional character. I really enjoy the challenge of creating someone who is entirely different from all of the components that go into making it. The eyes alone are comprised of 4 images, the hair from 3, the nose from 2 images (the bridge is from one photo and the bottom portion with nostrils from another). The mouth is from 2 separate images, then further changed wtih the Liquify Filter. The forehead is made from 2 images, the ears from another 2, the chin from another. The neck, shoulders and arms are from more than 8 separate images. The dress is made in Photoshop from tiny bits and pieces then molded into a new shape.

the_dove_detail1

Close Up Details

Another Crash? — You Think I’d Learn By Now

I had worked on the dress for hours and lost track of the time. I was distorting (Edit / Transform / Distort) and rotating layers wtih Masks attached. Suddenly I got the dreaded message that there was insufficient RAM and Photoshop went down like the Titanic. I felt numb and exhausted. I couldn’t remember what stage I had last saved the PSB document, so I had to wait in suspense until the file reopened, to discover that the entire dress was lost and I had to rebuild it all over again. It was already late, so I decided to go to bed and redo it the next day. I’m not sure whether I prefer the earlier version or this final version … the first version had some very intricate details of lace. But I try to see the bright side, each time I redo something I get more practice in Photoshop.

I’m still using CS3. I bought CS4 but in order to install it, I have to do some major hard drive housekeeping and clear out a bunch of files because I’ve used almost the entire hard drive. I purchased the Creative Suite, Master Edition that has all Adobe programs including the video and sound applications. These will take up a lot of hard drive space to install.

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Dinosaur Card

September 26, 2008 at 8:33 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

Dinosaur Card – Girl Version

The card project is almost complete, just one more card in this series to finish. Creating the dinosaur took about 3 days. The background took a lot of experimentation before a prehistoric fantasy atmosphere began to emerge. It was a lot of fun making this one.

Although the dinosaur is purely fantasy, I still spent time researching dinosaurs to get some idea of how the various sub-species bodies, feet, necks varied. There were were so many varieties, meat eaters, docile vegetarians. Some were huge and others were smaller, about the size of a cow, some even smaller. Although many bones have been discovered, there aren’t many preserved samples of skin textures and colors. Many of the reconstructed drawings are mere guesses. I used this to my advantage and decided to use lizard like scales and feet and give it a docile personality. I combined several bits and pieces of digital lizard and snakes skin to create the skin.

This card, like the others will soon be available from http://www.flattenme.com and are persnoalized for customers, where their children’s faces will be inserted into the card. There will also be a boy version, that I am still working on.

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Snow Globe Card Art

August 30, 2008 at 9:01 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Another Card In The Series

Photoshop Techniques Revealed

I just finished another card in the series, soon to be available at http://www.flattenme.com.

I began by creating a storyboard in which a mischievous kitten is playing, causing the snow globe to tilt, setting the snowflakes in motion. I wanted the elements to appear dynamic, emphasizing movement. I juxtaposed bright colors against an ornate antique background to give a sense of a traditional Christmas. 

Under the snow globe I built a box, beginning with an image of a wooden dresser, then began adding colors and a 3-dimensional bevel to resemble an old hand painted metalic box.  I spent hours painting and adding bevelled bits, combining multiple techniques to create a metalic, texturized appearance.  I tried so many techniques that it’s hard to remember exactly what ones I finally settled on, but I do remember painting with the Blending Mode “Color Dodge” to add a fantastic lighting effect and then burning in the colors and shadows with the Burn Tool.  This is the kind of stuff that I enjoy the most.

The ornate edges are taken from small details of an image of an East Asian carving of Ganesh while the base of the snow globe is taken from the bottom detail of an image of an antique figurine.  For the child, I dressed her in whimsical colors and placed the snowball in her hand as a final touch.

Back To My Old Habits

For several weeks I was determined to rid myself of my midnight marathons, where I had fallen into the habit of working throughout the afternoon and deep into the night until the sun came up the following morning. I knew this was taking a toll on my health and probably isn’t the most productive way to work. I started going to bed at a much more reasonable hour, around 12:30 a.m. But while creating this image, I fell back to my old habits, working all afternoon and through the night until 5 a.m. When I get into that state of concentratoin that I call “the zone”, I completely lose track of time.

Although there aren’t many elements in this scene, each required a lot of tweaking because they are prominent. I wanted to ensure that each detail fit perfectly within the scene. I go over the smallest details until I feel that it fits perfectly.

Viewing at Various Zoom Levels is Important

I continue tweaking until the art appears just right at all zoom levels. As I’m working, I constantly switch between zoomed in view and fully zoomed out to a size not much larger than a thumbnail. I find that comparing various zoom levels reveals very different aspects of the image. At the fully zoomed out view I am able to just see the overall lighting and silhouette of the image. I can judge whether or not the general lines and lighting are harrmonious.

For example, I made some changes to the snowman, making the top portion of the hat more symetrical and adding a more symetrical rosy hue to the left cheek. But as soon as I zoomed out, I realized that it was the asymetrical aspect that gave the snowman it’s character. Making it symetrical actually took away from its charm. This wasn’t visible when I was zoomed in. Had I not checked the ‘before and after’ by clicking on various stages on the History Palette at a fully zoomed out view, I wouldn’t have noticed this important fact. I quickly undid the changes I had made.

Alternately, at a zoomed in level, 100% or above, I am able to see all the finer details. Anytime I change a major element, I always zoom back out to a very small size to ensure that the lines and lighting have not been disrupted, while pressing CTRL / Z numerous times.  (Unlike other software, Photoshop alternates back and forth between the last change when CTRL / Z is pressed more than once.  To do continuous undo’s in Photoshop you must press CTRL / ALT /Z  or CMD / OPT / Z on the Mac.  This makes it very easy to click back and forth between the before and after version of the last change you’ve added.  I find these steps to be so important. My art really began to improve when I started taking the time to do this.

I even stand back from the computer and take a look at the art from several feet away, with the zoom level set to “Fit To Screen”. I usually do this when I am having a tea break. I sit on my couch which is about 7 feet away from the computer. For some reason by viewing at this distance, lighting problems become glaringly apparent. I discovered this by sheer accident while relaxing during a break. I was able to see huge lighting errors that were not apparent from a closer view. It also is great for revealing any issues with positioning of body in relation to other elements.

A Tip Gleaned From Robert Bateman

Wow! Just as I was writing this, in the background I have a documentary on TV about Robert Bateman, whose work I completely admire. He just said the most amazing thing related to this very subject. He mentioned that he stands back while he is painting and with his wife Birgit, views his art reflected in a mirror so that the image is reversed. He said this reveals hidden rhythms and forms that are not visible from the ordinary view and he then makes adjustments to the piece he is working on! Amazing! I am going to begin using this technique from now on!

He also said that he doesn’t use the “Rules of Composition”, that he doesn’t believe in them, except for not placing key elements along the center line of the image. Tears came to my eyes when I heard him say this because in my gallery on Flickr I’ve had numerous discussions with people about this topic. I’ve always said that don’t follow any rules of composition, that they stiffle creativity and make an image appear stilted and rigid. To hear Robert Bateman say the same thing filled me with joy! When I work on my art, I often have the TV on in the background, tuned to the documentary channel. It often inspires my work.

Thank Goodness For CTRL / Z

It’s so fantastic working in a digital medium, where any paint stroke can be undone with CTRL / Z (CMD / Z on the Mac). I am constantly experimenting with different effects, lighting, Blending Modes, painted elements, etc. I try everything and this is what takes each piece so many hours. If the effect doesn’t work, Voila!! I simply press CTRL / Z. It is so wonderful that sometimes, after working for hours at a stretch, I go to jot something down and if I make an error with pen and paper, my fingers begin to do the motion of CTRL / Z before I realize that this can’t be done on real paper. If only life were so simple, where any mistake we make could be corrected with a simple CTRL / Z.

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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 http://www.flattenme.com, 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 http://www.flattenme.com

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.

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Calibration Calamity

June 5, 2007 at 7:12 am (Digital Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I made this one using a digital photo I took of my daughter

Students Were Dismayed

At school, an instructor had marked last week’s exam and handed them back to students. To our dismay, marks had been severely reduced for questions based on images that were entirely subjective and arbitrary. Although the class was about Color Correction, the course did not include computer monitor calibration, so each student’s monitor had its own color cast. Mine was casting a muddy hue, the student’s next to mine appeared mauve. Despite this serious handicap, students were expected to color correct images using steps that would afterwards be repeated on the Instructor’s monitor (which I suspect was also uncalibrated). And if that weren’t enough, the classroom’s overhead lights were harsh and depending where a student was sitting, they were casting glaring light and shadows across the desks. In addition, context regarding each image’s output purpose had not been provided, so students understandably interpreted to their best judgement.

When the test results were received, lively discussion ensued, a mini mutiny. Students defended their answers. Each argument sounded logical. Yet the instructor persisted on a specific series of steps. Blunt steps with blunt explanations. No consideration for an image’s mood or intent. Just an assembly line of steps. I felt as though I had tumbled down the proverbial rabbit hole where logic and good sense are turned upside down. The situation would have been comical had not each of us been playing for real marks that impact our real future.

I felt sad to see Photoshop used this way

For a moment I began to doubt my own judgement. I wondered whether I will come through this course with my creative spirit intact. I have always approached Photoshop with joy and a measure of reverence. I pick up the tools the way a painter might pick up their faithful paint brushes. They respond to a gentle touch, subtle nuances, loving strokes. Blunt commands result in inferior results.

When I got home, although it was late at night, I couldn’t go to bed without first opening Photoshop, taking time to reaffirm an old and faithful friendship. I took a few images and began playing with light, shadows, hues. Colors once again became spectacular, dynamic, and stimulating, instead of numeric values on a histogram. Color casts reclaimed their welcome role as purveyors of mood and ambience, instead of enemies to be irradicated. After some time had passed, the loud and regimented din began to fade from inside my head. The claustrophobic sensation of being squeezed down a rabbit hole receded, restoring a small measure of peace to my weary brain.

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How To Fix A Bad Photograph

June 2, 2007 at 8:44 pm (Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Transform A Poor Quality Image Into An Amazing Show Piece In Three Easy Steps:

View Animated Sequence of Steps
    The Original Image:
  • The photo had very harsh lighting, exposing facial flaws, frown lines and dark lipstick color. In addition, it was taken from a low angle, accentuating the jaw line. This made the model appear masculine, although in reality she is a beautiful woman with a lovely heart-shaped face. You’d never guess it from this photo or from the makeup applied to her face for this shot. Despite these photographic errors, the image was taken at high resolution with a lot of detail. The photographer was about to delete the image, but it occurred to me that it would be a wonderful challenge to see if it could be ressurected using Photoshop.

    Step 1:
  • Duplicate the image and use the Healing Brush to remove the wrinkle between the eyes and to mute the harsh makeup lines. Soften the lines under the eyes and remove the messy the hair from the left side of the model’s face by painting over it with white. Brighten the lip color by making a selection around the lips and use Hue And Saturation to give a more pleasing hue. Then make a copy of this new phase and set the new layer to Screen Blending Mode which will lighten the overall skin tone. Mask out areas that should remain dark and intense, such as the eyes, hair, eyebrows, and lips.

    Step 2:
  • Then comes the painstaking task of restoring the jaw line to a more feminine heart-shaped contour, that the bad camera angle has exaggerated. Select Edit, Transform, Distort to mold the jaw into a more pleasing line. If you compare this stage with the last stage of the image, you will see a noticable difference on the jaw line. Then use the Clone Stamp to add hair on the right side of the model’s neck to correct the gap created by distorting the image.

    Step 3:
  • Add some graphic flourishes for a final touch by opening an image of a rose, dragging it into the open file and masking away unwanted portions of the rose image. Once the masking is complete set this layer’s blending mode to Lighten to create a semi-transparent effect. This result is not intense enough so duplicate the layer and set the blending mode to Soft Light. Voila!

  • Afterwards, just for fun, you might want to experiment with other variations to elicit even more dramatic flare:

  • View Animated Sequence of Steps

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