Fusing traditional and technical illustrations

By: Granny’s Mettle

According to the designer, what is exciting about using computers is that artists and designers like him are now able to fuse present technology with traditional art. They are able to do the things that used to be done in traditional art, but much faster and less waste with the onset of digital technology. This is due to the fact that designers are able to change and edit illustrations and ideas even if it's already at the final stage of the project. Even with the changes, the result of the project rarely differs from the original thrust and objective.

Stage 1: Sketch and Digitization
Sketching and digitization are almost the same in both traditional art and digital technology. In traditional art, an artist usually starts by making a sketch on paper. With Photoshop's graphic palette, it nearly replicates the same feeling. Nevertheless, the designer is quick to add that shaping a drawing on paper is still faster and more intuitive than doing it on the computer. Although he also admits that even if basic drawing is done on paper, computer techniques can produce interesting effects such as halftones that are otherwise not available with drawing pencils.

Stage 2: Preparing the Layers
After importing the sketch into Photoshop, the image should be converted to sepia tones before working on the color. To convert to sepia, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, check the Colorize box, and use the sliders to colorize the lines into brown, reddish ochre, or yellow. This method provides a silkiness feel to the line. In sepia, the lines of the sketch yield halftones that are more delicate, resulting to an image that is easier to view but retain its basic structure.

The designer suggests adding colors that do not compete with the lines in the drawing.

This may weaken lines from the original sketch. At the same time, the sketch should not also overpower the colors. In effect, designers should blend the two elements to find the right balance.

On the choice of sepia, designers should look at the technical rather than the aesthetic considerations. Brown tones result from a mixing of all the colors, so when the picture is colored, the paint colors will blend more easily with the lines. However, using sepia is not an absolute rule, although it does provide softness in the drawing while preserving its descriptive character.

After turning it to sepia, create two new layers. From the layers palette, set the background layer in Multiply mode, and insert it between two virgin layers. The designer suggest putting colors on what he calls the 'under layer', beneath the sepia line drawing layer, and adding detail and finish to the 'over layer'.

Stage 3: The Under Layers
Choose a dominant color where all the secondary effects can relate to without losing the basic contrast. The purpose of this is to avoid getting lost in the details, especially when the designer is working on a picture with so many characters and elaborate scenery.

Look at the masses of color in the drawing. Apply the darkest tone on the entire surface with the Paint Bucket tool. Afterwhich, designers can immediately add an overall grain to the under layer by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. This tool, according to the designer, produces a kind of visual vibration that gives the image more surface texture.

However, noise can produce conflict with the drawing, making it harder to view. As remedy, the designer suggests going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to soften the noise to about 1.0 pixels. This process makes the drawing immediately reappear. He further adds that this process also allows designers to play with some grain as they build the illustration.

The next level would be to generate a mass of colors by going from the biggest to the smallest objects. Material under the sepia layer can be set on several layers and adjusted separately. The designer reminds others to always work underneath the drawing as they refine and edit details.

The masses of color are laid down with extremely simple brushes. As with a large-format oil painting, designers also should place the colors the same way. Movements must be broad and dynamic when working on an enormous surface. Just like in a painting, designers could also synthesize and blend the masses of colors with a computer. Just provide enough definition for the broad strokes.

Stage 4: The Over Layer
The over layer is the part where you can adjust, correct, and refine the lines of the drawing. When it's super-imposed on the under layers, the density of the lines can be pasty and hard to read. This is the time to lay down the lightest colors, letting the highlights spill over some of the lines of the drawing. According to the designer, this will help smooth out the shapes.

When the drawing is complete and has been colored, this is where designers can soften or eliminate the lines that they think are too heavy or repeat colored shapes. At this final stage, the effects are usually made manually. They often come from pen strokes on the pad.

With these stagesFeature Articles, the designer hopes to achieve a harmonious combination of the traditional process and the present technology. Great artwork can be achieved with a successful fusion of the two worlds.

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