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Combining Traditional and Digital Illustration Techniques

Combining Traditional and Digital Illustration Techniques

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Published by Solomon
If you want to get your work seen by as many people as possible, the web is the way to go. Couple that with the flexibility of the Adobe PDF format and you have a winner...
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Published by: Solomon on Aug 04, 2008
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01/05/2013

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By Nicolas FructusDateline: February 11, 2005
 
Sketch, base colors and final illustration (click to enlarge).My task was to create illustrations for ninechapters of a special issue of Casus Bellimagazine devoted to a mythical city calledLaelith. Each illustration was supposed toshow the atmosphere of the neighborhoodbeing described. The image presented here isof The High Terrace, a rich and colorfulenvironment where Laelith’s leading citizensare found. The rocky spires are magicians’towers—the highest points of thecity—where occult experiments take place.The idea was to present the neighborhood as if seen by a wandering tourist, but at the sametime suggest the ethereal but omnipresent power of magic in the city. This is why I chose thepoint of view of a person in a crowd, but with a very wide-angle view.
Stage 1: Sketch and Digitization
 In traditional art, you almost always start by making a sketch on paper. Photoshop’s graphicpalette nearly replicates the same feeling. But the fact remains that shaping a drawing onpaper is still faster and more intuitive.There is nothing special about the digitizing stage. Theimage’s basic format is 6 x 9 in. (15 x 23 cm.) at 600 dpi, and
Combining Traditional and Digital Illustration Techniques
 Adopted from: Illustrations with Photoshop: A Designer's Notebook 
 
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the final printed image will match the original. I usually work with formats larger than the printed size in order to gaindetail and sharpness, as you would in photography. But inthis case, increasing the resolution produces a more visiblegrain in the drawing. Of course, if you want more grain, itmight be worth scanning at 1200 dpi to create texture effectssimilar to a drawing pencil’s when seen extremely close up.Even when the basic drawing is done on paper, computer techniques can produce someinteresting effects. I do my initial sketch in blue pencil to lay out the shapes, and do a finalrendering with drawing pencil. When the drawing is scanned, the blue creates interestinghalftones that aren’t available with the drawing pencil. In Stage 2 we’ll see how interestingthose colors can be.Creating the High Terrace Illustration in Photoshop
Stage 2: Preparing the Layers
 Once the drawing is imported into Photoshop, the image must be convertedto sepia tones before the color work starts. For that, go to Image >Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, check the Colorize box, and use the sliders tocolorize the lines into brown, reddish ochre, or yellow. This simple methodgives a pleasant silkiness to the line, an effect reinforced by the conversionof the original line, which is a mix of blue and drawing pencil. In sepia, theblue yields halftones that are more delicate than if the entire drawing hadbeen done with a drawing pencil. The resulting image is easier to view butretains its basic structure.Adding color successfully depends on the colors not competing with the
 
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lines in the drawing, which they might otherwise weaken. At the same time, you don’t wantthe sketch to overpower the colors. It’s a matter of finding the right balance.The choice of sepia is dictated by technical rather than aesthetic considerations. Browntones are the result of a mixing of all the colors, so when the picture is colored, the paintcolors will blend more easily with the lines. If I had rendered the original line in blue orgreen, the edges between line and color would be more distinct and less subtle. Using sepiaisn’t an absolute rule, of course, but it does give the drawing some softness while preservingits descriptive power.I then create two new layers. From the Layers palette, I set the background layer (the sepiadrawing) in Multiply mode, and insert it between these two virgin layers. My wholeapproach is to put colors on what I call the
under layer 
, beneath the sepia line drawing layer,and adding detail and finish to the layer above it, in the
over layer 
.

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