Even MORE tricks you can use in Photoshop (or other image editing software) to create awesome, new products from Public Domain Artwork, Photos and Illustrations
By Tony Laidig
www.publicdomainblog.com www.thepublicdomainexpert.com www.publicdomainmagazinesecrets.com www.tonysyardsale.com
© 2008 – Tony Laidig. All rights reserved.
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Photoshop Tricks, Part 3
Using Public Domain image resources for creating new, hybrid designs is one of the smartest and easiest ways to expand your product creation skills. Think about it, rather than having to start your illustration, painting, clip art, etc. from scratch, you can begin your creative journey with already proven works that were created by others. It’s like working as an artist’s apprentice and having full permission to use any of the master’s works for free…which, of course, you CAN because they are in the Public Domain.
In the past Photoshop tricks installments, we looked at tricks to enhance your Themed Collections, tricks to convert photographs into line art, and tricks to convert photographs into illustrations using the Expressions software. In this installment, I want to expand upon the photo to line art trick with some killer, new examples. I’m also going to share a trick I use to take an ordinary illustration and give it a unique cultural flair using language characters. Let’s get started…
Case Study One: The Lighthouses Back in the early 1980’s, I moved from Pennsylvania to southern New Jersey and lived there for 10 years. I met and married my wife there. Because I was a “mountains” kind of guy, living at the shore took some getting use to, but there were a few fascinations unique to that environment that I really grew to love. One of those shore-related fascinations for me was the lighthouse. I just love the amazing variety of designs of these structures. So for this first case study, I decided to use various photographs of lighthouses to create a new work of art. One of the best places to obtain photos and information on historic lighthouses is the U.S. Coastguard Site (http://www.uscg.mil/history/USCGLightList.html). Of course, the images are all in the Public Domain and are categorized by state. I spent a little time searching for some images that would suit my needs and picked about a dozen, and then reduced that number down to five different
lighthouses. Many of the photos were low-resolution, but I’m going to show you how to get around that issue in just a minute. Here is one of the photos I chose:
I imported all five photos into Photoshop and proceeded to scale and silhouette each one so that only the lighthouse building itself remained. I also scaled each image to a higher resolution from the small 75dpi images I downloaded. Anytime you scale up images in image processing software, you will get blocky artifacts. However, with the trick I’m using for this image, the artifacts will not really be an issue, as you’ll soon see.
As I mentioned, the various lighthouse images had varying degrees of artifacts from enlarging, from blurriness to fuzzy blocks of typical compression-related “jaggies.” To get rid of this issue completely, I used a simple Photoshop filter called “Poster Edges” (Filter => Artistic => Poster Edges…). This filter basically
enhances all the primary edges in an image by turning them to black. After experimenting with the settings, I was pleased with the “look” the preview window showed. So I applied the filter. The next step I needed to take was to remove the gray areas that still remained from applying the filter. I removed those by adjusting the Levels (Image => Adjustments => Levels…).
You’ll notice in my Levels settings that I have the shadow, midtone and highlight settings all at the same point. Adjusting the settings in this way causes everything in the image to be either black or white. Using this setting in Levels works very similar to the Threshold function, but gives you a little more flexibility.
The next step for my Lighthouse Project was to add five different color bands, one band for each lighthouse. I had set guides to two inches apart and centered each lighthouse within the guides, and then proceeded to add the colors. I wanted to use bright colors for this project so I went with basics, red, blue, purple, green and yellow. Once I filled the five bands with the colors, I set the color layers to “Multiply” so that the lighthouse illustrations would show through the colors.
You can see the end result above. Next, I wanted to give the impression of the lighthouse light shining, so I created a starburst using one Path tool and then used it to delete a section from each color band that corresponded to the location of each beacon. Here is the finished result.
The next thing I did was to center the images in the white space and added thin white divider lines between each panel.
Next, I decided that the white looked a bit weak for what I wanted to accomplish with the image, so I made all the white border areas black.
As a finishing touch, I added the word, “Lighthouses” to the bottom and added my signature and copyright notice (since it is now a new creation). Here is the end result. Please also not that the final size is large enough to print posters…not bad considering the original images were only 75 dpi!
I hope you realize that you can use this process for nearly any photograph… especially those from the Public Domain. Let me give you one more example.
Case Study Two: Sitting Bull As I’ve shared in other writings, both my wife and I come from a Native American heritage. My wife’s heritage is Lakota, and one of the most prominent, wellknown leaders from Lakota history is Sitting Bull, so I decided to put this Photoshop trick to use using a popular image of Sitting Bull from the Library of Congress. Here is a copy of the original image I used:
As with the lighthouse images, my first step in creating this new works of art was to convert the image of Sitting Bull into a high-contrast black and white image. Rather than begin with “Poster Edges” this time, however, I started with Levels.
You can see, once again that I have adjusted the sliders for shadows, midtones and hightlights to the same spot. You may need to experiment with your photograph to achieve the best balance of white and black. Once I was pleased with the balance of black and white, I applied the Level. Next, I went around the image and removed all the unwanted black areas so that only Sitting Bull’s face, hair and feather remained.
Next, I added another Layer and filled the entire layer with the color “red,” then set the color layer to multiply so that the Sitting Bull image would show through. I also added a black band at the bottom that would eventually be used for Sitting Bull’s name. Below is the result:
I decided that it might look cool to add a touch of white to the image (like I did with the lighthouse illumination), so I outlined the bottom area of the eagle feather on Sitting Bull’s head and deleted the area from the red layer so that the white background would show through. Lastly, I added Sitting Bull’s name to the back area and also added my signature and copyright information to the image. The final result is on the next page.
I also tried a variation of this piece that was similar to what I did with the Lighthouse color bands, but instead used the four colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel. The result of that experiment is on the next page.
I designed both the Lighthouses image and the Sitting Bull image as posters, but I could also easily use the same images for greeting cards, t-shirts and other garments, tote bags, rugs, tapestries and much more!
In reading through these two case studies, I hope you recognize two important points:
1) This is NOT a difficult process. I used Photoshop for these examples, but you can use nearly any image editing software (GimShop, PhotoPaint, etc.) to accomplish the same results.
2) The sky is the limit with this ONE idea as far as what is possible to create. Plus, because of the creative nature of this process, the end result is fully copyrightable as an original work created by you.
Of course, there are MANY variations possible on this design approach, so use your imagination…and most of all…HAVE FUN!
Case Study Three: Using Language Characters You probably never thought about it before, but, did you realize that alphabets are in the Public Domain? Now, the first thought that may have come into your mind was, “So what!” or “Big deal!” but you can actually do some really cool things with type and alphabet characters when used together with Public Domain images. In this case study, I’m going to show you two examples of how some simple steps with alphabet characters can make an ordinary image extraordinary.
The Hawk I love hawks! For whatever reason, I seem to have this keen sense to be drawn to them and where they are perched, even when others never see them. In my Public Domain image research, I came across a fantastic set of old prints, several of which featured hawks native to Japan. I was thrilled with the discovery and have used many of these images for products of different types. I would like to use one of these images to illustrate a clever trick you can use to take a plain old image and give it a little more zip…combining special alphabet characters with the image. As you’ll soon discover, I’m not doing anything fancy with these characters either…just presenting them as part of the design.
I chose the image on the left as the subject for this study. I found it at the following site: http://www.biolib.de/ It’s a pretty cool image but still shows the uneven edges that resulted from the scan. So the first thing I needed to do was clean up those edges, which I did easily in Photoshop by using the Eraser tool with a soft, 300px brush.
Next, I needed to find and add the special character I planned to use for the image. I simply chose the kanji character for “hawk.” Seems simple enough, right? Of course, I had no idea what that character was, or what it looked liked. The process for finding it, however, was very simple. I found an online dictionary where I could convert English into Japanese. You can find it here:
English => Japanese Dictionary http://www.online-dictionary.biz/english/japanese/
I simply typed in “hawk” and the result returned was the following kanji character:
I selected the character and pasted it right into Photoshop…it was that simple, well almost that simple! I had already prepared my computer to work with Middle and Far Eastern fonts, and for this cut-and-paste process to work this smoothly, you’ll need to make sure your computer can handle these languages. It’s a simple process. I’ll explain it here.
To enable world language support on your Windows computer, click on “Control Panel” and then click on “Regional and Language Options.” Once this window comes up, you’ll want to click on the “Languages” tab. Under this tab, you’ll want to make sure that both check boxes under “Supplemental Language Support” are checked. If they already are, you’re set and need to do nothing more. If they are not checked, you’ll want to check both and click “Okay,” This may require your need for the Windows install discs, depending on how your computer is configured. Once the install process is complete, your computer will be ready to display the Middle and Far Eastern fonts.
Okay, now that step is completed, we’re ready to move on. I’ve pasted the kanji character that represents the word “hawk” into Photoshop. I’ve found that, once you select the “Type” tool in Photoshop and click on the area where you want the type to past, it’s best to select the font you want to use BEFORE you paste the character into place. For this illustration, I used the font, “SimSun,” but there are several other similar fonts you can use. For a complete collection of all types of foreign language fonts, you may want to visit the Yamada Language Center website (http://babel.uoregon.edu/yamada/fonts.html). They have a great selection of fonts to pick from when working with foreign languages.
You can see in the illustration above that I have chosen SimSun and scaled the font to 112 pt. I also added an “Outer Glow” to the font under the layer “blending Options.” And that’s it! That’s all I did to this image, yet adding such a simple thing as a single character somehow seems to enhance the look and appearance of the final piece, which you can see on the next page. For our next example, however, we’ll take this process just a little further.
The Bear Several years ago, I was very blessed and honored to participate in a Cherokee Naming Ceremony, where a Cherokee Elder and Grandmother gave me a name, which in English means, “Bear Walks in the Light.” The name fits me well (if you know me) and it’s always been an honor for me to hold that name because, in our culture, they represent strength and healing—qualities I want to define my life. So because of that (and much before then, actually) I’ve had an affinity toward bears…hence my choice for this next image.
In Cherokee, the word for “bear” is “yona.” You can find this and other Cherokee translations using the English => Cherokee Dictionary at: http://www.wehali.com/tsalagi/. Because the Cherokee alphabet is actually a
syllabary (meaning, it’s characters represent syllables rather than individual letters) the two syllables “yo-na” are represented by the characters:
So these are the characters I’ll be using with the bear image I found for this case study.
I found the above image at one of my favorite Public Domain image sites, Visipix (http://www.visipix.com/). While the images shows two bears and the deer, I am only interested in the bear on the rock. So I open the image in Photoshop and silhouette the bear and the rock, removing everything else from the image. The end result looks like this:
Next I flip the image horizontally so that the bear is facing to the right, and then copy and paste my Cherokee characters into a new layer in my document. I add the English name “BEAR” and the Cherokee transliteration “YONA” to the bottom of the design and include a bear paw print as a final touch. Below is the final outcome.
Now, when I went looking for a bear paw image, I found a perfect image at a free clipart site. There was just one problem. The resolution was way too low, and when I enlarged the image to the size I needed it to be, it didn’t look good at all. I’m sure you’ve encountered this issue. Well there just happens to be another cool, little Photoshop
trick I know that completely solves this problem…so I’m going to outline it for you here. You can see in the image below that the illustration on the left shows the paw print in all it’s jagged glory, and the “jaggies” are what I’m out to get rid of. You’ll notice that, for the illustration on the right, I have opened the Gaussian Blur filter dialog box (Filter => Blur => Gaussian Blur…) and have begun to blur the image slightly. What you want to achieve here is to blur the image just enough to cause the jagged edges to appear smooth (although blurry). Be very careful to not go overboard with the settings—just move the slider to the point where the illustration smoothes out, and then click apply. For this instance, a setting of 3.8 did the trick!
Once we’ve blurred the image, we want to open up the Levels dialog box (Image => Adjustments => Levels…).
We are actually going to use the levels to Sharpen the image by forcing the gray areas to be either black or white. You can see in the image above how I have the shadow, midtone and highlight levels set. Unlike the earlier examples, you DO NOT want to have all three levels set on top of one another. This will cause the image to look rigid. Keeping the three levels close together, as above, will cause the image to sharpen smoothly and evenly. I’ve used this trick many times over the years and you can use it in all sorts of graphic situations, but especially when working with black and white illustrations.
In Conclusion It always amazes me how a few simple actions can sometimes produce amazing results. I was always reminded of this fact when a Nigerian artist friend of mine would come to visit. When I first met this friend, he was literally living out of his car…the true picture of the starving artist. Now, years later, his artwork is world-
renowned and owned by celebrities, political figures, museums and more. In more recent times, he would share with me how he creates his stunning works, and every time he told me how he created a certain effect, it always blew me away at how simple it was. Of course, you have to know the trick. Now you know a few more for your own art creations. Until the next batch…
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