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A Tutorial on the Simple Power of the Illustration Program, Expressions
By Tony Laidig
© 2008 – Tony Laidig. All rights reserved. The Publisher has strived to be as accurate and complete as possible in the creation of this report, notwithstanding the fact that he does not warrant or represent at any time that the contents within are accurate due to the rapidly changing nature of the Internet. While all attempts have been made to verify information provided in this publication, the Publisher assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein. Any perceived slights of specific persons, peoples, or organizations are unintentional. In practical advice books, like anything else in life, there are no guarantees of income made. Readers are cautioned to reply on their own judgment about their individual circumstances to act accordingly. This book is not intended for use as a source of legal, business, accounting or financial advice. All readers are advised to seek services of competent professionals in legal, business, accounting, and finance fields. You are encouraged to print this book for easy reading.
Creating line illustrations from Public Domain photographs is a fairly simple process using the awesome program, Expressions, now from Microsoft. If you can trace, you can create a great looking illustration. Since I first introduced Expressions as a product creation tool in my popular report, “More Photoshop Tricks for Product Creation,” I’ve received numerous requests from subscribers asking that I produce a tutorial that showed, step-by-step, how I used Expressions with the photographs to create illustrations like the ones I shared in that report. So for the sake of this Case Study, I decided to create a brand-new illustration based on a Public Domain image of the WWII aircraft, the Grumman F4F “Wildcat” Fighter. The photograph I chose came from the Naval Historical Center website. Here is the exact page from where the image was download: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/ac-usn22/f-types/f4f.htm.
If you don’t currently have a copy of the Expressions software (which you will need for this tutorial Case Study), you can download a copy of it for FREE here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creature_House_Expression. Just look for the following
entry: “, direct link to above file, does not require registration” and click on the number “2.” Once you have downloaded the software and installed it, you’ll be ready to begin.
The first thing you obviously need to do is launch the program, and then create a new palette: File => New. Your screen should look similar to the screen on the following page. I’m not going to give you a tour of every tool and technique possible with this program—there are plenty of books, online tutorials and forums that can help you with that. What I am going to show you with this tutorial is simply what I stated earlier—how to create illustrations from photographs.
Okay, let’s begin. Once you have the new document ready, the first thing you’ll want to do is have the photograph you plan to use for your illustration ready to import. In my case, I’m using the plane I downloaded from the site I shared earlier. To import the image, I chose File => Import Bitmap. Figure 1 shows how this should appear. I selected the photo I wanted to use and clicked “Okay.” Figure 2 shows the plane illustrated imported into Expressions.
Now, in order for us to be able to trace over the photograph, we need to reduce the opacity level of the photo, similar to laying a layer of tracing paper over top of it. In order to accomplish this, I chose Objects => Set Opacities (see Figure 3), and then set the Fill Opacity for the photograph to 40% (see Figure 4). Apply the setting.
The last setting we need to adjust for the photograph is to lock it so that, as we begin to draw our lines, the background image will be unselectable. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step. To lock the background image (Figure 5), RightMouse Click on the photograph. When the dialog box comes up, click on, “Lock Object.” Once you apply the lock, you’ll notice that you will not be able to select the photograph by clicking on it.
Okay, you’re ready to begin drawing the lines!
We’re going to begin our tracing by starting with the large wing, primarily because it’s the largest foreground object. Expressions provides a number of methods for drawing, but for most of this tutorial, we’ll just use the brush tool. So you’ll want to select the brush tool, choose “skeletal strokes” as a Paint Style, set a line width, line color and choose an actual stroke from the Strokes menu. I’ve highlighted these areas along with my choices. When you draw your first line, you’ll notice points along the path. These are edit nodes that allow you to shape the line (Bezier curve) however you
SKELETAL STROKE ENDING POINT OF LINE EDIT NODES STARTING POINT OF LINE
need to shape it. I’ll share more on them in a few minutes. I also want to mention here that because the lines are always fully editable, you don’t have to worry about perfection. You can change all the attributes of every line at any time, including the shape, stroke, thickness and color (which is why I love this program.
Next, I finish the outline for the wing. It’s okay if the lines don’t match the contour perfectly, because we will go back and edit the nodes and curves exactly how they need to be.
LINE THICKNESS ADJUSTMENT
The thickness of the lines can also be adjusted under the paint style setting. To edit the shape of the line, choose the “Node” tool and then click on one of the nodes. You’ll see the editing adjustment control appear. Left-mouse click and drag the control to change the shape of the line to fit the line you want to trace. You will also see a control point on the trailing edge of
the line. This control adjuster changes the thickness of the line. This is the same thickness adjustment as in the Paint Style dialog box.
Here is the wing once I’ve finished adjusting the nodes. One thing I usually do is delete all the nodes in a line except for the beginning and end ones. By using just the end nodes to shape your line, you can achieve a much smoother curve or straight line. You’ll also notice that the line thicknesses are different. The main edges of the wing are 10 pt, while the edge at the plane’s body is 7 pt.
DELETE EXTRA CONTROL NODES USING THE NODE SUBTRACT TOOL
S03 BRUSH WITH A THICKNESS OF 10PT
PERFECT FELT BRUSH WITH A THICKNESS OF 10PT POINTED LEAF BRUSH WITH A THICKNESS OF 7PT
Next, I trace the tail section and delete all the unnecessary nodes. Then I adjust the control nodes to fit the contour of the tail. For now, the line passes through the tail wing. We’ll fix that when we create the tail wing in a later step. You’ll also notice that I used a 5 pt. line since the tail section is further back on the plane.
NOTICE THAT THE ONLY EDIT NODES THAT REMAIN ARE THE ONES AT EACH MAJOR CURVE
To draw the back section of the fuselage, I switched back to the S03 Brush, keeping it at 5 pt. to match the tail fin. I used this brush because I wanted to begin the fuselage line at the wing line and then trail off at the back of the tail.
NOTICE THAT I BEGAN THE LINE IN THE WING LINE AND THEN TRAILED IT OFF AT THE END
HERE IS THE COMPLETED TAIL SECTION.
Next, still using the brush tool, I draw the bottom fuselage line, beginning forward near the wheel assembly and extending to the back of the plane. You can see the nodes that resulted from drawing the line freehand. I ultimately deleted all the edit nodes except for the ones at the ends of the line and the node at the bend at the back of the tail section. I then shaped the line using the Node tool to match the contour of the fuselage.
I zoomed into the tail section of the plane to make sure that all the lines converged into one point. If your mouse has a center wheel (commonly used for scrolling), you can use the wheel to easily zoom in and out. You’ll also notice that the lines remain sharp regardless of how much you zoom in or out. This is one of the great benefits of working with a vector-based program.
TURN OFF “OUTLINE” HERE TURN ON “FILL” HERE
SET “FILL COLOR” BY LEFT-CLICKING ON THE COLOR YOU WANT HERE
I drew the tail wing next using a similar approach to the one I used for the lead wing. With this wing, however, we need to block out the line from the tail fin. To accomplish this, I drew a second shape using the Polyline tool, being careful to make sure the lines were trapped by the wing outline I previously drew. For this shape, I didn’t need the outline, but needed it filed to “White,” so I turned off the “Outline” and turned on the “Fill.” When I filled the shape, it filled at a 40% opacity because of my setting the background at 40%. I changed the by clicking on Objects =>Set Opacities.
Once I’ve changed the opacity to 100%, I need to move the filled shape behind the outlines for the tail wing, but still on top of the tail fin line. Everything drawn in Expressions is on it’s own “Layer” and it’s position in the layer stack can be easily adjusted. Think of the different objects as a stack of pancakes. You can move any line or shape “up” or “down” in this stack by selecting it and then pushing the “Page Up” or “Page Down” keys on your computer. In this case a pushed the “Page Down” several times until the shape was beneath the tail wing outlines.
You can also use the Menu command for moving your outline or shape, as shown here. You can see the end result of our move.
Next, I moved onto drawing the lines for the nose section of the fuselage using the same brushes and drawing techniques as before.
After drawing the line for the rounded nose section, I deleted all the edit nodes except for the end nodes and one in the middle of the rounded shape. Next, I used the remaining edit nodes to reshape the line to fit the nose section on the photograph.
You can see the finished result here along with how the edited nodes appear.
Next comes the plane’s other wing. Notice that I have the line thickness set to 3 pt. since the wing is more distant than the leading edge wing. You can use this line thickness method to easily convey depth and perspective in your illustration.
THE “OBJECT SELECT” TOOL
THE REAR LANDING GEAR ASSEMBLY IS MOVED BEHIND THE FUSELAGE LINE.
With the rear landing gear, I used the same technique for blocking out the “Wheel” as I used with the tail wing. Once the landing gear assembly was drawn, I used the “Object Select” tool to select all the elements that make up the assembly (hold the left-mouse button down and then click in the objects you want to select) and then move them behind the fuselage outline using “Page Down.”
After drawing in the cockpit area, the basic design of the airplane is finished. This is what the F4F looks like so far. Next, I’m going to begin adding details.
Using the same outline and fill techniques I’ve used for the other sections of our drawing, I drew the propeller assembly. You’ll also notice that I filled the rounded nose outline to black, and all the motor assembly pieces to white to achieve the “look” I was after for this section.
Next, using the various shapes available in Expressions, I re-created the star emblem on the leading wing. The box in the emblem was outlined using the S21 stroke. I also needed to transform the shapes of each object so that they would match the photograph. This can be easily accomplished using the Transformation Tools. In this case, I used the “Rotate” and “Shear” tools to shape the individual objects as needed.
I continued adding details to the airplane by drawing the wheel assembly, and by emphasizing prominent features on the wing and fuselage. The wheel itself is simply a series of ovals stacked on top of one another with varying degrees of line thickness or fill.
To add the fuselage emblem, I had to draw each shape freehand so that it would match the curve of the airplane’s body.
THE TYPE TOOL USED FOR ADDING THE NUMBER “1”
THE FONT STYLE AND SIZE ARE CHANGED HERE
After adding additional various details, including the number “1” that was shown in the photograph, an oval to represent the propeller, and additional details on the wings, we have our completed F4F illustration. I could have chosen to add more details, but didn’t feel it was necessary for this illustration.
Now that our illustration is complete, we no longer need the photograph. So I right-mouse clicked on the photograph and chose “Unlock Object” from the dialog box. That made the photograph selectable again, so I then deleted it. By the way, as a side note, make sure you save your project as you’re working on it. I’d hate to se you lose all your hard effort from a computer or software malfunction.
Here is our completed illustration. Once finished, it needs to be exported from Expressions in a format that can be used by other programs. I typically choose to export the file as a PDF.
To export the illustration as a PDF, I clicked on File => Export => PDF Export….
The PDF Export dialog box offers several setting choices, I always choose the maximum settings for both “Rasterization resolution” and “Bitmap Strokes Vectorization.” I also make sure all the boxes are checked except “Bitmap strokes.”
I imported the illustration into Photoshop and added some description text (which could have easily been done in Expressions as well) to finish our “original” Grumman F4F “Wildcat” Fighter illustration, pictured here.
Here you can see the original photograph together with the final, completed illustration. The end result turned out great!
What’s really exciting about this illustration method I just showed you, is that the possibilities for creating original illustrations in this manner are nearly limitless, limited only your imagination and the number of Public Domain photographs that exist (which are in the tens of millions). Of course, you can also use this same method with your own photographs as well!
On the next page, I’ve included some of the various illustrations I’ve created using this method (some of which were then colorized in Photoshop).
All the illustrations in my Bulliana Jones comic (including me) were drawn in Expressions and then colorized in Photoshop.
Both the eagle and the bear above were drawn in Expressions as well. The biggest difference with these illustrations was my choice of brush. Rather than use the smooth, line brushes I used in the F4F illustration, I used the “Scribble” brush for some of the lines to give a rougher, hand-drawn appearance.
All the illustrations here are based on photographs. The top two illustrations were drawn from Edward Curtis photographs from the Public Domain. The bottom two dancers were based on photographs I took…the first of my daughter dancing fancy shawl at a powwow and the second of a good friend of mine dancing at a community fair event. I used all the same techniques for these illustrations that were used for the F4F illustration. The one exception is the custom brush stroke I created for the eagle feathers. There are plenty of help files and tutorials online for you if you want to create your own brushes. The gold accents were added in Photoshop.
I hope this tutorial has helped and encouraged you to experiment with these techniques in Expressions. Perhaps you’ve never considered yourself an artist, or couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler. This process makes it easy because if you don’t like how something looks, you can always edit it. You also may be think, “How is this going to help me in my business?” Well, perhaps it won’t directly, but it’s always interesting to see what a little creativity can do with tools and techniques, such as those I outlined in this tutorial. Personally, I’ve used the illustrations I’ve created for successful lines of greeting and Christmas cards, posters and t-shirts. But I’ve also begun using these types of illustrations in my marketing strategies. The Bulliana Jones cartoon is one example of that. So it’s up to you. I mean, think about it, I just handed you a method for creating hundreds of original illustrations in nearly any niche imaginable, and you don’t even have to know how to draw. The plane illustration took me (without doing the screen grabs and documentation) about 10 – 15 minutes. With some focus and determination, you could easily create a whole series of related illustrations based on Public Domain photographs in just a matter of hours. I can picture new clipart CDs for eBay, content for microstock sites like iStockPhoto, postings on social networking sites like Flickr and more. Use your imagination, and above all else, have fun!
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