Monday, April 28, 2014

Preparing Drawings in Photoshop

It was a busy weekend and I'm writing this on Monday instead of planning ahead!  My sister & brother-in-law own a small fitness business (I did all the branding design *shameless plug*) and every year they and some of their clients run in a local race.  I decided to bring my oldest son to run it while my youngest son had a father & son day.

I'm not athletic AT ALL but I was very proud of my sister, brother-in-law, and my cousin for running it.  It's hard work and I'm too lazy for running.  My son, Noah, however, is a born athlete and loved everything about the day: running his first race, watching the runners coming in, just everything!

Here's my handsome boy (and a peek at one of my nieces!).  He had a great day, I had a great day, and we're all pretty tired today!

Anyway, enough of my proud mommy ranting.... Let's get to the art!

First, I want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement.  I have a goal to professionally publish a doll.  It's not going to be Wicked Women, but it'll be something, sometime.  I'm not one to give up and I love creating too much to stop!

Today we're going to look at how I prepare my sketches.  For a long time, I would draw my doll base, trace it to create templates, draw the clothing on the templates, then trace all of that again to my watercolor paper in order to paint the final image.  There are some flaws with this method.  Like making a copy of a copy, some of the accuracy is lost in each tracing step.  That would mean hours of clean-up in Photoshop after spending hours painting!

What I've been trying to do now is fix the lines in Photoshop before I do anything else.  It's much easier to fix the fit and accuracy of the lines than it is to correct the painting after it's done.  I've been doing this for my recent dolls regardless of the final medium.

So here are my revised steps: draw a doll base, trace the doll to create templates, draw the outfits on the templates, scan & edit in Photoshop, print and trace (if painting). It's an extra step and an extra set of line drawings, but it's totally worth it.

Start by scanning your images.  I have a Canon Pixma scanner/printer and LOVE it! I scan my drawings at 600dpi.  I like high resolution so that 1) I can preserve as many details as possible and 2) images are clear when you shrink them but not when you enlarge them.

Once I have the images scanned, it's time to go to work.  I'm using Photoshop CS4.  I have the current Cloud version, but my antique computer has a hard time running it.  Any photo editing software should work for this.  I scanned my images in black & white.  I don't need colors for this project and scanning in color would have added to the files size, so I didn't bother.

The first thing I like to do is adjust the levels.  In Photoshop, go to Image>Levels.  Use the eyedroppers to adjust the image.  Select the white eyedropper, then click on your image until the white of your image because the "white" that you want.

Make any adjustments to the doll base before you edit your outfits!  In this case, I don't see anything I need to edit.  I'm happy with the lines, everything is pretty clean, and I'll be painting this in watercolors so it doesn't need to be totally perfect here.  I'm more interested in adjusting the accuracy of the fit on the clothes. Save this file as your doll base.

Next, open an outfit file.  I copy & paste it into the doll base file.  Be very careful about saving these files! There have been MANY times that I've accidentally over-written a file and it is not fun.

There should be two layers in the file: the doll base and the outfit.  Keep them on separate layers and name your layers! I set the outfit layer to Multiply and reduce the base layer to 50% opacity.  You can also lock the doll base layer if that helps.

When adjusting the outfits, I like to either fit the most difficult part, or maximize the total fit.  Here's what I mean.  On this doll, the head and right side fit well.  I can make small adjustments there and focus on bigger corrections elsewhere.  Here, I need to fix the left side (circled in red).  Keep in mind how the outfit will fit the doll.  I won't adjust the bodice here because that will be uncut white space on the final doll.  Don't waste time & effort on things no one will see.

There are so many ways to correct your drawings.  You can select & move sections around, use the Clone tool, or draw directly on the image.  I find myself doing this more.  It's just drawing, afterall, it doesn't matter if it's pencil on paper or stylus on tablet.  The red line here is my corrected line.  Choose the path of least resistance: I chose to redraw one line here instead of fiddling with the fit of the entire arm.  It's the easiest solution.  Once you draw your line, erase the old line immediately to avoid confusion.

Here's a place where I selected and moved the line on the arm.  The hand is a little trickier...

I erased the whole hand.  The fit was really off.  I kept the ring and the lines for the glove and got rid of the rest.

Instead of redrawing the hand, I went to the doll layer, selected the hand, and then right-clicked and selected Layer via Copy.  Place this new layer above the outfit and set it to multiply.  Erase any parts you don't need.

And that's it!  I only have 11 more to do... I joke, but this is so much easier than adjusting a final image.  Depending on the errors, adjusting an outline might take an hour or two.  Adjusting the final painting can take two or three times that amount.

Once I correct the fit, I'll add some of the details that would be hard to create by hand, such as repeating patterns.  That's what we'll look at next week.  Til then, have fun in Photoshop!

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