January 2011 ArticlesJanuary 2011 Articles

27 Jan

Comic Product Graphics

How to Convert Inked Comics to Vector Art

image of Etched Pint Glass

TM & © 2011 Marvel Entertainment

Pint Glass for sale at www.taverncraft.com.

The graphics for this licensed product started with a black and white inked comic drawing. Comics are illustrated and inked on paper. The inked illustration is then scanned to a high resolution tiff file. The tiff file must be converted to vector art for product graphics like this.

Illustrator has some built in settings that make this conversion simple and easy to do. Here are the steps to create a clean vector art dawing from an inked comic tiff.

First examine the inked image in Photoshop. Erase or paint out any characters or background art that won’t be used in the final graphics.

image of original art

This is the original art. TM & © 2011 Marvel Entertainment. The background illustrations were removed by painting with white in Photoshop.

Next increase the image contrast by using levels. Move the left (black point) slider to the right darkening any grey pixels in the file. Move the right (white point) slider to the left, removing any light highlight pixels.

images of levels

The edited file should be completely white or black. Here is a close up view.

image of before and after

Now you are ready to work in Illustrator. Create a new Illustrator file at letter size or larger. Place the edited inked image in the new Illustrator layout. Leave the image at full size. It’s best to start with an oversized image and scale it down after it is coverted to vector.

With the image selected go to “Tracing Options”. There are two good preset options, Comic Art or Inked Drawing. Surprisingly, or maybe not too surprisingly they both do an excellent job. Click “Expand” to complete the conversion.

The button between "Live Trace" and "Mask" at the top of the screen provides a menu of Live Trace options. You can also go to Object>Live Trace>Tracing Options...

image of live trace

After you click "Expand" the image will display as a selected graphic, shown below.

spidey vector

There is one major difference between the two presets. Comic Art creates two colors, white and black. Inked Drawing creates one color, black only. With Inked Drawing all white areas are actually transparent. If the final design includes an inked character over other graphics, using the Comic Art setting may provide the best desired result. Delete the white graphic that is surrounding the character to reveal the background.


image of live trace results

The final vector art is scaled, masked and combined with vector logos and borders for a great looking product graphic.

image of final spidey art

Categories

Read more.

21 Jan

Sidewalk Salvation

HDR composite image

This image is currently hanging in the Escondido Municipal Arts Gallery as part of the PAG show, “Shadows”. The show runs through February 5th, 2011. “Sidewalk Salvation” is one of the first successful images I created using an experimental process I call HDR compositing. As I explore this technique my workflow will no doubt evolve, but at this moment in time I want to document and share what I have discovered so far.

final image

The idea to create HDR composites came completely by accident when I added a mismatched image to Photomatix Pro. The resulting image was surprisingly cool but completely accidental.

image of first accidental HDR composite

I tried this mismatched processing a couple dozen more times for some not so successful images. It took some time and a lot of failed attempts before I came up with the following workflow.

Original HDR Frames

I start with a three bracketed scene.

image of bracket 1

image of bracket 2

image of bracket 3

These bracketed images were shot hand held in down town San Diego. I took these when I was just starting to explore HDR. I wasn’t equipped with a tri-pod.

I loved this scene when I shot it, but was less enthused after seeing it on my big monitor. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. At some point I realized the skewed vertical lines were causing part of the problem, but straightening them didn’t make me love the picture. I didn’t give up on it though.

Mismatched Frame

I chose the valley picture because I liked the contrast between city and country settings. I also thought the sky blue and clouds would interact nicely with the mostly grey sidewalk.

Pre aligning the images in Photoshop allows me some control over the composition. I can get a good idea of how the composited scenes will align with each other, and what the overall composition might look like.

image of valley

Align the HDR Fames

HDR processing software has image alignment built in, but I quickly discovered that this doesn’t work with composites. The fourth mismatched image throws everything off and makes it impossible for the software to align the first three images. My work around is to stack everything in Photoshop layers and pre-align them there.

I start with a 16 bit, layered Photoshop file that includes the three original HDR frames. I use Auto-Align Layers on the auto setting to align the three layers. Auto-align will get things close but not always perfect. I set my layer mode temporarily to “difference” to check alignment, adjusting the layer position until there are no white edges.

image of difference mode layers not alligned

The white halo shows that these layers are not aligned.

image of difference mode layers alligned

Align the layers until the image is as dark as you can get it. These layers are aligned.

If the HDR brackets were shot with a tripod they would already be aligned when layered in Photoshop. Still it’s a good idea to double check with the “difference” layer mode.

Once the layers are aligned I select all three layers and transform, scale and crop as needed. This is when I straightened the vertical walls in the sidewalk image.

Save Individual Tiffs

I name the layers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and run an action that saves each layer out to it’s own individual 16 bit tiff file.

Photomatix Pro

The four tiffs are loaded into Photomatix Pro as the bracketed images. An exposure settings window appears because the fourth image does not fit into the exposure bracketed values of the first three images. I change the exposure value for each image depending on the lightness values.

Align Source Image must be turned off. This ensures the first three images stay aligned. The automatic and semi manual deghosting feature is not necessary for this composite.

The tonemapping process is identical to any other HDR image. I play with the sliders until I get what I like.

Final Retouching

Final retouching, sharpening and color corrections are done back in Photoshop.

Categories

Read more.

14 Jan

Dealing With Jpeg Logos

What to do when a client gives you a jpeg logo file

The first thing I do when I client sends me a jpeg logo is complain. I try not to complain out loud. My clients just want me to take care of it. They don’t want to hear me complain. Still I admit sometimes I get aggravated. There are so many people in sales and marketing that don’t understand why their jpeg logo is worthless for printing. Here’s an article I wrote to help explain why, When Vector Art is Really Vector.

Next I explain that the jpeg logo will not print satisfactorily and I asked for a vector eps file. Sometimes all I have to do is ask, and my client sends me the correct file. Sometimes my client can’t locate a vector version of their logo. When this happens I take these three steps to solve the problem.

  1.  I go straight to BrandsOfTheWorld.com. This is a fantastic resource for vector logos. Logos can always be found for large, established companies. Be careful though because some of the logos are older, out dated versions. I always reference the company website to see the most current branding.
  2. I search websites for PDF files that contain branding for my client. PDFs are goldmines for graphic content, especially logos. Most often the PDF can be opened in illustrator and the original vector version of the logo can located.
  3. I tell my client that I have to redraw their logo and it will cost them a minimum of one hour of my time. (This usually gets my client complaining and they return to searching for the original vector version of their logo.) Matching fonts is the biggest challenge for a logo redraw. Myfonts.com has a great resource called WhatTheFont. Upload a jpeg file to WhatTheFont and it will suggest possible font options. It’s a great service and it’s free.

Categories

Posted in:

Read more.

07 Jan

Illustrator Image Links

Beginner Tutorial For Placing Images In Adobe Illustrator

The first thing I do when I client sends me a jpeg logo is complain. I try not to complain out loud. My clients just want me to take care of it. They don’t want to hear me complain. Still I admit sometimes I get aggravated. There are so many people in sales and marketing that don’t understand why their jpeg logo is worthless for printing. Here’s an article I wrote to help explain why, When Vector Art is Really Vector.

Next I explain that the jpeg logo will not print satisfactorily and I asked for a vector eps file. Sometimes all I have to do is ask, and my client sends me the correct file. Sometimes my client can’t locate a vector version of their logo. When this happens I take these three steps to solve the problem.

  1.  I go straight to BrandsOfTheWorld.com. This is a fantastic resource for vector logos. Logos can always be found for large, established companies. Be careful though because some of the logos are older, out dated versions. I always reference the company website to see the most current branding.
  2. I search websites for PDF files that contain branding for my client. PDFs are goldmines for graphic content, especially logos. Most often the PDF can be opened in illustrator and the original vector version of the logo can located.
  3. I tell my client that I have to redraw their logo and it will cost them a minimum of one hour of my time. (This usually gets my client complaining and they return to searching for the original vector version of their logo.) Matching fonts is the biggest challenge for a logo redraw. Myfonts.com has a great resource called WhatTheFont. Upload a jpeg file to WhatTheFont and it will suggest possible font options. It’s a great service and it’s free.

Recently I had the privilege of working on a music CD cover design with a friend of mine. My friend is a professional photographer and instructor. His Photoshop skills and eye for design are top notch, but he has minimal working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator. That’s where I came in. Working with him made me realize that some of Illustrator’s basic tools aren’t all that intuitive. My friend couldn’t figure out how to replace the linked Photoshop image with a corrected version. He inspired this article.

PLACING AN IMAGE
Unfortunately there is no keyboard shortcut to place an image in Illustrator. Go to menu File>Place…, which brings up a finder dialog box. Navigate to and select your image.

BEFORE CLICKING PLACE – look at the options at the bottom of the window. Enable: “All Readable Documents” Is the default setting. Leave it as is.

Make sure the link check box is selected. This one is REALLY IMPORTANT. Here’s why:
If the link check box is not selected then the image will be embedded in the Illustrator layout. The image should be linked, not embedded. There are all kinds of reasons why I prefer to link images but here’s the most important one.
A linked image will automatically update in the Illustrator layout if it has been edited outside of Illustrator. An embedded image is separate form the original file and will not update if changes are made. I explain more under EDITING LINKED IMAGES.

Illustrator Links Dialog Window
After checking the link box, click Place.

WORKING WITH LINKED IMAGES
You can move and scale the image with Illustrator’s selection tool, though I recommend against scaling images in Illustrator. I prefer to create my images at the correct size and resolution before placing them in Illustrator.

If the layers panel is not displayed in your workspace. Go to Windows>Layers
Lock the layer the image is placed on. Do this by clicking the lock icon next to the eyeball on the Layers panel.

Illustrator Lock Layer

Add a new layer by clicking the page icon on the layers panel. Now you can add graphics and text to the new layer (Layer 2) without disturbing the image on the layer below.

image of Illustrator Add Layer

MANAGING PLACED IMAGES
Illustrator manages images with the Links panel. Go to Windows>Links if the links panel is not displayed in your workspace.  The Links Panel looks a lot like the Layers panel. Make sure you are in the correct panel by checking the name in the upper left.
All images contained in your Illustrator layout will be listed here.

image of Links Panel

An icon with a square and a triangle means that your image was embedded, not linked. If you see this icon you should start over.

image of Embedded Icon

Select the image by clicking on it. This will activate the buttons at the bottom of the panel. From left to right, here is what these icons do.

Relink – this brings up a finder navigation window so that you can choose a replacement image. The new image will replace the current image and scale to fill the same space.

Go to Link – selects the image (even if it is on a locked layer).

Update Link – If the image was edited outside of Illustrator and not automatically updated, clicking this button will update the image. A warning icon next to the image displays when the image needs to be updated. The layer with the image has to be “unlocked” for this button to work.

image of Warning Icon

Edit Original – this opens the image in the editing application set by your finder preferences. Photoshop files will open in Photoshop. Jpeg images may open in Preview (Mac). You can change this preference by opening the file info dialog box in your finder.

EDITING LINKED IMAGES
After placing graphics and text on or around your image you may decide your image needs some edits. Use the Edit Original icon to open the image in Photoshop. Make your edits and save the file.

image of Edit Original Button

When returning to Illustrator you may get this message “Some files are missing or modified in the links panel. Would you like to update them now?” Click Yes. If you click No a warning symbol will show next to the image in the Links panel. Clicking Yes will update the image without having to unlock the layer.
If the image is embedded instead of being linked the Update Link button and Edit Original button will not work.

There are lots of other Links panel options in the fly out window. Try them all out to see what they do.

image of Links Fly Out

Categories

Posted in:

Read more.

02 Jan

1 Tip for composing panoramas

How to capture a good composition.

Panorama Lookout
Panoramas are a lot of fun and pretty easy to create with Photoshop’s Photomerge filter. They are also kind of magical because it is almost impossible to visualize the final image while shooting the frames.

Composition is critical to me, even more important than image content. I can love a picture just because it is beautifully composed, regardless of the content. Panorama compositions are difficult to visualize and hard to control. This can be frustrating especially when the composition of the final stitched image doesn’t hold up or worse yet it distracts from the subject.

I’ve found one simple rule that has greatly improved the quality of my panorama compositions.

Choose end frames that anchor the scene.

It doesn’t matter how wide an angle your panorama spans or how many frames it takes to cover the entire scene. Start by deciding on the first frame and the last frame. Visualize how these frames anchor each end of the panorama. Shoot all of the frames in between after determining the start and end.

My family and I took a hike on New Years day. When we reached the lookout point I knew what I wanted to capture. I positioned them on each side of me to create the anchors. Everyone looked toward the vista. The panorama spans 180˚. The final image looks like they are facing in toward each other but in reality all three are looking the same direction.

Here are the original frames. (I had to remove my tripod shadow from the final image).
panorama original frames

Here is another panorama of the same scene. I used the same rule to compose this scene although I didn’t stage it with my family. I consciously composed the scene by starting with the rocky mountain and ending with the shadowy, brushy hill.
Ramona Lookout Panorama

Categories

Read more.

01 Jan

New Years Resolutions

New Year

Today starts a new year and the last year of my forties. It's a great time to reflect on where I have been and think about where I want to go. 2010 was a year of personal growth, creative inspiration and new friends. I want to springboard the positive from 2010 forward into 2011. Here are my goals in no particular order.

  1. Be more social.
  2. Do a better job of letting the people I care about, know that I care about them.
  3. Write more and share more by adding new content to my website every week.
  4. Draw because it is fun.
  5. Learn more HTML and CSS.
  6. Seek out people who creatively inspire me.
  7. Get back to martial arts and start training for my 2nd degree black belt.
  8. Stay healthy.
  9. Take more pictures.
  10. Learn how to surf. (This has been on my list every year since I was about 14. I'm not giving up on it yet.)

Categories

Posted in:

Read more.