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27 September 2006

Ask MeCha - Photoshop Question
How do you take a photograph and turn it into something that looks like an illustration? Does it have something to do with vectors? Because I know nothing about vectors. Like this for instance - how would I take a black and white photo of a camera and make it look like that?

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by iconomy 27 September | 12:50
You could take a photograph and trace it in a vector program like Illustrator or Flash. That's one way for sure (with all the benefits that accompany it being in vector format).

But since you asked about photoshop, you can take a similar approach in photoshop using the shape tools and pen tools. Think paths: layer clipping path and work paths. Also, you can tweak your base image some using filters (like watercolor -- just use care in your settings -- think light touch) to make the photorealistic image more illusrative before you do your path work with the tools.

Does this help any? Can supply more deets or e-mail in profile.
posted by safetyfork 27 September | 13:06
Poor grammar, missing letters and such... it's the end of the lunch hour. Sigh.
posted by safetyfork 27 September | 13:08
Thanks, safetyfork! I have to admit that I don't know what paths or masks or any of those things are. I can barely operate my imaging software... I'm a photoshop 'tard. I don't really know what vectors are, and I don't have flash or illustrator or any of that good stuff!

I've been messing with this. Here are some cameras. The first line is the originals. The second line is me adjusting the contrast up to 100% and lowering the brightness. The third line is me saving the image as a monochrome bitmap in MS Paint. They look like crap, although the third is better than the second. I might have to just go with one of these, because I don't have the skills to do more!

Ooo I like your idea about using filters though! To make it look a little more like an illio. I'm going to try that now. Thanks!

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by iconomy 27 September | 13:11
Oh that was a great idea. Look how much better they look! I ran them through a filter called Xpose that does fine highlight and shadow adjusting.

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by iconomy 27 September | 13:16
Do you want to scale these up or down for printing later?
posted by safetyfork 27 September | 13:20
... like printing on buttons or stickers and such.
posted by safetyfork 27 September | 13:21
OMG I have an Argoflex 75!!!! Do you have any shots on your flickr from yours? Or do you use it for TTV? I found this guy who uses his for TTV.
posted by matildaben 27 September | 13:27
Yep, I do want to scale them down, safetyfork. Not necessarily these photos - I was using them for an example. Although if I do use the Argoflex I'll send one to matildaben ;)

I don't use an argo for ttv, mats, I use a duaflex and an anscoflex. Do you have any shots on flickr that you took with yours? I'd love to see them! The quality of the photos is amazing.
posted by iconomy 27 September | 13:30
Iconomy, click the link I put on "Argoflex 75", or search my tags for "argoflex". I don't use it too often because I have to hand-roll 120 film onto the 620 reel. But it sure looks cool.
posted by matildaben 27 September | 14:09
I s-s-swear there was a lifehacker post recently linking to a tutorial to kinda-sorta get the "A Scanner Darkly" effect in photoshop, which is maybe a little more cartoony than you want but you'll want to finetune any process anyway. Googling for keywords "scanner darkly" and photoshop comes up with several suggestions. When I've done this in the past, it basically meant doing the super contrast deal and hand drawing any pieces that I didn't like or that didn't turn out on a layer over the output.

If you absolutely positively don't want to upscale the graphic (i.e. you're only printing on small things like buttons and stickers) then vectors are overkill. Vectors are used for things like fonts, graphics and logos that need to be printed at lots of different sizes without distortion. However, I seem to remember reading about a piece of intelligent software that tried to guess a vector form from existing raster images by extrapolating relevant curves and whatnot. Humhumhum, that would be a pretty useful tool to have in the old toolkit. This search finds quite a few actually. Dunno if they're any good, tho.

There's always good, 'ol fashioned tracing paper, too. Goodness forbid. =)
posted by Skwirl 27 September | 14:27
This is been sitting in preview and sort of matches with what Skwirl says (the new illustrator has live trace which is supposed to offer a more intelligent tracing of bitmaps than the current trace tool):

Only because you said you didn't know much about vectors do I raise this. It's to your advantage to use vector format over bitmap format if you want to scale line art up / down to match physical format of what you'll print this on.

Your project can be done with bitmap files though: jpg, tiff, gif -- etc. Especially if you're only going to scale down and you have a sufficient resolution to print with. But vector format essentially uses math to redraw your shape as you scale up and down. It's not the greatest format for photo realism as you would imagine, but for illo art and typographic stuff its quite handy.

That said, you mentioned you don't have illustrator or flash, you should be fine with photoshop scaling down.

posted by safetyfork 27 September | 14:49
Why sitting in preview? Check your e-mail.
posted by safetyfork 27 September | 15:04
A couple of things: you can try the "cutout" filter (under "artistic" in the filters) or you can "posterize" (image > adjustments > posterize), then - and this is a really useful thing to know about for all kinds of photoshop stuff - you can "fade" the effect, by going to edit > fade cutout (or fade posterize or whatever the last thing was you did to the image). You can only fade immediately after doing something to the image... once you go on to do anything else, that option disappears.

Other stuff: sometimes it's helpful to use the "noise" filters "dust and scratches" and/or "despeckle" for the sort of thing you are doing to round it out a bit. You can use those before or after playing with contrast or posterize, for example.

A little trick I use a lot, for all kinds of effects is to apply filters, color, whatever to an image, copy that, then paste it on top of the original image and use layers > layer style > blending options to reduce the opacity of that top layer. So you could use an art effect filter, or a brush stroke filter, or a high contrast image or posterized variation on top of the original image, reduce the opacity of that as much as you want, then erase stuff from the top and bottom layers to get the look you want.

I've never found any one particular thing to work for doing this kind of "faux illustration" thing - just try all sorts of different effects to get what you want, though the "cutout" filter can often work well (and sometimes I do cutouts of cutouts). For what it's worth, I've always found the sorts of images you're using here - images that are already contrast-y without a lot of detail - to be much harder to "illustrify" than other images, though it seems like they would be easier.

By the way, not that it's useful for this, but you should get the Cybia Alphaworks plugin for transparency effects, if you don't already have this or something like it... I use this all the time - one of the most useful filters for me.

posted by taz 27 September | 17:59
Turbulence. || Suggestions from y'all are welcome, too.