Today I was painting stuff for a project I have to keep under wraps. These are annoying because I like showing what I’m working on, and often what I make under such situations never see the light of day, or they do, but after such a long time that you don’t care about them anymore. This one, luckily, should be shown at the end of the month.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share this little texture image I used yesterday to complete the sixwordtales.com illustration. I’ve been haunting design related sites lately, and I’m finding the cross-pollination fruitful. I read this tutorial on blog.spoongraphics.co.uk, and thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t really learn anything new about Photoshop, but I did learn a different way to use it and think about layering and light. Basically the first thing this tutorial calls for is a stock image of smoke, which I cannot afford and probably wouldn’t buy anyway; I’m more of a hands on/DIY type of artist, and I like the control it affords me. I have a luxury that a lot of graphic designers don’t, which is a wealth of art materials and old paper, and a place to get messy if I need to. Usually GD pros or production artists are at a desk all day and don’t have the option of making their own textures, so they rely on stock images.

This is a wet-on-wet ink wash, sprinkled with some salt for the white spots. I actually have a lot of textures I’ve made over the years for use in digital artwork. Spray-paint, spatters, ink washes, all kinds of papers, wood grains, etc. They’re always good to have on-hand.

theispot.com and “save for web” solutions

I have a portfolio on theispot.com now – www.theispot.com/artist/jforson. I spent today setting it up, resizing images etc. Hopefully I won’t get lost in the mix. One thing I noticed about the site, like most illustration venues, my work doesn’t seem to fit the mold. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. On one hand I think it’s good. It could mean that my work is original and breaks from the conventional. On the other hand it could mean I have a style that doesn’t attract clients. I think a lot of illustrators compromise their artistic integrity in order to have a more salable service, and attract those ever lucrative advertising budgets. I’m not willing to go there just yet. Maybe when I have kids to feed or something, but for now I’d rather do work I’m proud of.

Something I’ve been irritated with for a few years has been how my images look when I save them for the web. I spend a lot of time getting them just how I want in Photoshop, then I save for web, and suddenly they look washed out and dead! I thought this was just because they were being compressed, and that was the nature of the beast, so I would up the contrast and saturation before saving them for web to counter this phenomenon. Well, yesterday I did some digging, and found out that there IS a solution! It has to do with the color profile, something I knew nothing about until I read this creativepro.com article. I read it, I tried it, it worked beautifully. I love finding the answer to an annoying problem!

Photoshop Photomerge: The most useful tool I own.

I’ve been meaning to write about Photoshop’s Photomerge function for a while. Basically, it’s amazing, and it saves me a ton of time, money, and headaches. I feel like I tell people about it all the time, and it’s not as widely used as it should be. For traditional 2D artists, it is essential knowledge in my opinion.

What you need:
Photoshop, I think they first added it in CS, but I’m not sure.
A decent professional grade scanner.

The first thing I do is scan my painting in pieces. This painting is 18x24x1 on a wood panel. I scan a painting this large in 6-8 passes, and I try to keep it straight. You only need about an inch of overlap to make it work with the Photomerge function, but I’ve found that the more information Photoshop has to work with, the better. I scan at 300 dpi. Important things to note: I’m using an Epson Perfection 1250 from 2001, and it still wrecks shop! There’s also a lip around all the edges which does make a shadow, but Photoshop is smart enough to see that and correct it. My scanner is standard sized, I think the bed is 9×12. You don’t need to buy outrageously expensive over-sized scanners.

Here’s a shot of all the individual scans. They’re tif’s, but I usually save my scans as psd’s. All your files need to be saved to use this function.

Now Go to File>Automate>Photomerge

This screen will come up. I always open all the tiles first, then choose “Add Open Files.” I leave it on Auto, but maybe “reposition only” is better for this? I don’t know for sure, but I’ve always been happy with the auto mode. Hit “OK.”

About 30 seconds later I’ve got this! I check it to make sure everything looks ok, then flatten it. If you rotate the image without flattening it, the seems Photomerge made appear. If your paintings have a lot of similar areas Photomerge can get confused, so just do a couple other scans to help it figure out what goes where and you should be set. I don’t recommend using Photomerge to scan large textures. I once tried to scan a large watercolor wash for use in my digital artwork, and it doesn’t work for that. Also, sometimes if you change programs while Photoshop is doing the Photomerge magic it will mess it up. Overall though, I rarely have a problem.

Cropped and finished! I didn’t even have to mess with any levels or anything on this painting. It scans VERY accurately. Good luck!