Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Elements of Design Via Digital Tools (Part 1 - Point)

Point - Point is the most basic of the elements of design. To start this post off I'll go back in time to when I began my study of image making over thirty years ago. This is a pen and ink study of pointillism. I used a rapidograph pen by Koh-I-Noor and I'm guessing the size was about a '0'. I also did the same study using colored inks and decreased the size down to 00 and triple zero. The results were strikingly realistic.

Point, of course, is the subject of the the Pointillist Impressionist painters. There is a lot of visual color mixing theory behind what they did which if you were inclined to be true to the art style you would study. However with digital tools you can accomplish much of the effect with very little effort.

In Photoshop the following tutorial from Robin on Yahoo Answers will do the job.
1. Open your image, select the layer, and tap Command J (ctrl J on a PC) that copies the image onto a new layer. This keeps a pristine copy of the image, which is always a good thing. The general rule of thumb is non-destructive editing!

2. In the color swatches at the bottom of the toolbar, set the background swatch to whatever you want for your canvas color (white, black, tan, etc.)

3. With the new layer selected, go to the menu item Filter, then Pixelate; and then choose Pointillize. Set the cell size to whatever you want. When you like the effect, click OK.

If you run the filter multiple times, you can get very interesting effects, that mimic a brush loaded with more (or less) paint.

You might also want to experiment with using a different blend mode on the layer that's been pointillized. For instance, try switching to Hard Light, Overlay, or Luminosity.

As you might expect there are multiple ways to accomplish this in Photoshop. With this approach there are no brushes or any chance to interact with the process other than to set sliders or a check box and then see what happens. Not really a creative process as compared to Corel Painter.

For illustration of what you can do with Painter I'll use a photo I did of gords. The only change I made was to turn the shadows blue for contrast to the predominantly warm colors of the gords.

The image below is done in Photoshop as described in the tutorial above. It looks as though you are seeing the gords through a screen. Adobe has made very little enhancements to their options under the Filter menu over the years, but that is where tools like Painter and the Topaz suite show their strengths.

In the image below it took all of two minutes to create the effect in Painter. The file was opened and in Painter terms a clone was made of it. Then a special brush called a Splatttery Clone Spray was used. In Painter there are a hundreds of brush types enabling you to alter an image endlessly to a style of your liking. You can also create your own brushes A brush in Painter you can think of as a combination of a media (watercolor, oils, pen, pencil, etc) and a style using that media. You truly can create your own style of digital art. It will take considerable time to master Painter just as it would if you were learning to paint with traditional media. The image below is a little less photographic compared to the Photoshop rendition.

Painter has much more control over the dot size. For example, maybe you felt that the above image was too lose. You could tighten up the dots just by changing the dab type from airbrush to pixel airbrush as seen below. There are literally and endless number of controls.

Although the above image has fine detail and is sharper it isn't very expressive. The images to the left and below have more of a traditional media feel as though done on colored paper. Greater textural effects can be created by choosing a paper type from a list of optional papers, and then using a pastel or chalk 'brush'. Once a paper is chosen you can then chose how rough the tooth is. Combining paper and pastel options in addition to the ink application seen here would yield a very traditional look. If cloning is turned off at the end of the process then you can add your own free style strokes too.

For this variation a clone was made then set to gray scale to remove color. The brush type was the Airbrush Fine Spray and the dab type was Liquid Ink Airbrush with the stroke set to Single. When using this dab type you also have additional controls in a separate menu just for Liquid Ink. You can control the volume of ink per dab/stroke, the smoothness, and the randomness of the size along with eight other options.

In the close up the random size can be seen which helps give it a natural feel. One nice feature is the ability to erase using the same brush if you over work an area. Erasing in this manner is like picking up the dots you applied, and then reapplying the dots after you've make adjustments to one of the many controls.

In the variation below we are moving from point to the use of line where the brush type used is called Impressionist Cloner. It is easy to bring in more or less detail from the original image into your cloned image just by going back over the clone with a larger (less detail) or smaller (more detail) brush.

Going one step further into line I got carried away with Painter and made the gords look fuzzy in the image below. This was done by using the Pepper Spray brush on a cloned image and setting the dab type to flat and stroke type to single. The stroke or dab size was set to 27. I then painted in the white/blue areas with the Furry Cloner brush. It is easy to get carried away with Painter and forget what you're doing. In this case this image has little to do with point as a design element. I just got into making fuzzy gords.

The following is an example from Topaz Adjust. The Topaz products are not so good for the point design element. They excel when focusing on line, shape, color and other elements. In this image in order to bring out points of color the tool's controls had to be pushed to an extreme, resulting in an image that may not be useable.

Each element of design should be used for its own strength depending on the purpose of a project. The gords are about color, but they are also about texture in all those bumps and ridges. Using Painter and focusing on point as the design element the following image was created.

In this image texture and points are merge into a single design element, making it appear as if the gords were painted onto a heavily texture fresco. A neat effect if that was something that needed illustration as part of a travel magazine add. Point in this case are point of texture sometimes forming lines/ridges.

This variation is again looking at point as points of texture. In this approach Painter did its own thing by using the Auto-Painting feature. Auto-Painting is simply Painter applying the defined brush strokes itself according to what brush featues you have chosen at the start of auto-painting. In this case the Van Gogh Cloner brush was active along with a dab-type of circular, a method of cover, and a size of 5.3 with Min Size of 47%. On the Impasto window Draw To was set to Depth and the Depth Method set to Paper. Auto-Painting was set to Smart Stroke Painting and Smart Settings on.

What was cool with this effect was that while it was doing its auto-painting the 'paper' seemed like it was boiling as it built the relief look (see video). You can use auto-painting to quickly see how the brush settings work. Once you have an effect you like you can save all the brush setting (which there are many) and a new brush is created for that effect. You can then easily recall that brush style later and reuse it.

What is point anyway. Isn't the sun a point of bright light in the sky? The sun is the largest object in the solar system and hardly a point like a point on paper. But that is the final point. Because point is the basic design element it can become anything... like atoms of the design world.

In closing this blog on point one of my favorite illusions is about the point that is missing, and I promise you will not miss the point, because that is the illusion... seeing something that is not there. You only see the black dots when you don't look directly at them. They are bashful.

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