technique I used for an illustration in a recent logo. The logo
was posted in the portfolio section.
The customer has several scenes painted on their building, and
my boss's wife gave me the idea of incorporating a similar look
in the logo. The illustration is loosely based on this:
Once I put together the initial sketch, which I can't find, I
knew I would need some reference material for the illustration.
I avoid clipart whenever possible and wanted to make my own.
This is one of the first photos I took, just to get a feel for
I had a co-worker pose for me and I used my digital camera to
get the image. There are a number of things that make this image
nearly worthless for my application.
1. The lighting is diffused and boring - mostly coming from the
front. It's difficult to show dimension with straight-on light.
2. The clothing doesn't have much personality, especially when I
wanted to have the look of the mural.
3. The pose is awkward and not very dynamic. Not having an
actual plane made things difficult.
I asked my friend to bring a collared shirt the next day, and
with the addition of a shop apron I ended up with this:
I coached my friend on the pose, and also pointed a halogen
spotlight to give more interesting light. The photo is much more
useful. I still hadn't found a plane so I was stuck with the
wood block. Yuck.
I used Photoshop's Threshold feature to break the image down
into black and white patches:
The slider changes the ratio of black and white. I printed out
the result to help me later in the rendering.
I dug an old jack plane of mine out of storage, and shot a new
photo. I was really just interested in the hands at this point:
The plane wasn't ideal in the first place, and you can barely
see it in the photo. I had to make adjustments with the midtone
using Levels in Photoshop.
This first image shows the midtone slider at its original
This image shows an improvement by moving the midtone slider to
the left. It isn't the kind of plane I wanted to use, but at
least I can see the way the hands grip it.
I made a composite image in Photoshop, where the forearms and
hands of the newer photograph are superimposed onto the older
I shouldn't have needed this step, but stuff happens.
Once I was
satisfied with the photo, I traced out the main outline and the
breakdown of the light and shadow areas:
I also faked a larger plane. It looks more like a Stanley #7,
but hoped to tweak it more later. With hindsight, I should have
tried much harder to borrow the type of plane I wanted - a
wooden smoothing plane.
After this I scanned the sketch into Photoshop:
The lines of the sketch needed to be thick enough to see, but
they don't need to be black. In illustrator
it's easier to trace a sketch of the lines are gray instead of
black. I switched to the pencil tool in Photoshop, chose a
medium gray for a color, with Screen as the attribute. With a
wide brush I began lightening the lines in my sketch:
I clicked and held the mouse button as I moved it around for the
entire process of lightening. If I do it in multiple steps, I
end up with some areas too light.
Once the sketch is lightened, I bring it into Illustrator:
I will often increase the size of the sketch by 400% or so, to
allow for finer adjustments.
I am not using any curves here. I want a blocky look so I just
use the pen tool and click, click, click.
Some areas of my sketch didn't account for an outline, which
becomes more apparent here:
The dimension of the illustration is created with shapes of
color that lay over the background color:
It's not a bad idea to complete the background early...
...so it can be colored periodically to show the form:
Eventually the main outline of the background color expanded,
and I ended up defining the edges of the arms and face with
large cream-colored shapes:
I continued to refine the image by simplifying the shapes. I
used the point removal tool to accomplish this. Remember the
high contrast print I made? It helps in the simplification. I
just kept removing any points that didn't seem necessary -
especially in the face. I also moved points around until I was
satisfied with the expression on the face. I did introduce some
curves in the sleeve once the shape was simplified. If it had
more time to tweak it, I would add more curves. You may also
notice that the outlines
of the face and shirt ended up much thicker than I started with.
This allows them to show up better at small sizes, and I also
like the bolder look.
Well, that's about it. It's not a perfect process, and there are
always things I would do differently. But, this is the basic
approach I take.