Saturday, 3 December 2011

Going Bug-Eyed: Creating Vignette Illustrations in Photoshop

I have been chained to the computer lately, finishing the artwork for my latest book Baby Can Bounce!. I normally like to keep weekends work-free, but last weekend I had my nose to the screen all day, both days.

When the scans of my illustrations come back from the repro-house, the characters are of course still on my pink pastel paper: 

The idea is to drop them on the same range of colours as Baby Goes Baaaaa!. Sarah, my designer at Egmont, tried out various possibilities, most of which I think worked really well. I made suggestions for a couple of changes, which she agreed: it's very much a team effort at this stage.

Once the colours had been decided, I then had the job of 'cutting out' the characters in Photoshop, to get rid of the pink paper. This little character is illustrating Baby can shake:

And that's not quite all: because the illustrations were drawn on pink, they don't necessarily 'sit' properly on the new colour straight away. So another job is to make any tonal or colour adjustments needed, so it looks as though I always intended it to be on that colour. This is always most obvious with the shadows at their feet.

It's a pretty tedious job all round, and this time it seems to have gone on forever. It's good that I have enough knowledge of Photoshop to be able to do it myself though, as the pastel edges make things far trickier than it would be with most other media. This page is Baby can share:


Though I've been working with professional scans, done through Egmont, I was worried that the colours seemed a little milky. Neither I nor the publisher had the actual artwork to compare; it was still with the repro-house. I could see from my colour palette on the previous Baby Goes Baaaaa! scans that things were not quite right, but my deadline was tight and I didn't have the time to hang about. So I pumped up the contrast a bit, just gently, and did a tiny bit of 'dodge' and 'burn' work.

Yesterday, the artwork arrived back at Egmont and they were finally able to compare. It was immediately obvious that I was right. Take a look at Baby can dig below. Left is an in-house scan, adjusted to mirror the actual artwork, right is the version from the repro-house:

We have decided we don't need to re-scan them all (thank goodness: I don't think I could face repeating last week). Luckily, my re-balancing in Photoshop has brought most pics back to life, so they are good as new. However, the croc above and one or two others are particularly bad, so they do have to be done again. A bit unfortunate: cutting out that sand was a nightmare!

If you want to know more about the specifics of how I do the digital 'cutting out', have a read of this post, from when I was working on the scans of Baby Goes Baaaaa!


June said...

Oh dear, it must be such a bad feeling when you discover that you will have to do that sand all over again.
But it IS all worth the hard work in the end, as your images deserve to look the best they can in the books.
Good luck with all the extra work... you are doing great, as always. And it is a good reminder to know that it doesn't always go to plan, even with professional scanning!

Anonymous said...

Just exploring by googling Children's Books under the heading Blogs. . . and found your site. I am an established Children's book writer and illustrator from the UK and I work a lot on computer. So please take it from me that if you haven't got Mask Pro or something like, then get it! It will change your life. It lets you pick colours to save and colours to erase, then you simply brush over the outlines and the colour(s) you don't want disappear. Obviously on gentle gradations things get tricky, but there's no easy way round that. Do you use a tablet? Like a wacom. That's another life changer ;-)
Hope this helps, if a bit late.
Jonathan Allen

Lynne the Pencil said...

Hi Jonathan - well fancy that: I have always loved your illustrations. I have a copy of one of your earlier books 'A Pocketful of Painful Puns & poems'. How lovely to hear from you!

Yes, I have a Wacom tablet and can't imagine how people use a mouse. Thanks for the Mask Pro tip: I'll have a look. Sounds as though it's quite similar to what I do in Photoshop - it's the gradation of the soft edge that is always the issue and makes it so much trickier. Pastels are lovely but also a right pain!!

Lynne the Pencil said...

Oo - and just realised that I also have 'There's a Wolf in my Pudding'. Smashing and wonderfully silly!

Anonymous said...

Wow, 'Bad Case' was my first book. I was fresh out of college! Now I feel old. . . ;-)
re soft edges, yeah, trying to select and using Replace Colour never catches quite what you want it to. .

Anonymous said...

Sorry, i misread. 'A bad case of animal nonsense' was the book I meant, you have 'painful puns' which was my second book! i still feel old.

Lynne the Pencil said...

Yeah, me too...

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