Illustrator. Photographer. Random thinker. Um rato de praia.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How I Got Started With Photoshop

When it comes to graphic design and illustration, Adobe Photoshop is the weapon of choice for today’s artists. However, the software itself is a quite tough nut to crack, and extremely hard to master. The concepts are not always intuitive and it’s not always clear when to use what tool and how to use it effectively. In fact, a lot of the trial and error in Photoshop usually takes much time to achieve something you have never done before.

I was first introduced to Photoshop in 1993, when the systems guys at my previous newspaper received the software and passed it on to us in the art department. At first, I was like one of the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey as they approach the monolith shrieking and jumping.

Subsequently, one of the apes (or artists), realizes how to use a bone as both tool and a weapon (Photoshop) while having mental flashbacks to the monolith (Photoshop), indicating that the monolith has either “taught” or inspired him to this knowledge. Next morning the apes wrest control of the water hole away from the other tribe, killing their leader in the process. Just like with Photoshop.

The next phase of learning the program was similar to a school child receiving a box of 96 Crayola crayons. I wanted to try all the effects and filters at once, sometimes over-doing it. As time passed and I worked on various projects, I used restraint when applying filters and effects, and a style began to emerge which I have been using to some degree of success since.

Once I was comfortable with Photoshop, it was time to say good-bye to the airbrush and other art media. I’ve never looked back since.

The best way to describe my style is “digital collage.” After drawing my initial sketch for an assignment, I begin to draw shapes in Photoshop and fill them with textures of objects I have scanned or photographed. For many of my illustrations, I use photos of hands or sometimes I pose and scan my own hands with a scanner.

I usually spend a lot of time working the faces of the people in my illustrations. This is basically a progression from my initial love of creating caricatures, but now with Photoshop, I use parts of actual photos of faces, cut them apart, stretch them and pull them in different directions, and paste them back together to get the expressions I want.

A lot of blending, dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) go into getting the effect I want, because I want my figures to have almost a 3D feel to them.

In the future, I will take a project from conceptualizing, to sketching, to putting it together in Photoshop. In the meantime, here’s one sketch and final illustration for a business story about city government officials wanting to increase bed tax for online travel sites.

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