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The Williams Studio - Your Creative Source





If you're an illustrator, or anyone doing artwork for that matter, you'll often find that you need to convert photographic reference into line art so that you can manipulate shapes and composition.

There is software out there made specifically for this purpose (Adobe's Streamline perhaps the most known), but you already have Photoshop - can you achieve conversions without buying more software? The answer is a qualified yes... qualified because although you can do a conversion, it doesn't work well with every image and it usually doesn't give you a really tight result. The good news is that it will provide a quite usable result in many circumstances. Good enough so that you may only need to touch up your "drawing" to get exactly what you need. For this example, we chose a photo that is a better than average candidate for conversion. It has good contrast, few dark areas that can "plug up," and some interesting variety.

Here is what we'll work with:

Daytona beach jpeg

Once we are looking at the image, it's a basic process to convert it:

In your pull-down menu go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. A dialog window will open. First, set Quality to High and Mode to Edge Only. As a starting point, set Radius to under 10, and Threshold to a midpoint. Tinker with the settings while watching the preview window and when you get something you like, click "OK."

Smart Blur dialog

As you've certainly noticed, the preview and resulting image are black with white lines. To get the image to black lines on a white background choose Image > Adjust > Invert in your pull-down menu.

Daytona Beach line conversion

It may not be a perfect line drawing; in fact it will almost certainly not be. The effect can, however, be a powerful aid to the creative process. Quick roughs can be generated with the simple application of two menu items - you can't ask for much more than that, and it's already built in!


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