Saturday, July 2, 2011

From draft to final art. PART TWO: Converting to computer line-art.

Okay this is the bit of the process that I always find kinda sad. It's when you convert your very human,  hand-made drawing into a series of pixels. Sad eh? If you're a fan of Robocop you'd probably disagree. But hey, you say Potatoes, I say Potatoes.

The process is this: scan drawing, import it into photoshop to turn up the contrast of white and black, and then import it into Illustrator and convert the image into line-art. 
Line art is computer-speak for lines made up of pixels. I think. Something like that. Eyes glaze, turn misty....Anyway, the computer takes each line you've drawn and converts it into teeny little dots that you can then grab and manipulate with a pointer tool. You can delete the dots, or pull them about, and manipulate the lines they sit on.

Each of those little blue dots can be moved around.

whole image converted into pixels.
Once the image is converted, as a whole it looks the same, perhaps a bit more dramatic. 
But if you look at the image in detail, you'll notice a loss in fluidity of line. You also loose graduation in colour and thus, your sketchmarks. Curves become more angulated.
Some drawings look better once you pixelate them, especially line art. But when I convert images with lots of detail and pen marks-like this one-I always feel the image has lost it's nuance and humanity.
Image converted to pixels, detail
Original image, detail.
Why do I do it? Because it saves lots and lots of time. Once an image is converted to line-art you can change the line, change the colour, change the thickness of the line. You can expand it without any pixelation. All with a little click rather then redrawing the whole image.
When I worked for The Age, it was just GOLD. If I mispelt a word, or even if I drew a letter a bit wonky, I could go in and change that small detail without altering the surrounding image.

I don't like doing it but it saves lots and lots of time. And there are always changes to be made. If it's not my mistake (spot the fish that doesn't have any in-fill in the last post?), it is a change that a client or editor needs to make.

P.S. Sorry for the delay in posting. Was sick! Click here if you haven't yet met my completely dodgy immune system.


  1. I am loving those fish!! I must get photoshop and do the course. Its like a foreign language.

  2. I have always wondered how and why you import and change into lines... it still makes only very muddy sense but at least I now have an idea.

    I hope your immune systems starts to radiate the love soon.


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