August 30, 2013

Turning a Photo into a Drawing

I’ve been making some rookie mistakes lately with my photography. Remember when I went down to campus for some DIY graduation photos and forgot to change my aperture? I confess it hasn’t been the only time. At home, I can always re-take a photo, so I don’t sweat it. It’s a learning process. Since I want to enjoy my first vacation in two years, and not make it all about photography, I decided to shoot in aperture priority mode. That way, at least the exposure would be “right”. That was my intention. I went from indoors to outside with little thought. The shutter speed was no match for the large aperture and high ISO and ended up with some really overexposed photos. Woopsies.

Luckily I noticed fairly early in the process and also ended up with some great vacation photos, but this left me a question of what to do with the over exposures. I wanted to see if I could do anything with them. I immediately thought of my previous attempt at editing a photo to give it the appearance of a drawing. The first step was to dramatically increase the brightness like an over exposure. I decided to give it another go, this time following this tutorial I found. The tutorial was for photo shop, but I was able to replicate the steps pretty easily in paint shop pro. (I rarely see anyone using paint shop anymore, so I didn’t bother including the steps in this post. If you have any questions feel free to email me.)

The final product

The original photo (with an increase in contrast)

It was fast and simple, and I was happy with the results so I decided to try again with a few more photos. The correctly exposed photos turn out better than over exposed ones. (That’s usually the way it goes.) But with a few adjustments to contrast and brightness the exposure is correct enough that I can get something decent out of the photo. In some cases the glowing edges effect was too strong and I reduced the opacity, but overall the process did not involve much tuning. I was even able to finish this post during nap time.


The initial photo I tried to turn into a drawing.

While the initial tutorial was for creating a black and white drawing effect, I found I could produce decent colored drawings as well. I tried two different approaches, (1) one where I skipped the de-saturation step and (2) one where I left it in and reduced the opacity de-saturation layer to let some of the original color show through.

Method (1) Without the De-Saturation step

Method (2) With the de-saturation step, but the opacity of the de-saturation layer reduced

When skipping the de-saturation step in approach (1), the dodge layer effect is a little too strong in my opinion. The tutorial is designed for a black and white drawing that where the pencil strokes show the texture and edges of a shape. Solid blocks of color in the photo (like skin) appear mostly white. This makes sense in black and white, but less so in color. To correct this I reduced the dodge layer opacity to 96%. Now the ‘white’ regions have a touch of color to them.

I prefer the result from approach (2), where the opacity of the de-saturation layer is reduced. The overall color feels more even, and looks more like I would have expected from colored pencils. For the curious, the opacity of the de-saturation layer in the above photo is 66%, however I find this number to be highly variable based on the original image.

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