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Tutorial 01: Line Drawings using Smart Blur / Find Edges

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  • Tutorial 01: Line Drawings using Smart Blur / Find Edges

    This is the first mini-tutorial in a new series intended to illustrate basic photo-art techniques to those relatively new to "photo-art."

    * You're using Adobe Photoshop as your image editor. In some cases the steps will work as written for Photoshop Elements, but not always.
    * Those attempting this tutorial have mastered basic Photoshop skills such as being able to create new layers, duplicate existing layers, run filters, renaming layers, etc.

    Unless otherwise specified, methods apply to Photoshop 5.5 and above. When version specific functions are used, I'll do my best to identify them.

    Layer naming conventions:
    As you move through the tutorial there will be steps where the instruction will be something like, "Duplicate the Background and name it 'A. BG Blurred'" (or whatever). The reason for that is in subsequent instructions I can state something like "Duplicate layer 'A' and..." which makes it easier to write (and easier for you to understand) the layer to which I'm referring.

    Since this is a "first shot" at doing this kind of thing, by all means add questions, comments, suggestions to this thread, especially if you are new to photo-art. This will help me craft better tutorials in the future.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    (NOTE: Tutorial 02 is a follow-on to this one.)

    One of the coolest discoveries I made when starting out with this photo-art thing was the affect one can achieve using the Smart Blur filter to generate somewhat crude "line drawings" or "sketches" based on the source image.

    Smart BLUR? Line Drawings? Where's the relationship?

    Follow allong: Creating a picture worth 1,000 words.

    1. Open the attachment at the bottom of this thread (the base image we'll be working with). Cute baby, huh? She's the daughter of one of the RP members, John Buchmann. Why this picture? Cuz I think it's neat. If you want to use your own image, that's fine too.

    In posts that follow this one will be images illustrating intermediate steps in the process.

    2. Duplicate the Background

    3. Name the new layer "B. Edges Only"

    3a. Turn off the Background by clicking the eyeball

    * Settings:
    . Mode: Edge Only (notice the thumbnail image goes "black")
    . Quality: Doesn't seem to matter much on higher resolution (150 ppi and up) images
    . Radius and Threshold: These two work hand in hand. Try experimenting with various settings and see how they affect the image in preview window. Rule of thumb: Start out with a Radius value approximately 1/2 of the Threshold value and go from there.
    For this image I used: Radius=30, Threshold=40, Quality=High

    5. Great: Black picture. White lines. Now what?
    No problem:
    IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > INVERT (or CTRL + I for the shortcut fans).

    Result: A black and white line drawing... with some pretty scratchy looking lines.

    If you're happy with this "look" (it works "as is" on some images), stop. For this image I think the lines need "something." We'll get to that in a minute.

    6. Click on the Background layer and duplicate it.

    7. Name the new layer: "A. Blurred background"

    8. FILTER > BLUR > GAUSSIAN BLUR (I used radius = 9).
    Yeah. OK. We've got a really blurred image now. Is that it? Nope.

    9. Click layer B to select it and change the blend mode from Normal to Multiply. Ta-da! The blury layer A now appears. Sort of OK. But those lines may still be a little annoying.

    10. Duplicate layer B and name the new layer "D. Angled Strokes."

    11. Turn off layer B (click the eyeball).

    I used Direction Balance: 65, Stroke Length, 4, Sharpness, 0. You use what you like.

    Watch out on Stroke Length... too much = things get really blury. Too little = really scratchy lines.

    Notice how the lines have a little more of a sketchy look... not quite so scratchy looking. But maybe a little too dark?

    13. Depending on your version of Photoshop, the FADE command may be under either the FILTERS or EDIT menu. Think of the FADE command as your opportunity to "turn down" or "back off" the previous command, kind of like a volume control.


    I faded about 50% (Normal) and clicked OK. Fade as much as you'd like.

    IMPORTANT: To use the FADE command, it MUST BE the next command executed after running the filter. If you change anything in the image or click on any other menu command or layer pallet option and THEN try to fade, the command will be grayed out. Trust me.

    14. Turn off layer D (click the eyeball)

    15. Click on layer B again and duplicate this layer. Name the duplicate "C. Crosshatch."

    Stroke Length=4, Sharpness=2, Strength=1. Again, you can pick your own values.

    The Crosshatch filter gives a little different look than Angled Strokes.

    Again to tone it down a bit I faded to about 50% (Normal).

    Almost done...

    18. Create a Hue / Saturation adjustment layer (name it 'E. Hue/Sat') on the top of the layer stack.

    Depending on your version of Photoshop, you may be able to create adjustment layers by clicking an icon at the bottom of the Layers palette; in other versions one can click the Layers palette menu and make a choice from there.

    If in doubt, check the LAYERS menu, select New Adjustment Layer and go from there.

    19. When the Hue/Saturation dialog box displays, drag the Saturaion slider to the FAR LEFT (value -100). This will fully desaturate (remove color) from the image.

    RECAP: Looking at the Layers palette here's where we should be. Blend mode in [brackets]. On = Eyeball is visible; Off = no eyeball.

    E. Hue/Sat, on
    D. Angled Strokes [Multiply], OFF
    C. Crosshatch [Multiply], on
    B. Edges Only [Multiply], OFF
    A. BG Blurred [Normal], ON

    Background, OFF

    19. Now the fun begins. Call this mix-n-match.

    * Want color back? Turn OFF layer E (click eyeball)
    * Want to see the Edges Only look? B on; C, D off
    * Angled strokes look? D on; C, B off
    * Line drawing only? A, off; B, C or D on.

    I think you get the idea. You can turn on / off any combination of these layers until you get the look you want.

    - - - - - - - - -
    * Smart Blur / Edges Only is one way to isolate the major lines in an image. Don't forget to INVERT the result!

    * Each blend mode has a "neutral color." The neutral color of Multiply is white. This means that any areas of white on a layer whose blend mode is Multiply will appear transparent. That's why the "background" is visible beneath the edges layer.

    * An adjustment layers allow adjustments to be made anytime -- even after O.K. is clicked. In this case the Saturation value in the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was set to -100, appearing to remove all color (desaturating) the layers below. No actual changes are made to underlying layers, however. This is one way to see what an image will look like in grayscale mode without actually converting it to grayscale.

    * The FADE command can be used to "throttle back" an effect after it has been applied. This command is only available immediately after applying an effect.

    * Rather than applying one effect after another on the same layer, in this example changes were made to individual layers when possible. This is referred to as a "non-destructive" method, enabling one to make changes after effects are applied. This not only affords more flexibility when experimenting with blend modes and/or how to combine or order layers, it reduces time required for "do overs" should one decide to recreate intermediate layers. The use of adjustment layers (instead of using IMAGE > ADJUSTMENT commands) is the cornerstone of this approach.

    = = = = = = = = = = = =

    OK. That's it for this one.

    Keep in mind this type of method will work better on some images than others.

    Have fun. Do provide some feedback on this tutorial, either via the poll or posts.

    Have fun...

    Attached Files
    Photoshop experience: A lot
    Photoshop experience: Moderate
    Photoshop experience: Fairly new
    Very useful
    Slightly useful and/or somewhat confusing
    Not useful and/or really confusing
    Last edited by DannyRaphael; 03-11-2003, 02:03 PM.

  • #2
    B. Edges Only

    Layer B, after the Smart Blur filter is applied and the image is inverted.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Steps 8, 9

      After blurring layer A and setting the blend mode of layer B to Multiply.
      Attached Files


      • #4
        Layers on: A, C and E

        Layers A, C and E are on here. Grayscale / Crosshatch version.
        Attached Files


        • #5
          Soften lines with Diffuse > Anisotropic

          The STYLIZE > DIFFUSE > Anisotropic effect is really powerful.

          It was applied two time here and notice how it softens the scratchy lines without give up much detail.

          I also used a Layer Mask (click HERE for a tutorial) to "hide" some of the lines that looked out of place. (Note: Before applying the layer mask I inserted a new layer below line drawing layer and with EDIT > FILL (white) to created a pseudo background.)

          Granted this image is starting to look a little surreal to me from a "baby" perspective, but the point here is to illustrate how edges can be softened. On some images it works better than others!
          Attached Files
          Last edited by DannyRaphael; 11-30-2002, 10:05 PM.


          • #6
            >> Ingore the attachment <<

            This is a placeholder in case an additional image is to be inserted at a later date.

            Ignore this attachment. It's a blank image.
            Attached Files
            Last edited by DannyRaphael; 11-30-2002, 10:06 PM.


            • #7
              Well written and Easy Danny. Even I can understand it. Thanks for taking the time


              • #8

                Really good tutorial..I just followed it step by step with the following exception..

                Any tutorial can make a pretty baby look good but how does it work on rusty farm machinery..

                So I put you to the test and here it the way, this was a hi res pic and the crosshatching and diagonal line filters made very little difference..(probably a novice problem).

                Thanks for the effort
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  REALLY like this technique..Here is one more..

                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    EXCELLENT TUTORIAL, THE BEST

                    This is a perfect, absolutely wonderful tutorial, very explicit and precise, leaves no questions.
                    Now if you could just back over all the wonderful effects given here and of course on dpreview and do a tutorial for each one, that would be so nice.
                    So many times when people write out their explantions, they leave out or forget something, maybe to them it is common and they do it without thinking, but for many it prevents the effect from turning out and becomes very frustrating.
                    This is how it should be done, just perfect.
                    Thank you very much.
                    P.S. Another day of wowing everyone with my actions in class, I have gotten so popular.


                    • #11
                      Signing in tonite with a huge feeling of accomplishment, thanks to you, Danny.

                      Want to tell you how much you are appreciated ...... and that your tutorial was excellent.

                      Here is my result... I did have fun!!
                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        Looks like this might be a useful series to those new to photo-art. I'll craft another soon.

                        I appreciate the feedback -- poll, posts and especially the images Jerry and Goldcoin did - WELL DONE!


                        • #13
                          Goldcoin -- I can see why you're feeling that huge sense of accomplishment -- really great looking image! It's even more fun when you can figure out how to do it again, isn't it

                          Jerry - now you have another sketch technique in your tool chest -- lovely image!
                          Danny -- wonderful step by step tutorial. This will be very helpful to many.


                          • #14
                            Re: Soften lines with Diffuse > Anisotropic

                            Originally posted by DannyRaphael
                            The STYLIZE > DIFFUSE > Anisotropic effect is really powerful.
                            Nice to know folks are finally recognizing the value of anisotropic diffuse, after all the harping I've done about it for months.

                            Keep in mind that it's good for smoothing pixels in many other photo art methods as well. For example, it works great on noise too, giving a wonderful all-over effect.

                            Thanks, Danny, for writing out all the steps you use in this drawing style. It's a really great look.



                            • #15
                              Wow, Danny, this is an absolutely terrific tutorial. I learn best with step by step "recipes" so this tutorial is perfect for me. Plus, having examples of each step is like getting a double serving of fudge frosting on the cake. THANKS.


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