Getting arty with graphics: Part II

In the previous column, we covered the use of filters and basic layer procedures to generate digital art quickly. These techniques can be rewarding, but a little more effort and skill is needed to create interesting and diverse works. There are two main sources of material for digital art - drawings and photographs. For more traditional looking pieces, it is best to strip down the images to a basic outline and then use your computer to add colour and effects.

Drawings and paintings

If you have some drawing skills, you may find that they are difficult to directly translate from a pencil or brush to your mouse. An easy solution is to draw a basic version of the image on flat white paper and scan it into your computer. The key is to stick to important features such as outlines and shape. Use a single coloured pen or ink - a dark grey or black ink will make it easy to scan the drawing, and in most cases you can use a graphics program to adjust the intensity of the lines. One word of caution: make sure the ink or paint is completely dry before putting it on the scanner (and brush off any pencil shavings or lead dust).

Avoid using paper with too much texture or tint. These can introduce artefacts that are captured by the scanner - what looks like subtle ridges on the paper may turn out to be ugly splotches once scanned. When you are satisfied with the image you have drawn, scan it into your computer using full colour mode. Avoid the scanner's line art options, as they tend to drop light shading while exaggerating soft lines or textures. Likewise, grey scale settings may lose detail.

You can always use a graphics program to change an image from colour to black and white or line art, but you can't go do the reverse (an image scanned as line art can not be converted to its full colour equivalent - a new scan is required). To convert colour images to black and white, simply open the file and select Colours-Grey Scale (Paint Shop Pro); in Photoshop, select Image-Mode-Gray Scale. If you want to take one step farther and go to line art, see the next section for details.

Important: after converting your image to grey scale or line art, make sure that you change the mode back to 16 million colours or RGB mode (some people may prefer CMYK). The image will still appear black and white, but it will allow you to introduce new colours. If you don't change the setting, you will only be permitted to select grey scale tones.

Converting your colour photographs

Using an existing photograph opens up a huge range of possibilities and which techniques you choose will depend on your desired finished look.

For example, to create the Andy Warhol/Pop Art look, you will need to discard most of the colour information - this will leave you with the basic black and white image. Start by picking a photograph that has interesting contrast and shapes. You may want to adjust the contrast and brightness by selecting Colours-Adjust-Brightness/Contrast (Paint Shop Pro 7) or Image-Adjustments-Brightness/Contrast (Photoshop 7).

Next, decrease the total number of colours to two. In Paint Shop Pro select Colours-Decrease Colour Depth-2 Colours (1 bit). Photoshop may involve a two-step process: select Image-Mode-Duo tone. If this is not available, then select Image-Mode-Gray Scale and then try the Duo tone option again.

If all is going well, you should have an image that resembles a photocopy of the original. You can now select elements of the picture and alter their colours with tools such as Colour Balance, Levels, Flood Fill or Colour Replacer.

If you decided that this procedure is too harsh and want just the essential outlines, then try the Edge filter. It takes a number of steps and some tidying with the eraser tools, but the results can be worth the effort.

Start by resizing the image so it is about 300x300 pixels - this will produce thicker, more natural-looking lines when the Edge filter is applied. If you want fine lines, use a larger image such as 800x800. Now apply the Find Edge filter: Filter-Stylize-Find Edges (Photoshop 7) or Effects-Edge-Find All (Paint Shop Pro 7 - for some reason, the resulting image in this program will appear black with edges in white. Correct the problem by selecting Colours-Negative image).

To remove the motley collection of colours that will make up your lines, convert the image to grey scale. You can vary the tones of the lines with the Contrast and Brightness commands. Then use the Eraser and Select tools to remove any unwanted elements or splotches. Finally, resize the image to your preferred dimensions and change the image back to 16 million colours or RGB/CMYK mode.

Regardless of whether you used a drawing, painting or photograph, you should now be ready to start painting colours - which is the topic of my next column.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Mendham

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?