Playing with Pictures: pencil sketching

July 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Color masking is that thing where you bring out a colorful object in your picture and make the rest black and white. You see it in a lot of flower pictures. Why not? Flowers are colorful. And, unless you do something to the picture, kinda boring. It's a great way to draw attention to a thing. On the other hand, it's been done so frequently that many cameras even have it built in now. It's hardly a "skill" to create those photos. But it's been done to death and it's pretty well accepted that color masking is out of vogue. It's what they call a "beginner move". Like bathroom selfies. And duck lips. Still, there are times when I just can't help myself.

Layer masking is pretty simple and there are a ton of videos on YouTube explaining how it's done. But, like any tool, the trick is to be creative with it. I'm sure I'm not breaking new ground here. People are doing AMAZING things with layers. But I'm always looking for something different to do.

I also have a pencil sketch program, ironically called "Pencil Sketch Pro" that, while not quite human-like, can create some cool results. Oh.. and sketches in black and white or color.

Sometimes you get a picture that's just not.. interesting. For a long time, I used a Nikon Coolpix while I was on the bike because, if I dropped it at 70mph, no serious harm done. But it didn't take stellar pictures compared to my DSLRs. For one particular picture with poor quality and really drab colors, I found that I could crank up the Detail Extractor in Color Efex Pro (in the NIK collection currently owned by Google.. it's FREE). This made the picture pretty horrible but it would give me a lot of detail. I painted some blue into the skies and some green into the trees. Then I cranked up all the color, saved the file off and brought it into Pencil Sketch Pro. Playing around with various light/dark settings and bw/color levels, I found a place I liked. It produced a really cool comic book effect and this became one of my favorite pictures.

I thought, "What if I combined the pencil sketch and used a layer mask to put my subject into a sketch?" This was probably not the best picture to try this with but it was a little challenging and that's what I was looking for. Because of the lighting and all the plant detail on the photo, I wasn't really able to get the pencil marks I wanted. Still, it wasn't bad. My "real" rider was also very unnatural looking when I just put him in the picture. I had two choices that I could think of. The first was to blend him into the sketch. At about 65%, it was a pretty good mix with regard to light balance, color, etc. But I didn't want to have a "sketch" rider. I wanted him to be real. So I tried option two, which was to adjust the brightness and contrast of the real rider layer. A touch less contrast and a touch more brightness worked great. I saved that combined tif back to Lightroom and did some final global touch-up. Boost all the color just a tad. A little vignette.

I'll probably do a little more playing around with it. I've got some ideas on how to get it looking a little more graphic novel-esque. But it'll take some experimentation. I kinda like the picture but I love exploring the possibilities.

 


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