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When working in Illustrator it's nice to add textures that weren't computer generated (like gradients or pattern fills). Illustrations like the ones in this lightbox have that extra something, and when you see them, you can practically feel them under your fingers. While gradients have their place, they lack that 'handmade' feel and can limit the usefulness of your image. T-shirt graphics are a great example where gradients don't always work well with silk screening. Handmade textures are an ideal solution: they're unique, interesting, and print very well.

We're going to give you step-by-step instructions on how you can create your own hand-made texture effects using a Chinagraph Pencil on simple Watercolor Paper

Now pull out your pencil and paper and start doodling. As an example we're starting with a simple pencil sketch of a Hip-Hop Hippo, which is about 6" tall on the page.

Once you have your sketch looking the way you want it, scan it on a flatbed scanner. Save your scan as a JPEG or TIFF and place it into a new vector document. Create a new layer over your scan and begin tracing the outlines with the pen tool. Don't worry too much about precision just yet, we're just getting the basic shapes in place. A black outline with a white fill will work fine for what we need.

After you've got your basic shapes in place, convert all the outlines into dotted lines rather than solid lines. This will help to stop shapes joining together and make manipulating the textured parts easier (we forgot to do that for our Hippo and had to use white out correction fluid to keep the elements separate!).



Once you are happy with with your base drawing, grab some watercolor paper (or any paper stock with a textured feel that can run through your printer) and print out a few copies. Here's where things get fun.

Using your Chinagraph pencil, block in areas you want to be a solid color and then lightly cross hatch in some strokes starting dark but then fading to white. The trick is to balance out the texture so there is a good transition from dark to light. Make sure you stop sketching from time to time and squint at your image; this will help you see where areas need darkening, and other areas need lightening.

When you are happy with the pencil shading you can scan the image as a greyscale at 150dpi at 100%. That is all the resolution you will need. Save your new scan and open it into whatever raster software you like (we used Photoshop for our Hippo).

Adjust the contrast of your texture scan until you get a good balance between white and black. You may need to push your contrast more to highlights or shadows in order to keep the textures in your midtones. You don't want the small black specs to fade to white and you don't want the small white specs to fill in!



In the example above you can see we need to work a little bit on the arm shapes, they're not looking as smooth as we'd like. However, the neck area's looking just right. You may need to create a few different layers in order to concentrate on different areas since adjusting one spot may make another look too rough or too smooth.

Once you're happy with the contrast you can save the image. From here we're going to use an autotrace feature (we recommend Adobe Illustrator CS2's Live trace — you can also use Streamline, Flash or Freehand). You'll need to monkey around with your settings until you get a good mix of shapes. You don't want the texture too rough and jagged, but you also don't want it too smooth!

Once you're happy with your texture trace results, you can open your original illustration and convert the dotted lines back to solid. Copy and paste your newly created vector texture into a new layer in this file.



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