Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Preparing a template in Photoshop, part of Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced.
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In this exercise, I want to show you how I went about preparing my tracing template inside of Photoshop so that it would work best for me inside of Illustrator. This might seem sort of strange that we're going to switch to Photoshop for an exercise, but it really is a great way to work, because it's much easier to sketch out an idea on a piece of paper, throw it on a scanner or even take a picture of it with a digital camera than bring it in a Photoshop, prepare the image so that it's going to work nicely as a tracing template inside of Illustrator, and then of course, bring it into Illustrator.
So I'm looking at this document called Ghost robot.ai and you may recall if I go ahead and turn off these layers right here from Backdrop up to Type and we just have Ghost vectors and Ghost template left. What I did was I went ahead and traced this Ghost template item right there and I really just grabbed the pencil, piece of paper, sketched it down, scanned it, brought it into Photoshop, then brought it into Illustrator. That's simple. It really doesn't take that much time. Then most of my time, where putting the ghosts together was concerned, was spent actually assembling these vectors right here and tracing the various elements that I needed to use in order to build my robot.
Now the nice thing about this template, I'll go ahead and zoom in on it, is that at all times here, I can see it and keep track of my objects at the same time, my vector-based objects, because I went ahead and made sure that my Ghost template was sketched in orange, which is just a color that stands out nicely, especially if I go over here and Ctrl- click on this eyeball or Command-click on the eyeball in front of the Ghost vectors layer. Then I can see the Wireframe or Keyline version of my illustration right here as black outlines, and of course, transparent fills. So I can very easily keep track of what are the vectors, which are black, and what is the sketch, which is orange. So how do you go about preparing such a tracing template? You do most of the work inside of Photoshop.
So, I'll go ahead and switch over to Photoshop right here, which I have running at the same time. Now what we're seeing right here is an image called Robot ghost gray.jpg and this is the image as I scanned it. So I went ahead and as I say, sketched it out using a pencil and a piece of paper, scanned it and then opened it up inside Photoshop. Now the lines look awfully dark. That's because of the automatic shadow compensation provided by my scanner. So my scanner went ahead and made the pencil lines as dark as possible. We also have some grayish paper going on.
So what I want is black and white. I want to get rid of all that extra gray stuff. So I go up to the Image menu and I would choose Adjustments and I would choose the Levels command. You may think, well, you could apply an adjustment layer, right, if you wanted to keep everything nondestructive and protect your original image and all that jazz. In this case, it's just a tracing template. So I'm not going to get too hung-up on making permanent modifications to this image. So I'll choose the Levels command. You can see, this hump over here on the left side of what is known as a histogram inside of this dialog box. This, up right there, represents the darkest colors inside of my image. So these would be the pencil lines, which aren't quite black. Then this area of colors right there, this hump over here on the right-hand side of the graph, that would be the paper colors. I know that because the darkest colors are on the left and lightest colors are over here on the right.
So if I drag this white slider triangle over to the left, like so, to be left side, i.e., of this right hump, then I'm going to make all of those paper colors nice and white, which is what I want. Then I'd go ahead and darken up the pencil lines by dragging this black point over to the right side of the little sort of shadow hump over here. So I have Input Level values of 40 and 170. We're not concerned about this so-called Gamma value in the middle here. We're just concerned about the Shadow value of 40 and the Highlight value of 170. If you are unfamiliar with the Levels command and you don't know what's going on quite, then check out my "Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced" series. The very first chapter inside of the Advanced series covers Levels and Curves, and I think you'll find it quite insightful.
All right, I'll go ahead and click OK. Now I want to make all of my black lines orange, like this. This is the final version by the way. This one is called Robot ghost color.tif. This is the very image that is placed into the Ghost robot.ai illustration. So how do I make those lines orange or some other color? Well, what you do is you go back, of course, to the grayscale version of the image. I did go ahead and scan this as a grayscale image. So it's not going to allow me to add colors at this point. So notice, if I go up to the Image command and choose Adjustments, then all of the color correction options right here, anything that has to do with the actual Hue and Saturation values inside of an image, they are all dimmed, because I can't add any colors to the image at this point.
What I have to do to allow colors to occur, I have to go to the Mode submenu and I have to switch from Grayscale to RGB or CMYK or something along those lines, but RGB is your best bet. Again, this is just a tracing template so we don't care, we don't need it to be CMYK because we're not going to be printing it. So go ahead and choose RGB color, and then, you go up to the Image menu, you choose Adjustments. Now notice all of these commands are available to you. The one we want is Hue/Saturation. So what you can do is you can say, well, I want to colorize this image, which we do, and I want to colorize it orange, which happens to have a Hue value of 30 degrees.
Let's go ahead and take the Saturation value up, way up to like 75, and we are starting to bring out some oranges inside of the robot. But the core lines are still black. They are not being colorized with orange. If you want that, if you want to make those orange, which is what we ultimately want, then you need to bring up the Lightness value. Now normally I don't monkey around with the Lightness value, but when preparing a sketch like this one that works out beautifully, I'll go ahead and take this Lightness value up to +50, and now we have a nice, orange robot. So it will be really easy to trace. Click OK and then go ahead and save it out, of course.
Then you would go back to Illustrator, you would set up your Ghost template layer, right there. You create a new layer. Then you'd go up to the File menu. You would choose the Place command in order to bring in your illustration. We've seen this before. That's why I'm just kind of running though it briefly here. Then you would double-click on the layer in order to bring up the Layer Options dialog box here and you would turn on Template, turn on the Template checkbox and then set Dim Images to whatever you want it to be. By default, it's 50%, but I raise mine to 65% and then click OK. You've got yourself a delightful template that you can use to set all of your objects exactly into place.
Now you can see that I sometimes went my own way when setting up my vector objects here in front of the tracing template, which is of course just fine. You can make any decisions at any point in time that you like. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to fuse objects together, fuse simple objects to make more complicated objects here inside Illustrator.
Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.
- Working with compound shapes in the Pathfinder palette
- Ghosting shapes with Fill Opacity
- Understanding gradients and the gradient tools
- Cloning and coloring a blended path
- Saving tile patterns and applying them to a shape
- Importing and linking images from other applications