DreamLight Interactive

PostScript Illustration


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Photo-realistic PostScript Illustration Tips & Tricks
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Source Material


We were supplied with a few prototype shoes as well as all the separate pieces that go into their construction. First we placed a prototype shoe on a table and fed the image into the Mac with a digitizer attached to a video camera on a tripod. While viewing the video image on screen, we positioned the shoe at an angle to show off its construction, roughly a 3/4 view.

[Tracing of the Sole on Cardboard]
The sole of the shoe is traced onto a piece of cardboard.

Next we traced an outline of the sole on a piece of cardboard placed under the prototype shoe on the table. This outline then serves as a template to help position each piece accurately for scanning. We also turn the cardboard around and draw another outline in the opposite direction because some of the components came from right and left shoes. This enabled us to scan in either piece and simply flip the image in the Mac.

We then placed each piece in position within the outlines and scanned them into the system as TIFF files. We imported each piece into FreeHand where they were used as templates to begin the illustration. We could have drawn all parts completely from scratch, but this saves many hours by giving us an enormous head start.

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Initial Rough-in

Stack of Scans Stack of Scans that have been Traced

Next we roughed in each element right over the scans. Any elements that were completed in earlier illustrations that can be reused here, are placed in position. In this illustration we reused the bubble technology piece and the insole from a previous illustration. Notice how we changed some shapes of the illustration to make the elements more aesthetically pleasing such as the curves given to the outsole and insole. We also estimated where the upper portion would end, since our prototype had the sole attached.

At this point we roughed in elements with solid filled shapes to help plan out the construction of the illustration and the overlapping order of complex sections. If we had simply traced the scan with outlines, we would need to create filled shapes later to construct the shading. Thinking ahead now, saves time later.

Illustration Almost CompleteAt this stage the illustration is approaching completion. All that is left is to refine some of the shading and add fine details such as stitching.

Step-by-Step Techniques


Textured Shoelaces

  1. We draw the basic outline of the lace first. We then clone the outline and shrink it to fit within the main outline. We blend these shapes to give the illusion of volume.
  2. We clone the outside outline and remove the stroke and fill. We will use this as a mask for the texture.
  3. We draw a small loop that we step and repeat to create a pattern. This pattern is easier to align to individual laces than a true tiled fill would be. The resulting pattern is then pasted inside the outline from the previous step.

Webbed Patches

  1. We draw the basic outline of the webbed patch and fill it with a graduated fill.
  2. We create two lines for each of the horizontal and vertical directions. We then blend both sets of lines to form the webbing texture.
  3. We then paste the resulting mesh within the original shape that adds texture to the graduated fill.
[Illustration of the Steps]

Plastic Bubbles

  1. We draw the basic outline of the bubble and clone it twice. We shrink and reposition each clone within the original.
  2. We then clone the middle shape again and use the four total shapes to create two blends. This allows us to control both the shadow and light areas of the shape independently.
  3. Finally we create a small highlight shape to give the surface a shiny plastic effect.
[Illustration of the Steps]

Simple Stitching

  1. One of the final details to be added was the stitching. Once all the shapes have been finalized it is a relatively simple procedure to add the stitching.
  2. We clone the outline of the shape to be stitched. We then shrink the outline to fit within the original. We remove the fill of the inside shape and apply a dark stroke. This will be the shadow of the stitching indentation.
  3. Finally we clone the inside line and apply a dotted line style to it that simulates the stitching.
[Illustration of the Steps]

Shiny Nylon

  1. We start by drawing the basic outline of the Nylon patch. Then we clone and reduce the outline twice. Each new outline is fitted within the previous. Cloning and shrinking is an easy way to keep your blends from twisting. To simulate Nylon, we keep the area between the dark and midtone to about 75% of the area and the highlight to midtone around 25%.
  2. We then clone the middle shape again and leave it in position. We use these four shapes to create two blends. This gives us control over both the shadow and light portions of the patch independently.
  3. We can then interactively adjust the blend by stretching the outlines. FreeHand will automatically reblend the shapes. This gives us the ability to experiment with the shading and literally sculpt the shapes.

Power User Tips & Tricks


The Power of Interactive Blends

To create an irregular or organic shape you must use blends rather than graduated fills. Graduated fills are geometric and don’t follow the contours of objects. We generally use a two or three blend process depending on the tonal range of the desired objects. If we need to control the shadow area, the midtone area, and the light area, we will use three blends. If only the shadow and light area need to be finely controlled, we will use two blends, such as in the Nylon example above. By using separate blends, we are able to control the transitions from light to dark much better than if a single blend was used.

The Power of Colors

Colors are generally misused in illustrations. If we make a red color and name it red in our color palette, we have neglected to capitalize on the power of named colors. Colors should be created and named based on their function rather than their color. This simple point makes working with complex illustrations much more manageable.

When we started the running shoe illustrations, the colors were not finalized from the manufacturer, so we needed to keep flexibility in mind. Let’s say both the suede and the Nylon were white when we started. If we had used a color called white for all the elements of the suede and nylon throughout, it would have been a nightmare to make changes later if the manufacturer decided to use blue suede and green nylon, or whatever. By creating sets of colors right from the beginning, based on their function, we have complete control over the illustration and can change any element at will.

The Power of Styles

We use a greatly underestimated and misunderstood feature of FreeHand. FreeHand has true graphic styles enabling us to create a style and apply it to multiple elements of an illustration. We can then modify the illustration by simply changing the styles, rather than by digging individual elements out of a complex illustration.

FreeHand has multilevel styles (i.e., one style can be based on another) If we decide to change the line weight or dash density of all the stitching on all our shoe illustrations, we can simply do it with one command and it flows through the entire set. If we have different styles of stitching such as suede stitching and nylon stitching, all based on a single stitching style, we can change the line weight or stitch spacing of all the related styles by simply changing the base style.

True styles have been used for a long time in word processing programs but are generally misunderstood in drawing programs. Just as a text style can change all the headlines in a book with one command, a graphic style can change all the stitching, or suede, or Nylon, or whatever, in an illustration.

[An Image of our Palettes in Use] A Power User’s Palettes

Color List Palette

At far left is a small section of our color palette from the creation of the illustrations. Notice the C Suede colors (colored suede), the Suede colors, and the Laces colors. Both the Suede and Laces colors are basically the same color but by using sets named by function we can instantly color all the laces without worrying about anything else changing. Also notice the bullets in front of the midtone colors. This is our symbol to show the base color of a set of tints. All the C Suede colors lighter than • C Suede MD are tints of it and can be changed simply by changing • C Suede MD.

Styles Palette

At near left is a small section of our Styles palette showing some of the sets of styles used in the illustrations. Notice the bullets in front of some names. These are base or parent styles. Other styles are based on these. If we want to change any of the common elements of a set of styles, we simply change the base style and it flows through the related styles and the entire illustration.

Layers Palette

Below is our Layers palette. We use as many layers as we need to conveniently organize complex illustrations.


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