Re: doing graphics when you're not an artist

Subject: Re: doing graphics when you're not an artist
From: Stan Schwartz <stanz -at- cam -dot- org>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 18:11:48 -0500

We need to use more graphics in our manuals. The problem is that the
technical artist already has too much work and there's no budget to get
another. We need line drawings of hardware equipment to show how to assemble
the parts. Myself and my colleague are used to modifying existing graphics
(illustrator and coreldraw) but not drawing from scratch.

Creating line art from colour or B&W continuous tone photographs is a snap.
It is as simple as can be using PhotoShop. (two clicks) Furthermore, the effect is variable such that the detail can be increased or decreased. It's Fast (In real time on my MAC - YMMV) and easy enough to do to see how far you want to go with this.

1. Choose Filter > Blur > Smart Blur
Radius: 4.0, Threshold: 45.0, Quality: High, Mode : Edge Only
2. Click OK (that's the first click)
3. Choose Image > Adjust > Invert
4. There is no step #4. You're done. That was the second click.

Use scanned photos, digital photos, conventional photos converted into Photo CD at the local photofinisher, scanned slides, sketches, drawings, whatever. You'll set your own aesthetic limits after you see the results of each different image source. Each different image sourc will produce a different 'effect.' Note that the results of any one will be fine; but, avoid mixing them to avoid a 'hodge-podge' of different illustration styles.

Here's the catch. There's always a catch. A photograph isn't as selective as the eye. You might be looking at the subject ready to stap the shutter but how about what's behind the subject? You will have to retouch out the extra detail to direct attention to the subject at hand. The biggest problem with 'do it yourself' photography is the lighting - not enough of it. It should be appropriate to portraying the best rendition of the subject after reproduction. All in all, the setup time, experimenting, shooting, retouching, and file transfers will bring all other activities to a stand-still. Hire a freelancer.

I'm wondering how practical it is to take digital photos of the equipment
and then use a software package to trace over the parts of the picture we
want to use. I think Adobe Illustrrator lets you do such tracing but haven't
tried. Any other software that could help us? How do others draw pictures
when you're not an artist?

Tracing is reeeaaaly easy too if you don't have to do it with a brick (aka a mouse) and can lay your hands on a tablet and stylus. PhotoShop, FreeHand, Illustrator, Painter, etc. allow you tracing capability using layers. After the fifth complete tracing, you can start with the real stuff 'cuz by then you will have developed your 'style'

Programs that auto trace like Streamline are good but create far too many points for the bezier curves that tend to choke the PostScript RIPs unless they are 'cleaned up' which takes alot of time.

I guess that you already know that graphics programs eat RAM for breakfast.

HTH. Best,

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doing graphics when you're not an artist: From: Jennifer O'Neill

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