Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GIMP Tutorial: Limited color palette for Spoonflower fabric design

This is a learn-as-you-go process, as with most things. I wanted to create an image but needed to restrict it to a certain color palette. I scanned this sketch of a branch. You can see the lines around the image - that's the paper. That's easy to eliminate in Gimp by selecting Color > Threshold. You can slide the threshold which will make the image more or less pixely.

Here are screen shots of a bird that I put through the process:

Keep in mind that I started with a fairly low resolution photograph of my sketch for this tutorial, so the image is a bit pixely. This is the original image.
I applied the Color > Threshold to remove everything except the black lines and white background.
 Then I erased things I didn't want in the image, such as pen marks.
Then I used a black pencil (size 3) to add in a few lines, in this case to close in the image for filling it with color.
Next I did Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Channel, then I did Colors > Color to Alpha. White was the default, and that's what I wanted to remove so I pressed ok, which removed the white and left me with a transparency of the black lines. Then I did Colors > Map > Color Exchange. Black was in the exchange From Color box, and white was in the To Color box. I clicked the To Color box and the color tool appeared. I selected a mauve-ish color, c33855, which is one of the RGB hex codes in a current Spoonflower challenge. I pressed okay to select that color, and okay to make the change. Then I zoomed into the image (400%) to look over it and see if there were any pixels that hadn't changed. (By the way, I first tried the color exchange without adding the alpha channel, but there were some random black pixels left behind.)

If your 'From Color' is not black, you can drag all the color setting dials to the left which will make it black. If the color you want to exchange is something else, use the color picker (Tools > Color Picker, then click on the part of your image that has the color you want to change from, which will send the color to the 'Foreground' box), then you can find out the RGB hex code (i.e. white is #ffffff). Enter the code into the color box on color exchange to select your color.

Next I started adding color to the bird and the background using the bucket fill, and zoomed in to ensure all the pixels were filled (or most, anyway - there were a few here and there I didn't bother with). I used these codes (#DE8371, #C33855, #D1CC56, #2E486B, #FFFFFF). I filled in the background with blue.
To finish it off, I added a blue layer, merged the layers and removed the alpha channel. Adding the blue layer ensured there would be no pixels that are not in the limited color palette.

Let's face it. I think this coloration borders on hideous. But I made this just for the tutorial to show how to use Gimp to modify an image and stay within a restricted palette.

As for the colored branch image at the top of the post, I noticed some pixel shearing (I just made that up) along the top edge. I could go in and manually smooth it out, but I'll look for an easier way to do it.

Process: Drawing Birds

When I try to draw birds from my imagination, without any reference, the results are mixed... (Although, I do like the little peacock-type bird in the middle. But some of these look more like slugs than birds.)
I saw some birds last weekend and took some photos. When I use them for a reference, I get better results. I do appreciate stylized bird drawings and I'd like to come up with my own version. I know that just like anything, practicing will improve skill. Here are the photos I took, and the sketches I made based on those photos:

 A pigeon: they are so pesky, but not very bright. There were a few pigeons and a few small birds. The small birds would swoop in and steal whatever crumb the pigeons were pecking at, then fly away with the crumb.

Some other sketches of birds I made:

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I took this quick sketch (below) I did the other day and played around with the edges and added color in GIMP. When I tiled it in Spoonflower as a mirror image it looked okay - almost a bit like a kaleidoscope image.

Process: more GIMP and EQ6

To experiment with layering in GIMP, I created a quick sketch of color shapes in Paint,

and a quick sketch of 'writing' - this makes me want to go buy a graphic pad + stylus so I can actually draw with a stylus instead of trying to use the mousepad to create writing...
Then I layered the images in GIMP. I made the layers opaque (70%) - just experimenting. And I reversed the grain on the writing so it appears white. My final image:
This has me thinking about all the possibilities. There are a ton of good tutorials out there. Here is one that I thought covered a lot of basic points but was fast and well-done. That tutorial shows how to make vertical stripes and lay down a banner and other things, complete with Gaussian blurs and shadowing. It's really very exciting. Part of the tutorial showed how to open an image with texture and make that a layer (I used a photo of a cloud):
This is the image without the cloud layer. I uploaded it to Spoonflower but for some reason when I tiled it, there is a visible line at the edge of each tile.
I'll have to play with it to make the edge-line go away. I made this diagonal striped pattern by following this tutorial, which creates a gradient across the width of the stripe.
These diagonal lines don't tile properly (understandably) in Spoonflower but the mirror feature creates an interesting pattern, quite like a simple log cabin.
For this one I used the same tutorial, but created vertical stripes. I can see a bit of an artifact though, which makes me think the lines are not 100% vertical (this particular tutorial uses a tool that you create the line direction manually. I'm sure there is a way to control the pitch but I did it freehand in this case). Here I changed the colors across the pattern, but if I hadn't changed the colors, this would show the original image with a gradient from left to right inside each stripe (as above).
I did find this tutorial with a detailed mathematical explanation of how to create rotated (ie diagonal) tileable patterns. I'm going to have to give that a go one of these days. It looks like someone created a plug-in from the instructions. I haven't downloaded any plug-ins yet, I'm still familiarizing myself with the basics.

I was thinking about using repeats of a basic shape to create another design. I made this quick sketch of hearts in a circle.
Then I drafted a PatchDraw Motif block in EQ6, moved the motif to the block tab, and set the blocks into a simple 3x3 on-point quilt layout with the border removed. Here is a cropped shot of the 'quilt':
This tiled well in Spoonflower. I made the motif by creating a heart shape and copying it 5 times, then rotating each one 60 degrees more than the previous. However, I don't know if it's because of the shape or what, but I couldn't align the hearts symmetrically around the middle - you can see bigger gaps between some than others. So that's another thing to figure out. I added some circles and colored the pieces. I still haven't figured out how to color the 'background' of the block in the PatchDraw Motif block so it's not just white. I'm sure it's an easy fix. This is the 'quilt' layout from EQ6:
Next I'm going to do something with this sketch: I'll color the flowers like oriental poppies.
I have to say that for the most part, I'm not satisfied with the colors in the digital images I've created. I want to be able to see the same colors I can make with real paint. I need to learn how to create better colors digitally, and experiment with layering texture to add interest to the 'color'. I think part of what makes me like a 'color' on some of my own artwork is that it is variable. It is not a sheet of pure pink or pure orange. There are bits of orange and bits of yellow in the 'pink' field. So when I'm appreciating something that looks pink, what I'm really appreciating is the entire composition surrounding the pink.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Design Inspiration EVERYWHERE

I saw a cool manhole cover this weekend:

It's like a bunch of hexagons stacked around a circle. Lots of possibilities!
I saw some apples at a farmer's market and the light was perfect for taking some pictures:

Also a pear or two thrown in there. There were also some Concord grapes, covered in bees.

And some yellow trees. Fall has arrived.
I played around with the 'panorama' setting on my iPhone. You move the camera slowly around, keeping the arrow lined up on the line and it stitches together all the pictures. It's pretty incredible. The file size was enormous - almost 15 MB. I've reduced it here but the original has decent resolution considering I was constantly moving the camera. And I did a little watercolor based on the scene:
I also did a quick sketch for another Spoonflower attempt. I wanted to see how the Spoonflower uploader tiles the design. You can do a 'brick' or 'reverse' or 'mirror' and it changes how the design looks. It's kind of exciting. If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it.
 I've also been paying attention recently to all the interesting motifs on the sides of buildings. I saw this one over the weekend. Lots of possibilities. Reminds me of some of the motifs on ancient Greek vases.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Process: Spoonflower and Gimp

Recently I saw a pattern on Pinterest I liked, and I clicked through to the source - a fabric swatch on Spoonflower. I've known about Spoonflower since its beta phase a few years ago but never had the impetus to do something about it. Suddenly I felt like I TOO MUST DO THAT! First I played around with creating an image in EQ6, which I use occasionally to do quick mock-ups of quilt designs to test color layouts. I'm certainly not familiar with EQ6, not enough to really use all of its capabilities. But I managed to come up with a few things and uploaded them to Spoonflower. Of course, these things are nothing like what's in my head. My head is full of bold, bright colors and noisy, geometric patterns, birds, triangles, spirals, stacks of squares, etc. But first things first. I need to learn how to use the technology before I can put what's in my brain "onto paper." I created this design in EQ6 and repeated it in blocks, like a quilt. Then I exported it as this image:

Then I uploaded that image to Spoonflower and it tiled the image into this repeat, which could be printed out onto fabric or wallpaper:
Back in EQ6, I took the original 'daisy' motif and put a circle around it and then colored the squares different colors, then exported this image:
Here is the image tiled in Spoonflower:

Then I thought, how can I add some of my artwork to the situation? I was googling around and reading about people using Photoshop and other programs to take an image and remove the background, making the image transparent and floating it on top of another image or background. That sounded pretty good to me - to be able to do that without having to trace around the edges! I saw reference to the free image editing software Gimp and downloaded it. I did a quick sketch of a flower and some dots using markers and scanned it:

The image of the flower, uploaded directly to Spoonflower and tiled to form a stagger pattern, still shows the artifacts on the white background from the scanned image. (The resolution of the tiled image, below, isn't very good because I captured it by pinning it to my Pinterest board and then saving the image, since downloading it from Spoonflower didn't reproduce the tiled image. There may be a better way, but this is what I know, for now...)

Then I took the flower image and the dot image, opened them in Gimp, created the transparencies, messed about with the layers for awhile, rotating them and such, then added the blue paint, then exported the image. Here is a sample from Spoonflower of the Gimped image I uploaded. This image is one I pinned via Pinterest and downloaded so the resolution is fairly low.
This is the original exported Gimp file - you can see the resolution is much better than what I pulled from Pinterest. 

This was a lot of fun, and terribly engrossing. I'm looking forward to playing around with it some more and increasing my knowledge and hopefully I will get to the point where I'm capable of executing some of these ideas that are floating around in my head.