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How to Make Stock Art Sizzle

(January 2007) posted on Mon Jan 15, 2007

Transform clip art from amateurish images into amazing garment graphics.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Thomas Trimingham

Removing vector-like elements from clip art is a big part of adding realism to the design. I started on the skull layer by selecting it and then creating a duplicate layer that I could edit. That way, if I screwed something up, I could always go back to the original layer for pieces of the artwork or even the whole thing. I used the Modify Selection command to contract the selection (move it away from the edges of the skull), and I then used the Feather command to blur the edges of the selection so I could apply the Gaussian Blur filter to the middle of the skull. Next, I wanted to make the skull look meaner, so I copied and pasted the eyes on a separate layer and then skewed their edges so that the eyebrows of the skull were slanted inward toward the center of the nose. The final stage of the edit was to use the Dodge/Burn tool and Smudge tool to smooth the edges of the shapes so that everything looked more rendered (Figure 3). I knew I was on the right track when I had a skull that looked like a real illustration—and it only took ten minutes to create!

I used the Airbrush tool to quickly edit the background tribal graphics and the Burn tool to create a shadow around the skull and near where the type would overlay the tribal flames. I created red glow inside of the type and the eyes of the skull and saved it as a separate layer so I could edit it in the next step. Finally, I completed the stock-art conversion into a more original looking illustration with the overlay of a tribal pattern onto the surface of the skull itself. I used a tribal brush pattern, reduced the layer's opacity to 50%, and then selected part of the brush pattern and used Spherize filter to distort it. In the end, the pattern looked like it was wrapped onto the skull (Figure 4). The next several steps involved integrating custom halftone patterns into the artwork.

Testing the artwork with custom halftones


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