Choosing A Photo To Convert To Pencil
Factors such as lighting, shadows and the facial expression can all impact in the accuracy of the end result.
A good checklist which I ask my customers use is the one I use and it looks like this:
- Make sure the subject’s head is at least 1.5 inches from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin.
- Make sure the subject isn’t squinting.
- Make sure you can see the subject’s eye colour clearly.
- Make sure there are light and dark areas.
- Make sure the lighting is good, i.e. no glare or silhouette
- You can use either a colour photo or black and white photo.
- You can use either a hard copy or a digital copy.
The photo to the right is a great example, and will be the photo I will be using throughout this tutorial.
Editing The Photograph Using Software
Now you have chosen a great photo to convert to your pencil portrait, we need to make sure the features are fully clear. We will do this by;
- Cropping the photo so we have just head and shoulders in our view.
- Enlarging the image using image editing software
- Converting the image to black and white to enhance the contrast between light and dark areas.
Tip; If you have chosen a hard copy, use a scanner to import it to your computer and convert to digital format.
Of course, if you are not comfortable using a computer for more than Internet browsing, then using either an online or brick-and-mortar photo processing service may be better at a small cost.
If this is the case, tell your processor you want the photo to be 12×8 inches or A4 size and converted to grayscale.
Once you are comfortable with pencil portraiture, you can choose any size you want; I often convert my images on my PC to the exact size and contrast I want, and then process them at 15″ x 10″, which fills an A3 sheet pretty well.
This costs around £1.20 at PhotoBox, an online photo processing service and around £2.00 on the high street if you prefer bricks-and-mortar.
What Is Image Editing Software?
Image editing software is simply a program installed on your laptop or desktop computer which allows you to change elements of the photo. If you have ever cropped a photo, then you have already used a form of image editing software.
In fact, if you use Windows, then you already have such a program installed called Windows Photo Gallery. You can use this if you already have a clear photo with just head and shoulders; simply alter your settings under ‘Adjust Colour’ so they look similar to the photo on the left, and print it out selecting ‘A4′ at the top and ’20 x 25’ on the right.
If you are a Mac user however, then there are plenty of free applications you can download, Paintbrush or Sketchbook to name a couple. Use the same principles as set out above.
The best free image editor I have come across, and the one I used before I upgraded to Photoshop is GIMP.
GIMP is an Image Manipulation Program and is free open source software under the GPLv3 license. It runs under the GNU Project (hence G.I.M.P), which is a project as old as I am which is dedicated to making software accessible to everyone in order to get the most out of your computer. Cool, eh.
How To Download And Install GIMP
1.) Click on the link which corresponds to your platform;
2.) Click the ‘Download’ button, and wait for it to finish.
3.) Locate the file on your computer; most likely ‘Downloads’, and double-click on it.
4.) You may get asked permission to continue. Click ‘Continue’.
5.) Select the language. If you are reading this, then I’m figuring ‘English’!
6.) Click ‘Install’.
7.) The program will now begin installing. This takes a few minutes.
8.) Click ‘Finish’. Done!
Editing Your Photo With GIMP
1.) Open GIMP by double-clicking on it. This may take a few minutes first time.
2.) You will see three windows open; 1 tool box, 1 layers and brush box and your work area. Arrange these to suit however you wish.
3.) Go to ‘File’ then ‘Open’ and select the chosen photo from your computer. Skip step 4 if your image is already black and white.
4.) Go to ‘Image’ and scroll down to ‘Mode’ and select ‘Greyscale’. Your photo should now be black and white.
5.) In your toolbox, select the ‘Rectangle Select Tool’- it is usually the icon on the upper left hand side.
Tip; Leave your cursor hovering over the selection for the identity title to appear.
6.) Click and drag over the area of the image you wish to crop. This should be head and shoulders only.
7.) With the area selected, go to ‘Image’ and scroll down to select ‘Crop To Selection’. Your image should now be cropped, too.
8.) To enlarge the image and keep a good resolution and quality, go to ‘Image’- Scroll down to ‘Print Size’. A ‘Set Image Print Resolution’ window will pop up.
9.) In the width text-box enter 11.7. In the height enter 8.3. In the metric unit menu next to the height text-box select ‘inches’.
10.) Click ‘OK’. Save the image from ‘File’- ‘Save As’ and give it a new name.
It is important to select ‘Save As’ and not ‘Save’ because ‘Save’ replaces the original image before editing. ‘Save As’ will create a new image.
You can see how my photo looks enlarged and converted to grayscale on the right.
You can find more out about GIMP, including tutorials and user manuals by visiting their website http://www.gimp.org/
And we now have our photo ready, it’s time to work on the positioning of the pencil portrait.