Realising the Portrait Project

As I’ve mentioned in the last couple of blog posts, I shall be writing about how I constructed this design and here is that blog post. It will mainly be in the style of a tutorial, hence why I have included it in the tutorial category as well as the portrait category on my blog.

Computer Programs used:

  • Adobe Illustrator CS5.1 (DNA double helix design)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS5.1 (Constructing the design, image editing and design effects)
  • HP Scan (to scan in the pencil sketch)

Equipment used for pencil sketch:

  • 130gsm acid-free A4 paper suited to line drawing and/or watercolour.
  • Range of drawing pencils.
  • Eraser/Sharpener/Ruler/Compass

Creating the sketch and scanning it into Photoshop:

  1. Created a preparatory sketch to assess composition and shading.
  2. Created a secondary sketch to finalise composition, and m
    ake notes for shading.
  3. Drew guidelines for the centre points of the iris and pupil using a compass to ensure they were circular.
  4. Created the line drawing, and refined it along the way so the main shape matched my reference photo in the areas I wanted it to.
  5. Shaded it in using a range of drawing pencils. The softest I used was a 4B for the eyelashes through to a F for the lines, and a 2H for the lightest of shading. Had I been shading the pupil, I would have used something like a 7B, to ensure I did not have to press too hard to get the darkness I would require. Anything higher than a 7B I find too soft for me to practically use.

With this illustration I wanted to vary some things from the reference photo like my eyelashes being too long for example, blocking the iris. The good thing with illustration is that I had artistic license to change what I needed, especially as this is more of a conceptual illustration than a literal one.

I also made sure the sketch was larger than needed, to account for a 3mm bleed on each side that is used for printing magazines like New Scientist.

Then I scanned it using my printer at home, and made a few changes accessible from the ‘Adjust’ panel to ensure the quality was suitable for what I was looking for here:

  • Image: I cropped the image ever so slightly to have a clean break.
  • Size: I changed the resolution to 600 dpi. Although print quality is 300dpi, I did not want to take any chances with a poorly scanned sketch.
  • Colour: I restored faded colour to remove the slight yellow tint the paper had. Alternatively this can be done via Photoshop (decrease saturation) if required.

Creating the DNA double helix design for the iris:

  1. I opened an Illustrator document to the dimension of the New Scientist magazine (203 x 267mm)
  2. How I created the helix can be read here and here, both resources explain what you need to know, so there is nothing for me to add.
  3. To put it into a circular pattern, I first made sure the image was rotated to be in the vertical position. I clicked on Rotate (Tools Panel) and pressing the alt key, clicked where I wanted the axis of rotation to be. This brings up a dialog box where entering 360/24 gave me 24 helixes in the circle. It took some experimenting to find the best number. I then clicked Copy. After that I pressed cmd/ctrl + d on the keyboard, which as you will see fills out the circle with helixes.
  4. To colour them, I individually went to one helix and selected the colour I wanted using the Fill box on the Tools Panel. I did this for all 24 helixes to create the colour spectrum I wanted. Then I went through and made one of the strands for each helix darker by adding a value of either 5,10, or 15 to the K value in the Colour Picker box. This was time consuming and there may be a quicker method, but I did not mind doing it this way and I wanted to get it just right.

Creating the texture for the iris: I was only able to do this because I watched this video and from there I was able to patch together the knowledge I needed to create the following part of my design.

  1. I personally opened a new Photoshop document to work on it separately to the main design. Document values for this were 200mm square, at 300 dpi.
  2. I set the foreground and background colours using the relevant boxes on the Tools Panel. Colour was not too important to me, as long as the contrast between the two colours was noticeable in a subtle manner, so as not to clash with each other.
  3. I went to Filter > Render > Fibres where it brought up a box where values could be entered for variance and strength. You can see the values I entered in the below image: 
  4. The image in that dialog box then appears on screen. This texture is great, but it is not circular. To do this, I went to Filter > Distort > Polar co-ordinates and then select ‘Rectangular to Polar’ in the resulting dialog box.
  5. So now I have a circular pattern for some of the design, but it is still a rectangle. To fix this I went to the Elliptical Marquee Tool, drew a selection over the area I wanted to keep, pressing the shift key to keep it in proportion and also occassionally pressing the space key to allow me to move the selection while I was creating it.
  6. I went to Select > Inverse to ensure I did not lose the part of the pattern I wanted, and then hit the backspace key to remove the unwanted areas. 
  7. I then desaturated the texture by going to Image > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation where I decreased the Saturation slider to 0.
  8. I then decided I would copy the DNA design from the Illustrator file into this Photoshop file. To do this, I pressed cmd + c to copy and cmd + v to paste. This brings up a dialog box, where I chose to place it in as ‘Pixels’ to save rasterizing it as all my editing had been done for the helixes.

End result:

Editing the photo of my face for the ‘reflection’ in the pupil: Firstly I made sure the photograph I took was with my head against a pale background with some light from above, and then held the camera in front of my face and took the image.

  1. I opened it in Photoshop, and immediately went to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and lowered the brightness to -150 and upped the contrast to +150.
  2. I then went to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and decreased the saturation to 0 and decreased the lightness to around -35.
  3. I then selected the Brush Tool from the Tools Panel, chose a soft brush with hardness set to 50% (right-click to bring up palette where size and hardness can be changed) and brushed around my face to remove the half I wanted to be hidden, and get rid of the background.

I’ll discuss how I merged this into the design later on. End result:

Building the Photoshop document:

  1. Firstly, I opened a new Photoshop document, and ensured the Dimensions were the size of the New Scientist magazine (203 x 267mm) with a Resolution of 300dpi as that is best for print quality.
  2. I then went to File > Place, found the pencil sketch image I wanted, and clicked Place. Hit the Enter key to confirm placement. To transform the image I press cmd + t on the keyboard, which places the sketch into Free Transform mode where I fitted it to size, ensuring it was a little bit larger than the canvas to account for the bleed when the design is printed.
  3. Now I copied the iris design in from the other Photoshop document. To do this, I went to that document, selected the Move Tool from the Tools Panel, and dragged it to the other document, and dropped in place in a new layer. From there, like the pencil sketch, I edited it to be the right size and made sure it was in the right location, which was the pencil guideline I had for the iris. To ensure I could see this I decreased the Opacity of the layer, which can be controlled from the Layers palette. This can also be done sometimes by pressing the number keys (e.g. 3 = 30% opacity). Once done I returned opacity to 100% (0 number key).
  4. Then it was time to add some Layer Styles (click on the layer in the Layers Palette twice to bring up the dialog box) to the iris to give it the desired texture. I used a Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Inner Glow and Outer Glow, of which the settings I used are placed below with a caption to maybe explain some details.
  5. To stop the iris overlapping the sketch, I learnt from an Iceflow Studios tutorial that what I needed was a Layer Mask, so I could hide some of it in a non-destructive manner. To do this I lowered the opacity of the iris layer, and drew a precise line using the Lasso Tool on the Tools Panel where I wanted the image to hide itself, and then drew it around the rest of the eye. To enable this, I clicked the ‘Add Vector Mask’ button at the base of the Layers palette
  6. After I had done this, I felt some areas of the edge of the iris could be darker still. This was best achieved by creating a new layer, and brushing a soft, black brush around the edge with the Opacity set to 80% so as to shadow rather than block out the edge of the iris. 
  7. The next job was to add in the pupil on a new layer. To do this, I selected the Brush Tool on the Tools Panel, and went to Window > Brush Presets to ensure this box was visible. I selected a soft brush, so it would appear to bleed into the iris, set the hardness to 0% and ensured the size was large enough to cover the pupil guideline on the iris. I clicked a couple of times to ensure the pupil was fully darkened. 
  8. I then went to Layer Styles, and added a Gradient Overlay, to allow for the bleed to progress gradually from the black of the pupil to the grey of the iris, of which the settings can be seen below.
  9. I then created another new layer, and added a bright white reflection, using a soft brush (Brush Tool) set with the Opacity at 70%, allowing the DNA helix to be visible through it. I then clicked a few more times with a smaller, hard brush (available from the Brush Presets palette) to add a brighter mark to the reflection.
  10. Moving onto the face reflection, I went back to the original document, selected my face using the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the Tools Panel and pressed cmd + c to copy it. I then went to the main document, and pressed cmd + v to paste it into a new layer. After this I pressed cmd + t to edit the size and location of the image and put it in its position.
  11. Finally I used the Horizontal Type Tool from the Tools Panel to add in the caption and folio at the base of the page. From the Control Bar at the top of the screen, I chose the typeface as Open Sans as this was the style I wanted to get a close match to New Scientist. I also edited the size so it was 8pt. I chose the Semibold weight of Open Sans for the caption and page number part of the folio so as to stand out more to the reader against the pencil sketch background with multiple gradations.

This is the end result of all that work: