1/12/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Ilex. 128 page square-shape illustrated hardback with CD. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-905814-02-2.
check out website: www.ilex-press.com
I should point out the reason that this review is a little separate from the others is because this is an activity book and we need a little more space to show the results and so the pictures are double their normal size or you wonít see any detail where the colour is contained so clearly otherwise.
Part of the reason why I pulled this book for was because there are several ĎClip Artí books around and this one falls within our genre and the nice man from Illex trusted me for better part of a year to give it a proper try out. Rather than give comment about the book, it seemed more appropriate to try it out rather than just look at the pretty designs. After all, I have a computer and, last year, even a recently purchased graphics pad which I thought would be ideal to get some practice in using it to fill in the colours.
That ended up being a big mistake. Using the graphics tablet, that is. The above over example looks good but it took far too long precise brushing between the lines that I ended up with terminal boredom, not helped by the fact that one of the boots selected lacked detail. Probably the one thing I did learn from this stage was that the dropper was the command to use to copy a colour and there is a recommendation to practice the most with this command if you want to reproduce a colour that you didnít keep on the palate.
Doing it by brushstrokes did mean I could keep all the layers separate but decided that wasnít always an advantage. However, it was far quicker to make the selection of parts I needed to make the figure, combine them into a single layer and then use Ďfill bucketí. Colouring then became effortless. Very rarely was a line not closed but easy to track down to complete so there was no colour bleed ie having the colour fill out the rest of the picture. Suddenly, things became a lot easier and you can focus on colour composition. An important lesson for any artist, even in digital painting.
If you want to combine figures and backgrounds, then select what you need for a figure while in psd modem using PaintShip Pro, use ĎCopy Mergedí which combines the choices into one and then you can paste it as a layer into the background picture. I tried doing this in a variety of formats, once coloured, and found it wouldnít work or at least in the time available to figure it out for this review and certainly not for ensuring there was no background but there are other ways around that like the freehand selection tool or magic wand. You can then make the figure invisible while you paint in the background. Paint the figure with the background showing because it colour and shades should be dictated by background and light source, although I didnít really play around with the latter cos of the scale the picture would finally be shown.
The introduction at the front of this book gives guidance in understanding colour although whether a youngster would grasp the differences in contrast and what works is debatable against what appeals to their eye. Unlike working on paper, if one colour doesnít look right then itís relatively easy to switch to a different colour. If you have children that you wonít let near a computer yet, a hardcopy and some colouring pencils will also keep them busy on these long winter nights.
With the pictures built up in layers, it is a simple system to turn on what kind of creature you want. Although other than adding a background to one of the pictures shown her, I havenít really played with creature mixing although that is possible according to the introduction.
If you canít draw but want to create your own cards, digital or otherwise, this is a sneaky way to do it and take pride in that you added something to the design yourself. I would advise not to be too complicated with details and be careful with the fill bucket in the layer youíre in. Itís very easy to change the colour of the outline by accidentally filling it although the undo command can quickly flip it back.
I used Corel Paint Essentials 4 for the graphics elf at the top of the article and mixed in PaintShop Pro 8 for the others. Changing for PDF format will lose your layers. Normally, I would have opted for BMP than JPG files for the final picture but thatís personal choice. I suspect work on any of these pictures can be used in the art software of your choice that you are familiar with. Bear in mind for the sake of the website size, I reduced the size of these final pictures to 300 pixel width when for other reviews I normally take them down to 130 pixel width.
The witch picture example here was mostly painted in Paint Essentials 4 but as there was a limit with textures, I did the background with PaintShop Pro and you can see the differences can be quite different and even have an effect on other colours.
Just to show a quick an easy technique, to get the shade on the warrior woman quickly. Use a cut-off line on where you want to add a separate colour. Ensure the line you add goes across the link so doesnít leak and then use bucket fill. If you find the line itself the wrong colour (donít use black or itíll change the colour of all the outlines), you can change that to that colour as well.
Itís an interesting exploration and will certainly get you exploring what your graphics software can do at least as far as how to create colours and compose with it. I havenít really played around with texture commands yet but it is something that should open things up a bit.
The one thing you will get out of all of this is some serious practice with your graphics software and understanding the use of a variety of commands. Anything beyond that is your own invention. If you get a taste for working like this, you might then explore drawing your own pictures but thatís for another time.
I hope the examples here will show you what can be done with minimal practice using these clip art books. The main colouring using bucket fill took about twenty-thirty minutes a picture. Compare that to over eight hours spread over several weeks for the one using the graphics tablet. Take a break and come back to the picture youíre working on and if a colour doesnít look right, then donít be afraid to try alternatives. Sometimes, itís just a matter of changing a shade deeper or lighter to change the depth.
If youíve got an inkling to check these books out then I think you wonít take long to master it. You donít have to buy exotic graphics software for practice. Windows own Paint will be just as good for beginners and early versions of PaintShop are reasonably cheap.
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