Chiaroscuro Water Lily

The December challenge for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge group was to experiment in contrast and color and use strong value contrast in a dramatic way.  In art, chiaroscuro refers to the use of light and dark, usually to add depth and volume to a painting.  Rembrandt often used the technique, such as in his Self Portrait as the Apostle St. Paul.

For my quilt I wanted to start with a photograph, and I found this one of a water lily that I took last summer at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Super Quick Plaid Patterns in Photoshop or Illustrator

In this earlier post I showed how to create a tartan plaid pattern in Photoshop.  That method simulates the weave characteristic of a real tartan plaid, with the distinct diagonal twill pattern, like the one shown here.

As an alternative, here’s a really quick way to create a seamless plaid in Photoshop Elements.  Continue reading

Creating a Quilt, Part 3 — Constructing the Quilt

In two earlier posts I talked about my process for creating a quilt design starting from a photo.  In this post, I’ll go through the process of actually making the quilt based on the final design (shown here). 

With the strong circular element in the design, I knew it would be important for the grass shapes to line up exactly across the circle.  Normally I prefer to make my quilts by piecing rather than some form of applique.  I’ll often use Ruth McDowell’s piecing technique on a complex quilt.  However, for this design, I thought that piecing would take forever and I wanted to complete the quilt fairly quickly since it was part of a class (“Inspired to Design” with Elizabeth Barton at Quilt University). Continue reading

Creating a Quilt, Part 2 — Finalizing the Design

In my previous post, I walked through the initial design process I used to create the quilt Prairie Grasses I started with this photo, drew sketches to simplify the design and started on looking at value studies.

My first two value studies, shown below, were of the original sketch.  I liked each of these, but I thought it would be more interesting to combine them in some way.

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Creating a Quilt, Part 1 — From Photo to Sketch

I recently completed the class “Inspired to Design” with Elizabeth Barton through Quilt University.  The class is about the process of creating art quilts, starting with an idea, working up sketches, using value studies, creating color schemes and finally constructing the quilt.

I really enjoyed the class and I completed a quilt based on one of the designs I worked on.  In this post and the next two I’ll walk through my steps in creating this quilt. Continue reading

Kauai Waves — The Finished Quilt

In a previous post I talked about the improvisational approach I took to create a quilt from two silk scarves I bought while on vacation in Kauai.

That previous post showed some of the different layouts I’d tried–both on the computer and on my design wall–for all the pieces I’d sewn together.  The picture on the right shows nearly the final design.  Just a few more pieces were added for the final quilt.

The completed quilt top is pictured below. Continue reading

A Quick Way to Develop a Color Palette (Photoshop Elements)

Sometimes when creating a design (fabric or otherwise) it’s helpful to work with a fixed palette of colors.  The inspiration for a color palette can come from anywhere, and I find that photos are often a great source of color palettes.  In this post, I’ll show how to quickly create a color palette (called a color table in Photoshop) from a photo.  You can then use the color palette to create your own designs.

This post compliments a couple of my previous posts where I talked about how to color-reduce a photo in Photoshop Elements, and then how to generate a Color Table from the color-reduced photo and use the color table to create coordinating designs. Continue reading

Using Colorways in Photoshop Elements

In this previous post (I know it’s been a while–golf season has arrived) I talked about how to color-reduce a photo and then change the colors to create different colorways of the same image.  In this post I’ll show how you can use the colorways to create coordinating designs.

Below is the daylily photo I used in the earlier post (on the left), along with its color-reduced version (middle) and the purple colorway (right).

SAVING A COLOR TABLE

1.  I’m going to start with the purple image, opening it in Photoshop Elements.  Once it’s opened, from the menu  click Image –> Mode  (as shown below).   If the check mark is in front of the “Indexed Color” option, skip ahead to step 3.

2.  In this example the image was in RGB mode, so I need to change it to Indexed Color mode.  Simply click on the “Indexed Color” option shown in the picture above.  This will open up the “Indexed Color” pop-up menu show here.  Select the “exact” option from the Palette drop-down, and the click OK.

3.  Now the image is in Indexed Color mode.  To see the colors in the image, go to the menu and select Image –> Mode –> Color Table.

4.  This opens the Color Table, shown here.  I want to save this color table so that I can use these colors when creating other images.  Click on the “Save” button and then give the file a name.  Remember where you save it, and note that the file has an extension of “.ACT” for Adobe Color Table.  I named my file purple daylily.act

USING A SAVED COLOR TABLE

1.  Now I can use my Purple Daylily colors to create a new image.  I’ll start with a blank file (File –> New –> Blank File).

2.  From the menu, click Window –> Color Swatches to bring up the color swatches panel with a default set of colors (shown here).  Click on the “More” option and then select “Replace Swatches” at the bottom of the list.

3.  The “Load” window opens so I can navigate to the folder where I saved my color table.  Note that the “Load” window defaults to files of type Swatches (*.ACO) — change this to files of type Color Table (* .ACT).  I’ll select the Purple Daylily.act file and click the Load button.

4.  The Color Swatches window now shows only the colors from the Purple Daylily file.  Clicking on any of the colors in the Color Swatches window makes it the foreground color.

5.  Going back to the new, blank file, I’ll quickly create a coordinating stripe to go with the purple daylily photo.  I selected one of the lighter purple-grays from the Color Swatches window, then using the Paint Bucket, I filled in the background of the new file.

6.  Using the brush tool, and selecting different colors from the Color Swatches, I added a bunch of wavy stripes to get this coordinating design.

And here’s another design example.

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.   Oscar Wilde

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.   Pablo Picasso

Color Reducing a Design Using Photoshop Elements

In a previous post I talked about why you might want to color reduce a design, even in the age of digital printing.  In this post, I’ll go through the steps to color reduce a photo in Photoshop Elements.  I’ll also note the differences for Photoshop since there are some variations.

The basic process is just a couple of steps:

  • convert the photo to the ‘indexed color’ mode with 256 colors
  • reduce the number of colors to around a couple dozen by picking the main colors from the photo

Steps for Color Reducing a Photo

1.  Here’s the photo I’ll start with.  Note that this photo is in RGB color mode.  It’s always a good idea to work on a copy of your image and keep the original image unchanged.

2.  The layer needs to be unlocked.  Often when first opening a file, the layer will be locked (indicated by the padlock icon on the layer–circled here.)  To unlock the layer, click on the padlock icon in the menu (arrow) and the padlock next to the layer will go away.

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3.  The next step is to convert the photo to what Photoshop calls the Indexed Color mode.  If your file has multiple layers, they will be merged when you convert it to Indexed Color mode.  From the menu, select the command Image–> Mode –> Indexed Color as shown below.  This will bring up the pop-up box outlined in green below.  Make sure the settings are set as follows:

  • Palette–Local Adaptive
  • Colors–256
  • Forced–None
  • Preview–Checked
  • Dither–None

DO NOT CLICK OK.

3a.  Without closing the “Indexed Color” pop-up box, click on the Palette drop-down list again and change the selection to Custom (see picture to the right).  Note for Photoshop only:  sometimes the “Custom” option is grayed out.  If this happens, reselect “Local(Adaptive)” and change the number of colors (say to 255) and then change the Palette again to “Custom”.

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4.  This will open up a color table (shown  to the right) with 256 colors from the photo.  The photo has been reduced to these 256 colors, but we want to reduce the number of colors much further.  Do NOT click OK.

5.  Next is to select all the colors in this color table and change them to black.  To do this, click on the color in the upper left corner of the color table, and drag your mouse down to the lower right corner so that all the color boxes are selected.

5a.  This opens the color picker window shown here.  Select black for the color, either by clicking in the lower left portion of the color window, or by typing 0 (zero) into the R and G and B boxes.  Then click the OK button twice to close the color picker.  Do NOT click OK to close the color table.

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6.  Now the Color Table is filled with black squares.  We need to replace some of these black squares with the colors we’ll have in the final color-reduced image.

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7.  Click on one of the black squares in the color table, and the color picker window opens again.  With the mouse, go the to main photo and click on one of the colors you want to keep.  This color will then be in the color picker window.

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7a.  Click OK in the color picker window and the new color will replace the black square in the Color Table.  Do NOT click OK to close the Color Table.

8.  Repeat steps 7 and 7a to select additional colors from the photo.  Using more colors gives a more accurate representation of the photo, but also makes changing colors later more work.

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9.  Here is the color table with 22 colors selected from the photo.  When you think you’ve selected enough colors, click OK to close the Color Table.  Since the Preview button was checked in step 3, this will show a preview of your color-reduced photo.  Unfortunately, if you don’t like the results, the only thing to do is select Cancel and start over from the beginning.  If you like the results, click OK and your photo is now color reduced, as shown below.

Note:  In Photoshop Elements (and Photoshop) many image editing functions don’t work if your image is in Indexed Color mode.  To make changes (other than swapping colors which is described below) you should change the image back to RGB color mode.  This is done from the menu:  Image–> Mode–> RGB Color, as shown below.

Swapping Colors in a Color-Reduced Photo

Now for the fun part…changing the colors.

1.  If your file is back in RGB Color mode, first change it to Indexed Color mode:  Image–> Mode–> Indexed Color.  In the pop-up box, make sure the Palette is set to Exact (see picture on right) and click OK.  Using Exact for your palette loads the colors which you picked when color-reducing the photo.

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2.  With the image in Indexed Color mode, open the color table:  Image–> Mode–> Color Table, and the color table with your custom colors will pop up.

3.  Make sure the Preview box in the Color Table pop-up is checked.  Click on one of the colors in the Color Table that you’d like to change, and the color picker window opens.  Select the new color and click OK.

4.  With the Preview box checked, you’ll see the changes to your picture as you change the colors (see below).  Repeat step 3, selecting additional colors to change until you’re satisfied with the result.

5.  Here is the color table after I’ve changed all the flower colors to blues and purples, but I left the greens unchanged

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And here is the Purple Daylily.

Here’s a comparison of the original photo (left), the color reduced photo and the re-colored photo.

“If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue.”– Paul Gauguin

“Oh, I love red. I”m very loyal to my colors. I love violet.”–Elizabeth Taylor