Hedge Trimming

I’m cutting back the elder bush which has shot up this summer in the hedge beyond the herb bed. It’s so tall that even I needed the stepladder to reach it.

Experimenting with the ‘Art’ filter of my Olympus E-M10II camera, I thought that the trellis, ladder and ivy looked rather Victorian, so I used the camera’s built-in pinhole camera art filter.

History palette
History palette

In Photoshop, I used various filters to give the feel of a deguerrotype: Lens Flare and Dust & Scratches, followed by Sepia Toning from the Actions Palette.

There was no lens flare in my original, but I thought a light shining brightly through the herbage at the top of a ladder would be a suitably biblical reference for a Victorian photograph.

Admittedly, Fox Talbot wouldn’t have had access to a Black & Decker 3-in-1 aluminium ladder. Continue reading “Hedge Trimming”

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo: for readability, I’ve gone for the light version of the user interface with large print, and with the tool names popping up as soon as I hover the mouse over the icon.
My original scanner, in a GIF image from 2002, so please forgive the pixelation.

I’ve been using Photoshop for twenty-two years but I might finally be moving on.

In 1996, I bought my first scanner which came with an OEM version of Adobe Photoshop 4.0 included in the box. This was quite a bargain as, at that time, if you wanted to buy the same version of Photoshop on it’s own, it would have cost you more than the scanner and Photoshop bundled together! Continue reading “Affinity Photo”

Leventhorpe Lagoon 1973

I’ve been making a start on archiving a collection of colour slides taken by Richard Brook (1943-2017), for many years the Conservation Officer of the Wakefield Naturalists’ Society. He photographed the East Ash Lagoon at Leventhorpe from the lagoon’s northwest corner on Sunday, 2 September, 1973. Pulverised fly ash was pumped from power stations into lagoons and left to settle out.

Richard could see the potential of these lagoons as nature reserves and he documented every one of them – along with subsidence flashes and sand quarries -within five or six miles radius of Wakefield, so his collection of slides form a unique record of post-industrial West Yorkshire.

Dust & Scratch Removal


I’m gradually learning my way around the slide scanning option of my SilverFast scanning program and also learning easier ways to remove specks of dust and other blemishes from the slides.

In Photoshop CS5, I’ve just discovered the Dust & Scratches filter, which is hidden away in the Photoshop Filter Menu under the heading Noise.


It’s a lot quicker than using the Spot Healing Brush to individually remove blemishes, although that has it’s part to play too: Dust & Scratch Filter for the whole sky, Spot Healing Brush for getting into more detailed parts of the image.

Circles within Circles

Lunch time sketch (actual size two inches across) at the Seed Room, Overton; pan-fried hake, beetroot, mouli, radish with watercress in yogurt dressing.
Lunch time sketch (actual size two inches across) at the Seed Room, Overton; pan-fried hake, beetroot, mouli, radish with watercress in yogurt dressing.

tilly button

What should be something that I can do in minutes takes an hour or two of head-scratching. I’m trying to put circles within circles to create a badge (or button as the American’s would call it). So simple but there are three programs that I could use to do it and several alternative methods within those programs.

When even Google and You Tube can’t give you the specific information you’re after, there’s only one thing to do; phone a friend. In this case John Welding, comic artist and veteran Photoshopper is the man to call. In half an hour of patient explanation he gets me on the right track.

Colour Profile

colour workshopIT SEEMS such a simple thing to do a drawing, scan it same size and print it in a book but mysterious things happen in the process – such as a bright blue line suddenly turning to indigo as it goes from screen to paper.

Before conversion to CMYK . . .
Before conversion to CMYK . . .
. . . and after.
. . . and after.

I’m reading Louis Benjamin’s Photoshop CS5 in Simple Steps to get to know more about the process. But reading isn’t enough for me, I need to go through some of the processes to take them on board but then, if I don’t happen to need to use a particular technique for a while, it can slip from my mind.

Online Notebook

colour profile

I’ve tried making notes as I go but they end up on scraps of paper or in various notebooks so today I’ve started an online notebook.

I won’t need to go rootling through a draw to refresh my memory. My experiments and notes will be beautifully organised in a mini-website. Well that’s the theory.

Link: Colour Profiles, my experiments in Photoshop.

Rubber Stamped

My first attempt at a pen and wash effect using the filters in 'Photoshop'.

MY ILLUSTRATOR friend John Welding was telling me about a science fiction short story from years ago about a world where instead of having to go to the trouble of drawing things artists had only to dial up the appropriate rubber stamp.

That day has arrived because the new version of Photoshop that I’m using includes a stamp filter (left). So much quicker than making your own lino-cut.

Filter Gallery

I’m new to this version of Photoshop so this is the first chance that I’ve had to play around with the Filter Gallery, which is useful as you get instant full size previews of the effects of the filters on offer. By using slider controls you can fine tune the effect.

The Watercolour Filter (left) simplifies the photograph to blocky colour.

To get the effect of a pen and watercolour wash drawing you need to add line. In Photoshop, as with most other image manipulation programs, you do this on a new layer.

Find Edges

This time the filter you need, ‘Find Edges’, doesn’t appear in the Filter Gallery; you’ll find in the Filter Menu under ‘Stylize’.

This gives you rather more than the pure line that you’re after (right), even if you try converting the image to grayscale before you start as I did in this example. There are no slider controls to filter out the tones. You now need to go to . . .


To reduce this to pure black and white you need to use the ‘Threshold’ command from the image menu, something I’ve used a lot when scanning my pen and ink artwork when I wanted to print it in line rather than tone.

Just to keep you on your toes, the Threshold command can’t be found amongst the Filters. It’s in the Image menu under Adjustments. Like most of the filters this has a slider control so you can go from almost black to almost washed out.

The ‘pen’ layer, as you might expect, needs to go on top of the ‘watercolour’ layer but to make it transparent you have to set the ‘pen’ layers properties to ‘Multiply’ instead of ‘Normal’ (top).

The finished result wouldn’t convince anybody that I’d used real pen and ink and watercolours but I love that chunky effect and I’d be tempted to use it when I’m painting real watercolours.


I’M ON A LEARNING CURVE so here, after a whole morning’s work, is the finished result of the tutorial on Drawing and Illustration in Photoshop that I started yesterday evening.

My colours look alarmingly computer generated but I should point out that Daniel Fieske’s version in the step-by-step example ends up looking more like an Arthur Rackham watercolour. I should improve with experience but the point is that I’ve been able to see every stage of the process – there’s no ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ in the tutorial; you get to see every mossy rock drawn individually – and hopefully I’ll remember a lot of the useful Photoshop tips on alpha channels, selections, layers, blend modes and shortcuts and the time-saving ways that you can conjure them up without putting down the stylus of your pen tablet.

Fieske’s thoughts on tonal values, composition and keeping a hand-drawn quality can apply equally to artwork made with natural media so I hope that following his work process in such detail will feed back into my own work.

Links: Daniel Fieske’s The Wormworld Saga includes links to video tutorials on how he created the artwork.
The tutorial that I’m following is on a DVD supplied with the Intuos 4 pen tablet, Meet the Masters by video@brain

Gnome Work

I THOUGHT that I’d finished with fairy tale characters for another year after our pantomime production of Beauty and the Beast, but no, this gnome has cropped up in a step-by-step tutorial that I’m going through to learn how to use my new pen tablet, the Intuos 4, in Photoshop CS5. It’s not the drawing that’s difficult, it’s taking on board all the tips and tricks that will save me time in the long run.

Value study; a rough sketch of tonal values.

I’ve been using Photoshop since, if I remember rightly, version 3, some 15 years ago but I’m far from being an expert, even in my limited usage of it, as I stick to what I know. Going through this tutorial is a timely way to take another look.

An example: one small detail that I sort of knew but had more or less forgotten, is that if you hold down the ‘shift’ key as you draw a line you get it perfectly horizontal or vertical.

I’m hopeless when I have to follow someone else’s instructions for doing a drawing, it’s so stultifying, but it’s a good way to learn the process.

Puppet Warp

I’M LOOKING forward to spring and being able to get out drawing wild flowers again but I can get a bit of practice by drawing cut flowers from the florists. The iris appealed to me more than the carnations and daisy-like flowers in the same bouquet because the structure of the flower is more obvious.

I’m continuing to familiarise myself with the features of the latest version of Photoshop and I’m intrigued by ‘Puppet Warp’, a new feature in Photoshop CS5. This works by putting a mesh across your drawing which you can then manipulate by adding node points and pulling and pushing them about to distort the drawing in various ways.

It’s useful for a whole lot more than the ‘puppet’ animation that the name suggests but that’s a good place to start to get to know what it does.

When I drew the walking Moorhen a few years ago I had to draw a dozen or more separate frames to make up the complete action. With Puppet Warp you can do just the one drawing and bend, distort and move it around in Photoshop.

It’s not going to give you the charm of a fully hand-drawn animation but for certain subjects it should work well. It has the advantage that you can avoid the ‘boiling’ effect you get from textures, such as crayon and watercolour, that you can’t possibly match between one hand-drawn frame and the next and it can save a lot of repetitive ‘in-betweening’ between the key frames of the action.

Coffee and Cakes

AFTER SUCH a busy year, Christmas gives us a good excuse for catching up with friends . . . and Barbara’s chocolate cake proves popular.

It’s also a chance to meet my youngest great nephew Ted, although he proves too active for me to catch more than a few impressions as he moves about the room. At 10 months he’s not yet walking.

One of the mysteries of family gatherings is that one moment the room is full of people, the next they’ve all gone off in different directions, but this does at least mean that I can have a change from following a moving target to draw an armchair instead.

Adding Texture

Here’s a Photoshop technique that my friend John Welding showed me yesterday when we called on him and Helen for coffee and Ecclefechan tarts (from the town of that name in Dumfries and Galloway, an alternative to mince pies).

1. Fill with colour: Starting with the drawing that I made of the armchair, I add a flat colour in the normal way, which, for me, involves cutting out the white background of the image so that I’ve just got the pen and ink line and the rest is transparent, then filling an armchair-shaped selection on the layer beneath with colour.

2. Find a texture: I take a photograph of a texture, in this case it’s the canvas of one of my art-bags.

3. Add overlay: I add the texture as an overlay on a new layer which goes over the colour, but beneath the pen and ink line.

The settings that you use when you create this texture layer are important; you should select the option ‘overlay’. Obvious really. Then experiment with the transparency until you get the effect you’re after. You can easily change this later. For the purposes of demonstration, I’ve used 84% to make it obvious but John suggested around 20% transparency which can give you the kind of subtle effects that you might associate with watercolour, printmaking, wax-resist or scrafitto (scratching through a layer of paint or of a glaze in pottery).

He’d normally use a more random texture, such as fur or rusted metal.

I look forward to doing some further experiments so that I can feel confident enough to add the overlay technique to my limited repertoire of Photoshop skills.