How I made a Renaissance portrait with Photoshop and a sari

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The ADIM Conference
Russell Brown has been hosting the yearly ADIM Conference for many years. In previous years, I taught and assisted. But this year I went as an attendee to literally walk in the shoes of Adobe’s customers as they learn to use Creative Cloud apps. I manage a team of UX designers at Adobe who create many of the tutorials our customers use to learn our apps. As User Experience Designers, we need to regularly remind ourselves of what our customers face everyday when trying to use Adobe products.

Each year the conference has a different theme. This year’s theme was Shakespeare and the attendees worked on two projects: a Renaissance self-portrait and a book. For the portraits, Russell invited a fabulous photographer, Joel Grimes, to shoot using lighting similar to that in many Renaissance era paintings. Most everyone brought a costume to wear for their portrait. Russell brought three – Caveman Shakespeare, Renaissance Shakespeare, and Futureman Shakespeare.

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The Costume
I started with some beautiful Indian sari silk that I had purchased in Bangalore, India while on a business trip. After doing some research on 16th century clothing, I made a sketch of my idea. I decided to create a man’s costume based on the cross-dressing character Viola in Twelfth Night. It took me many weekend hours to create because I was mostly designing as I constructed. As you can imagine, I had to rip out many stitches and start over several times.

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The Painting
Let me just say right now that I hate having my photo taken. I much prefer to be the one behind the camera instead of in front of it. I posed for the portrait photo along with everyone else and I really disliked almost all of mine. The only ones I liked were the ones where Russell photobombed the shot (dressed as “Caveman Shakespeare”). I returned later that evening and had the portrait reshot—this time wearing a stunning dragon mask created by costume-maker Robert LaMarche.

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Once I had the photo, I started to play with it in Photoshop. We were taught several techniques on how to make your photo look like a painting. I discovered the Impression filters for Photoshop from TopazLabs and really liked them. I ended up experimenting for hours to create really cool painterly effects. Once my file was ready, it was printed onto textured, stretched canvas. I picked a gold frame, attached it, and voilá!—a framed Renaissance self-portrait made with Photoshop.

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The Book
The book project had two parts. The cover was to be designed using Illustrator and because it was made of wood, it was laser cut by a Universal Laser machine. I LOVE using these laser cutters! It is so fun to design something in Illustrator and then output a three-dimensional object with incredible precision. Once the cover was finished, I started on the contents of the book.

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For the inside of my book, I created a set of digital paintings with Photoshop that I printed onto heavy watercolor paper. I had created these paintings by using many of the portrait photos that Joel Grimes shot of the attendees. I chose to focus on the hands – as if it were a close-up view of a larger painting. These reminded me very much of my art history classes where the professors would show magnified views of different paintings and sculpture to discuss creation techniques and details.

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The Renaissance – yet again
In 1987 I designed the first Adobe Illustrator packaging using Botticelli’s Venus as the base of the imagery. I did that because I felt that Adobe was part of a 20th Century Renaissance with the advent of digital publishing and digital art. That was almost 30 years ago and it feels like another Renaissance is happening in the 21st century as well. Artists have so many digital and mobile tools and output options at their disposal that it’s a bit overwhelming. But at the same time, I find it a very, very exciting time to be an artist.

The Photoshop Clouds filter

cloudsHave you ever tried the Clouds filter in Photoshop? You may not have noticed it since it is buried a little deep in the menus. I recommend that you give it a try. Cloud images come in handy when you are creating a collage or retouching an image in Photoshop. In celebration of Photoshop’s 25th birthday, I thought I’d share a little history.

The person who created this little bit of Photoshop magic is Mark Hamburg, currently a Fellow at Adobe, and I was lucky enough to witness it. Over 20 years ago I was writing a little book called Design Essentials, the first book published by Adobe Press. It was full of tutorials on design and illustration techniques for Illustrator and Photoshop. Mark Hamburg came into my office and my co-worker, Russell Brown joined us. He showed us how to create clouds in Photoshop in about 7-8 steps. We were awestruck and, of course, wanted to try it ourselves. I asked Mark to repeat it so I could write down the steps and put the technique into my book. I came to work the next day all ready to write up the new “clouds technique” for the book. When I walked into my office there was a small floppy disc wedged into my keyboard with a sticky note attached to it that said, “Clouds filter.” Mark had made his technique into a filter and it still lives in Photoshop today.

Here is how to use the Clouds filter in Photoshop.

  1. Open a new document or layer.
  2. Set your foreground and background colors. In part of the example above, I used a background color of white and a foreground color of a teal blue.
  3. Choose Filter > Render > Clouds.
  4. The clouds are created randomly so you can keep applying the filter over and over until you get the clouds that you like. The shortcut for reapplying a filter is Command (Ctrl) + F.
  5. To get more contrast between your clouds, try Option (Alt) + Command (Ctrl) + F.

For more information about using Photoshop Filters, here are some great tutorials:

Basic photography questions explained

01-26Ever wonder why your photos turn out too dark or too light? Or how to set up your camera to get crisp action shots? Or how to get that cool effect of having the background of your photo being soft and blurry with the foreground object being sharp and in focus? The Creative Cloud Learn team is experimenting with short videos about photography. They are part of a larger set of tutorials for Novice Photographers. These are totally worth checking out if you are just learning about digital photography:

Be sure to give us feedback on what you think of the tutorials and what other questions or topics you’d like us to cover.

Basic digital photography tutorials

photog-noviceAre you wanting to learn more about digital photography? This is a good place to start: Photography Tutorials. There are some very basic  2-minute tutorials here for novice photographers who are just getting started. If you are a total beginner and just want to learn a few really basic skills, check these out:

Learn the pen tool by playing a game

project-nimbus-1Having trouble learning to master the pen tool in Illustrator, Photoshop, or Flash? We’ve got just the thing! Get started learning pen tool basics by playing the Pen Tool Game. This cute and clever game let’s you practice drawing both straight and curved lines. If bezier curves have got you stumped, give this a try. Its fun! And you’ll be helping a wayward little space traveler named Weber find his way home.

Hint: drawing curved lines scores more points than straight ones.

Find the right tutorial faster with Adobe’s new Search

Search-2Adobe’s learning search has not been the greatest. We’ve wanted to fix it for a really long time and we’re really excited about our new redesign of tutorial search.

There are almost 1000 Creative Cloud app tutorials on Adobe.com, but they’re often too hard to find. This summer, the Learn team built a totally new tutorial search experience to help you get what you need faster. It just went live yesterday.

Here are some of the improvements:

  • Search is now available on every tutorial page.
  • Search results are totally redesigned to help you decide which tutorial works the best for you. On the results page you’ll find a whole new look.
  • Each search result includes:
    • tutorial description
    • tutorial type:  video, text, hands-on, game
    • duration:  length of the tutorial or time to complete a hands-on project
    • apps covered
    • user level

Take a look:

SearchTry it out for yourself!

Are you a Lightroom beginner?

080213Here’s a friendly place to get your questions about Lightroom answered. Adobe has just launched the Lightroom for Beginners forum. It’s chock full of great info on how to get started. There are also lots of friendly people there who are waiting to answer your questions, no matter how basic.

Are you a Photoshop Beginner? There’s a friendly place for you too. Check out the Photoshop for Beginners forum.