Saturday, February 04, 2006

birthday emergency

As we were eating lunch yesterday, Chickie looked up at my Command Center (the door of the pantry where I keep my calendar and to-do list) and said, "what's that?"

"It's an invitation to Lucy's party."

"When's the party?"

"Uhhhh... tonight!"

So at 12:30 we had six and a half hours to come up with a present for the only daughter of friends of ours. No time to go shopping, even locally, what with naptime and my eldest due home from school at 3:00. What to do? The birthday girl and her parents live in a single-bedroom apartment, with the living room converted into a nursery; they have less space than we do. So we were pretty sure they didn't want any more stuffed animals, dolls, large rubber balls,...

Soap dough was my first thought: alas that I never got the recipe right. Thankfully before I started experimenting I remembered that they only have a shower, no tub. Soap dough creations wouldn't be half as much fun in a shower! What to do... what to do...

Coloring books! I remembered that once upon a time my mom and I had digitally converted a photo to its outlines. That would make a fun coloring page!

So while the babies laid waste to our house, I started experimenting with Photoshop. It took me a long time and many failed attempts with the logical choices of "sharpen edges" and "find edges" and "trace edges." All my 30-step conversions were thoroughly rejected by my test client, Chickie: "that doesn't look like Bubbie." "that's ugly." "no, it looks goofy."

at 3pm we finally hit on something that worked:

in a few short steps, the photo above became the coloring page below!

Here's a short tutorial for all you Photoshop* users:

*for anyone who wishes they could afford Photoshop: all you probably need (and all I have) is Photoshop Elements, which retails for $99 and can usually be found for less... Purplus Software currently has 4.0 for Windows for $44.50. Small Dog Electronics has 3.0 for Mac for $83 - or $65 if it's a qualified academic purchase (which includes homeschool at Adobe's discretion.)

(1) Set your foreground color (at the end of your toolbar) to black.
(2) From the 'Enhance' menu choose Adjust Lighting > Shadows and Highlights.
(3a) for most natural light photos** choose lighten shadows 50%, darken highlights 0%, midtone contrast about 20%.
(3b) for most flash photos** you don't need to change the lighting.
(4) if your picture has a lot of grain/noise, from the 'Filter' menu choose Noise > Despeckle.
(5) From the 'Filter' menu choose Sketch > Photocopy.
(6) adjust detail and darkness to where they look best to you (I usually used 1-2 detail and 10-25 darkness.)

**the key to nice-looking coloring pages is to play with the brightness, contrast and lighting. The high-contrast areas with lots of detail end up dark in the final drawing; the low-contrast areas end up looking white with a few speckles.

For the daisies shot above, I had to first brighten the image until all the detail was gone from the white daisy petals, then decrease the midtone contrast until the grass wasn't quite as 'noisy' as in the original, which made the outlines of the daisies really pop out. On the other hand, on the tree shot below I had to increase the brightness and contrast in order to show the details of bark and tree branches; otherwise the bottom third of the picture was largely white with a few black speckles.

Any of these coloring pages can be downloaded full-size for your own (or your child's) coloring pleasure -- or just to satisfy your curiosity. Just click on the image to get to the full size.

After I printed and stapled my masterpiece coloring book--at 5 pm, with frozen pizza in the oven for supper--I suddenly awoke to the fact that the recipient was celebrating her SECOND birthday. Just four months older than Mac and Bubbie, who have just now mastered the art of scribbling.

So I quickly made a second coloring book with Sharpie marker - big, bold pictures of cats, and cows, and pigs, and about 3000 babies. And because her mother understands the need to craft, I gave the two-year-old BOTH coloring books... with a promise that I'd also give Mom a CD with all the printable pages on it.


Blogger Steve E of Benderloch said...

Many thanks for the Photoshop tutorial.
I've tried various of the multitude of options in Photoshop to achieve the outline effect for paintings and your method is certainly the best!

2/05/2006 8:23 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

This is so cool to make your
coloring book from your color
photos. I never seen them
before. I will have to try it
sometime. My favorite is the
flowers and my second is the
boat. Thank you for the sharing!

2/05/2006 11:20 AM  
Blogger Wool Winder said...

I think these would also be great as framed prints!

2/06/2006 11:55 AM  
Anonymous kim said...

that's pretty cool, I'll have to try it some time. I tried to do something similar once and it was a lot of work that didn't really do what I wanted. I'll have to try your method. i was trying to make a paint-by-number style outline.

2/07/2006 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Siri said...

Clever! Just wish I had Photoshop. Maybe with the academic discount we could swing it sometime. Thanks for that tip.
Love all the mini stuff lately. The cups are really great, and there always seems to be adried up marker or two around here.

2/08/2006 4:49 AM  

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