Character via Colour

This week I have been dabbling with illustrator – I’ve always had a fondness for vector graphics and the flexibility they give you. especially for ultra-enlargements and the sense of drama that you can get from them (I was heavily influenced by soviet era monumental poster art, sculpture and typography when I was younger, along with a smattering of Man Ray and German experimental collage of the inter-war periods) , and for a while I also did a little freelance graphic design work. But it’s been a long time since I used any vector package in anger.

Back in the day, I had a copy of Adobe Streamline – a raster to vector converter with less than predictable results – but it was the lack of predictability that I loved. Recently I got hold of Illustrator CS6 and have been reading up on livetrace – the replacement within illustrator for streamline, and I decided to give it a go, and see if any of the old slightly random magic was still there.

I decided to pull a few of my historic portraits – a candid wedding one, a B&W event one, a street one, and one of my son with some fairly heavy field focus post processing ans see what I could pull together.

The experience was a rewarding one – although the new treatment in illustrator is a lot more precise, you can still mix in a little magic by doing other operations afterwards, most notably by simplifying paths, putting in additional background blocks and removing some artifacts.

The real fun, however, with colour editing – especially if the image had been reduced to greyscale. It was amazing to see how much character could be placed in a portrait by just choosing the right set of colours and the right saturation and brightness – I can see me using this a lot more for some really unique portraits.

Another interesting thing I spotted was the apparent differences in the “enhancement” that facebook and twitter seemed to add to the pictures when I uploaded them – but that’s probably a pretty technical discussion, possibly for another post.

If you’d like to know more about bitmap to vector conversions, and don’t mind technical discussion, here is an interesting place to start – if you don’t mind jumping in a the deep end!