TUTORIAL >>> Illustrator to Photoshop Re-up

I’m putting up the old tutorial I did a few years back. There are definitely some more streamlined ways of doing some of the techniques now but this method shows tactics that can work if you’re using old versions of software, etc…consider it a more manual method. Throughout the years I definitely know I’ve added a few time-saving tricks here and there but this should be a nice in depth guide for anyone, but especially folks that are new to psd rendering.

1- Setup
I’ve had a couple of people ask me for an illustrator/ photoshop tutorial so here it is. For this one I’m mainly focusing on creating the “no-line” photoshop rendering for products. No special tools needed, I did this completely with an uncomfortable apple mouse.
-I would consider this type to be the next step up from a good sketch rendering to show more exact and realistic form and proportions for presentations. These can be done fairly quickly. Assuming all of the thumbnail sketch design exploration is done, on average I could do about 5 pages of these in a regular work day (as long as no managers or marketers are over my shoulder and leave me alone so I can work, lol!!) Okay, so here it goes, hopefully I’m clear enough with these so buckle up!

Start with sketch drawing to figure out what you want. Do them nicer if you want an easier illus trace session but don’t spend much time on it. I don’t do these neat at all…since I’m going to be retranslating and drawing in illustrator anyway, no need to waste time duplicating efforts. I’ll do them quickly, just enough to get the point across and let me know what I’m doing. These were about 10 seconds each, timed.

Redraw in Illustrator, .5 to 1 pt line weight. Anything smaller turns to grey in PS and makes it hard to make clean selections. If you do decent hand drawings, you can scan and trace. I personally just do 10 sec. fugly sketches then just draw from scratch in illus, no underlays. I take my time with the illus line art, it’s very important and makes the renderings go by extremely fast. I took about 20 min. to do the line art for these 3 views below total. With a little practice and a good critical eye you’ll be able to do quick illus lineart on the fly that’ll just take a little bit longer for a good sketcher to do by hand of similar quality…

-Warning: Personal rant coming, feel free to skip!
But when you then have to do 10 variations, they’ll be hunting for white out and a photocopier with an extra 1 1/2 hrs of work, you’ll be finished the variations in 10 minutes, that’s where it pays off and you’ll be faster in the long run. They serve different purposes…so do what’s most appropriate for what you’re trying to accomplish. For exploring, figuring things out, and coming up with ideas quickly, sketch it up, quick and sloppy. For doing things where proportion is important and presenting to clients, use illustrator. I don’t spend any time obsessing over getting ellipses right by hand, if the drawing has to be good enough where ellipse accuracy line quality and good perspective is important, then it’s in the next level and it’s illustrator time.
-End of rant

For this tut, we’re doing a more refined rendo, so we want to be real clean, that’s where illustrator kicks butt.
-Pay attention to tangencies and good line curvature. Use similar mentality as 3-d modelling if you know any. Control point where 2 curves are tangent.
The least control points the better, etc…
-Bring into photoshop 300dpi, transparent bckgrnd. With both programs open you can just drag from one window to the other, no need to export or open as.

Pay attention to corners, make sure they’re closed in illus, it’s a must for the magic wand tool which is a huge time-saver in photoshop.
-Be careful of sharp pointy intersections. They probably won’t exist in actual product so they shouldn’'t be in your drawing either. They’ll disapper when you rendo but better to do it purposefully with rounded edges, etc. (I know I have some sharpies here. I was just doing this for practice one day, didn’t know I was going to be using it for a tut)
-Put EVERYTHING on a seperate layer. It’ll save you lots of troubles down the line, trust me. Everybody will have changes and others may finish stuff you start and vice versa. Good layer management is extremely important for variations, corrections, and working in groups. It’s not fine art anymore people. Organize similar things into folders. Newer versions of ps lets you have folders inside of folders, that’s really nice. You can even color code some layers. It helps when you have a one file of 30 different product variations with over 100 layers!
-Make a blank white layer so you can turn it on or off whenever, helps to see different things.

2- Base

Now shift select all the contrast color areas. It’s kind of hard to see the marching ants here, but you’ll get the idea.

Now expand the selection by 1 pixel so that it goes halfway through the line width.

See how the expanded selection is halfway through line thickness. This is what will allow you to hide the lines and have a clean rendo. You’ll have to experiment with the exact number depending on how thick you made your lines in illus. If you’re just doing line art, line weight variation is good, but if you’re bringing in to ps and you know that’s your end goal, don’t waste time doing stuff that won’t matter later on. Keep it all one weight if going to a rendo, then you only have to remember one expand number for your selections.

This is what happens with pointy areas, they don’t get selected completely. Hey, if the magic wand can’t select it plastic probably can’t flow there or it’ll break easily there anyway. But sometimes it’s undesired so you have to use the tool to add to the selection and fill in that corner if you want.

I made it pointy again with the lasso tool instead of having an uncontrolled gap in my rendo. Use the straight lasso tool, while holding down certain key combos, you can make it draw freehand or switch to straight on the fly. It’s very useful. You can also use it to add or subtract from a selection. I can’t stress it enough, learn your key commands people, that’s where the speed comes in. Turns a 2 hr rendo into a 20 min rendo.

After you get your (expanded) adjusted selection areas, save them as an alpha channel so you don’t have to go through that process again wasting time to select the same areas. Go to new alpha channel, then fill the selection so the white is showing. Command delete will fill the selection with the white background color. Here are the contrast color selection areas.

These are the white color areas.

Fill in colors. Command-click the alpha channel to select it. The white part has a slight color to it, it’s more realistic that way and can make selecting areas easier.
I’m not doing the open view here, decided it was unnecessary for what I’m trying to show with this page. It would be easy to rendo the open lid and interior seperately then just add it in another layer.

This contrast color green is just so you can see how the colors line up with no gaps (the top half of the product).

3- Shading

Use your 2 alpha channels to select the body of the whole product. on the channel in the list to select it, shift click the other channel on the list to add it so that both are selected at the same time.

With the whole body selected, give a general body shadow (on a seperate layer!). Use a big feathered brush. You can stroke outside of the lines so just the fade is getting on the rendo.
-I did this with a black airbrush, some do it with dodging and burning. (I actually like the d+b now for color areas but I didn’t know about that technique when I did this rendo.)
-Remember, put EVERYTHING on a different layer, makes revisions go by much faster because somebody is going to come over and ask you to change something last minute, I guarantee!
-Put black shadows and white highlight layers at 50-75% opacity. That way you can boost them up if you need depending on printer or your bosses taste. Nothing worse than having nice subtle shadows on a 100% layer and then they say it’s too light. Layers and opacity gives you really good modifiable control. Takes a little longer to set up but saves you lots of time in the long run.

View of just the basic shading so far, lines included…

…basic shading…lines are hidden.

Add additional shade spots as needed. select areas while you’re on the first blank “line” layer to select a space that’s completely closed by black lines.

Oops, forgot to say, I’ was showing these with the colors off so you can clearly see what I’m doing but I normally do the shading with all of the base colors on so you can see what’s going on. If “marching ants” bother you, to hide them. Don’t forget that’s what you did or you’ll get reall frustrated trying to select something thinking it’s not working!
I’m faking and adding even more shade to the contrast color to make it pop more. Still using original lines or the alpha channels to get specific selection areas with the magic wand like that little scoop to shade. Use your artistic judgement, no die-hard rules, work it til it looks right.

Here is the base shading again, colors with no linework visible. Slowly coming together, still looks like clay at this point.

Adding in a big drop shadow between the 3 main components. On seperate layers of course. Don’t want to have to redo everything if I have to make a change.

Shadows are helping but it’s still a little flat along certain curved areas. Good enough if you want it to look like you rendered it in illustrator without gradients but I’m trying to be riiiich biatch! so time to step it up a notch.

Use those same 2 alpha channels you made previously to select the whole products again.

We’re going to create a “round” highlight or whatever it’s called, you know, to help the shape “turn the corner” to mid-line of how far in you want the highlight to be.

Now so you can get a definite path that follows your product contours. You’ll use this so all of your highlights will be in the correct areas.
I did this whole thing just using a mouse, no tablets. All of your strokes are guided so it’s like spraypainting a stencil. No exceptional hand control or hand-eye coordination is needed. Your shaky handed grandma can whip out some hot rendos with this technique!

Now feather to get a controlled and consistant faded edge, not by using the brush fading.

There’s a very subtle glow that rounds this surface out. You can add another one that’s a little harder and overlapping, but closer to the product edge to make it more realistic. I know, a little fuzzy line, nothing special now… but it kicks in when you zoom out.

No “round” highlight…

…With the highlight. Also add the hotspot in the middle where the light is hitting the closest curved surface to it.

Makes a big difference. Now it’s looking more rounded.

Some would stop here and leave the illustrator lines or hand sketched lines in, but it just looks too cartoony to me with the bold black lines. It doesn’t take that much more time to kick it up another level so why not. Plus the other consultancy I’m competing with are submitting 3-d computer rendos, so I need to step it up a little.

4 - Details

We’re putting in parting lines now so I magic wand select areas where there will be a dark parting line.

Here’s my good buddy again. We 1 pixel.

Now 2 pixels.

Now you have an even 2 pixel stroke that lies just within all of your lines. No need to redraw with the pen tool to make paths for selections, that’s what the original illustrator linework was for. All the hard parts were done then, making sure the lines are right. Then all the Photoshop work is easy coloring book stuff.
Using the pen in ps to outline selection paths is a time waster because in the end all you have is a selection path for coloring. If you do the same amount of work in illustrator (same pen tool, same technique), you have the path for coloring, but you also have the scalable vector lineart which is good for instruction manuals, etc. Doing your lines in photoshop robs you of that.

to deselect areas you don’t want to have a dark parting line. Save these remaining selections for the dark pl on an alpha channel so you can get at it easy later on in case you screw up.

I also feather them, but not too much, they stay pretty tight for pl’s. Here are the parting lines. I took the rest of the shading off here so you can see but I do them with everything visible so you can see the effect real-time. Make pl’s fade in and out also, using the shading of the rest of the model as guidance.

See how it follows the linework.

Not far now, almost there.

Use the same process as before, but do it for the highlight side of the parting lines. Leave the linework in if you want or…

With pl highlights, no linework. I also went ahead and shaded the blue scrubbers using the original lineart to help select areas.

Look at the connection on the back. Vary the intensity of the pl’s to add realism. Shadow and highlights on pl’s are still effected by the main body shading.

Detail: Parting lines and rounding highlights do a lot for the rendering. As well as a sensitive hand on the airbrush, and good use of opacity.

Finished rendo:

5 - Quick Changes

Uh oh!, client’s marketing futhamucka just decided to change the highlight color on us 5 minutes before we have to email the file.
Use the alphas to select the highlight color area and make a <hue/saturation> adjustment layer (the little round dot at the bottom of your layers pallete). Use that so you can always go back and tweak the colors or find out specific values that somebody else used, etc.

Click colorize and adjust the h.s.l. levels til you get whatchawant. Make sure the area is selected first or it’ll apply it to the whole rendering!
You can also still pan and zoom in the main window (using your option, command, and space key commands) while this box is up to get better looks at stuff before you make a final decision.

Tip: To do another color and have it conveniently in the same file, duplicate the adjustment layer, and give it a good descriptive name like doo-doo brown, etc. Put all of these different color combos in a folder. Then you can quickly turn off all colors by hiding the main folder visibility. Or you can quickly change colors and print them by making different layers visible.

Easy color variations are done very quickly. Pick hideous additional combos so that marketing will pick the “right one” (the one you want them too, heh heh!)

-Photoshop work took about 30-45 min. if I remember correctly. Illustrator lineart was about 20. I know it definitely took me a lot longer to put together these tutorial images and describe everything than it did to actually do the rendering.

-So good luck to everybody, I hope this helps add another tool in your arsenal. Things will take longer if you’re doing special textures, hard views etc… Just try not to duplicate your efforts so that your workflow will be as efficient as possible. Don’t spend time drawing things you’re going to redraw later unless absolutely necessary. Don’t try to do things so fast that you don’t plan for corrections or updates. If not you’ll be wasting a lot more time redoing a lot of work later.

I hope this helps!

Looks freakin’ sweet! As always, skinny never disappoints. :smiley:

Amazing! Looking forward to the Ill line work tutorial

oops, was that still in there somewhere? This was an old tut and where I did a follow up post on illustrator linework tips. I probably won’t put that up here, it’s more of a checklist type of thing to help save time but not really a tutorial per se.

Thanks for re-posting this in here Skinny. Super valuable.

can you tell me how can i achieve good line quality while editing my sketches in illustrator like skinny did in the first screen shot.

my process is like that:

after sketching in alias sketchbook or scanning my hand drawing and exporting them to adobe illustrator i create a new layer.

i select pencil tool and by double clicking it i adjust the “smoothness” parameter about %50 and select an artistic ink brush with 0.25 pt stroke.

then i draw my lines and edit them through ctrl points if necessary.

but i can not have a clean job like skinny did in the first screen shot :frowning:

Pencil tool?!?!?! You use the pen tool and nudge the lines around using the control handles. I guess I need to put that other ai linework tips+tricks tut up.

thank you skinny.

there is something else i would like to ask you. when i draw in wacom it is very difficult to draw smooth contour lines. i can not draw smooth countour lines as i do in hand drawing. to do that i’ve applied the process i told in my previous post. ( here, my purpose is not to make a final render)

can you suggest a more effective way or should i work more on wacom to improve my line quality:)

The key with the wacom is brisk smooth strokes. You can’t draw slow with it. Also there is a problem with the default settings in some programs, something to do with the jitter settings so you’ll have to make sure you have take your time to go through all of your settings to get it running smooth. Also different programs seem to respond differently and give better or worse strokes. Experiment and find what works for you.