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Thread: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

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    Post using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally



    Someone in this forum asked me to explain the process I use in Photoshop for doing my sketches, as I have posted them in this forum.

    Before beginning to use Photoshop, you’ll need some familiarity with the program. It’s especially important to read the Photoshop HELP pages on: LAYERS, MASK TOOL & the various drawing tools.

    I'll explain each of the four steps I have been using and put them in four separate posts.

    Clears,
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    Default STEP 1 // Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Step 1

    The first step is to make a template and print it out. I attach the one I use, in case you want to use that.

    BLANK template.psd

    Notice that my template has four layers, including the background layer. (I sometimes use as many as five or six. You can add layers as you go.)

    Make sure each layer remains transparent (except the background layer), so that, once you flatten all the layers onto the background layer, you don’t obliterate a bottom layer by superimposing on it an opaque layer. (To manipulate layers, there is a LAYER option in the WINDOW section.)

    After opening Photoshop, look at the template I made and you will see a grid. This grid was created separately and loaded into this file as LAYER 1. Look at the layers box and click on the “disappear” button for LAYER 1. You should see the grid disappear. Click on that button again and the grid will reappear. You are going to get rid of this layer at a later stage later, so that it does not appear in your sketch.

    So Step 1 is simply to make a template in Photoshop with a grid and print it. Feel free to use mine as often as you want. It is as basic as basic can be the Photoshop world. Nothing special at all.

    While sketching at the eyepiece, use the grid to help get the geometry correct. If it’s a nebula or galaxy, try to capture the size of the object you’re sketching. This has nothing to do with Photoshop, of course. This depends on what you sketch on paper. If you don’t get the geometry right while you’re sketching, you won’t get it right later when you re-doing the sketch digitally.

    While you are actually sketching, take lots of notes at the top and bottom of the paper. You’ll use these later when re-doing the sketch in Photoshop. For instance, compare the brightness of a nebula to the brightness of the dimmest star in the FOV. I even put a few markings inside the grid when convenient. For instance, for all stars dotted into the grid, I note beside each dot a 0,1,2,3,4 or 5 (which reminds me later how bright a star looked while viewing.)

    So, step 1 is essentially all about starting with a template that you’re going to use later at the computer.

    Clears,
    Joe
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    Default Step 2 // Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Step 2: FILLING IN THE STARS

    Once you’ve done your sketch on the template, try, if possible, to re-do your sketch digitally (using Photoshop) while the whole experience is still fresh. This is especially important when doing a nebula, globular cluster or galaxy, since you want to try to recreate what you saw. You will have to rely as much on memory of what you saw at the eyepiece as you rely on looking at the pencil markings on the printed paper. Let me explain why.

    The whole point of using Photoshop is that you have many options for drawing tools. Now some people have many options at the eyepiece using a whole array of hand-held drawing tools. With this technique, all you need is a pencil and an eraser. Make no effort to do smudges, etc., because you’re going to do all that later using Photoshop. Of course, you can’t do it later unless you remember what you saw. And that’s why it’s critical to do the digital work asap. It also helps to have a good memory...

    Remember how I insisted on taking notes in Step 1? When "sketching" out there in the dark, instead of making a great effort to re-create what you saw at the eyepiece by using pencil on paper, you were taking notes at the bottom of the page while you were sketching.

    So, for step 2, you’re at the computer now, with this piece of paper with all the markings and notes (hopefully labeled correctly if you did more than one sketch). You start Photoshop and OPEN the file with the grid. Do a SAVE AS immediately, choose an appropriate file name, and then start working.

    First do the easy part: start with the stars. You want your stars in LAYER 3. So click on LAYER 3 in the layer box. (If the layer box is not open, you have to open it by choosing this option in the WINDOW section.)

    Do NOT put your stars in the background layer or any other layer. Put them in LAYER 3. Otherwise, you risk ruining the work you are doing now when you make changes later -- and you will make changes. This also insures that the stars will show up without getting obliterated by later additions.

    To put in markings that represent the stars you saw, use the BRUSH TOOL. First do all the stars that you labeled as “0”. To do this, you have to click on the BRUSH TOOL and then, within the grid, click once wherever you want a dot to appear. You can choose the SIZE of the dot by clicking on the brush section in the toolbar at the top of the screen (or wherever it is located on your version of Photoshop) -- but you must be in BRUSH TOOL mode in order to do this. You choose the size of the dot by choosing the “master diameter”. You can also choose the kind of brush (here you want the most basic brush, which is the first choice offered) and the hardness (here you want 100%). You usually have to adjust for SIZE after choosing a particular kind of brush.

    You have to experiment with sizes in order to determine what size is best for any particular star on any particular sketch.

    After you’ve “painted in” all the stars you labeled “0”, do the stars labeled “1”, changing the master diameter. Then move on to do the stars labeled “2”, etc. You’ll end up with a grid showing small round circles of different sizes in LAYER 3 (one little round circle for each star you saw when sketching).

    Note that all of this is in black on white background. You can switch to color, but that’s beyond the scope of these instructions. That’s getting really fancy. I used color only once in doing sketches for the Messier series.

    Also note that, for the time being, you are working in black on white. You will invert later. You could work with white on black if you wanted, but that’s a harder to do at this stage, because of the grid and also because of optical illusions when using white on black.

    Do not make any attempt to include anything else at this point. Use LAYER 3 only for clearly defined pinpoint stars as you saw them the night before.

    SAVE this file (assuming you already did a SAVE AS earlier).

    (At this point your file should not be a *.JPG file, which has no layers, but a *.PSD file so you can operate in Photoshop. You’ll convert to *.JPG after you flatten the layers.)

    That’s Step 2. The easy part is over.

    If there is no nebula, globular cluster or galaxy to add, you can skip Step 3 and go to Step 4. For instance, if you doing an open cluster, you don’t need any of the fancy brushes.

    Clears,
    Joe

    PS The attachments are examples of the steps based on a sketch I did of M31.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by BABOafrica; 07-21-2012 at 11:54 AM. Reason: explaining the attachments
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    Default Step 3 // Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Step 3: FANCY BRUSHES & OTHER OPTIONS

    With the file open, after finishing all the stars, click on LAYER 1 in the layer box. Make LAYER 1 disappear. You get a brief glimpse of where you’re going. Make LAYER 1 re-appear and the grid will re-appear. Then click on LAYER 3. Make it disappear. THERE SHOULD BE NO MARKINGS ANYWHERE except the grid in LAYER 1. If there are markings, you must have accidentally started to add stars (or whatever) in a layer other than LAYER 3. Go back and correct this before moving on, because if you don’t, it will cause problems later.

    Now click on LAYER 2 in the layer box.

    You are now going to add a nebula, globular cluster or galaxy. You may need two layers to do this -- LAYER 2 and an extra layer you’ll add in a minute.

    In LAYER 2, you start by trying to get the general background correct. Was the nebula/globular cluster/galaxy a big, sprawling thing? Was there kind of a glow around it or in it? How far out did the glow reach? What shape was it?

    LAYER 2 is for the background glow. For sure, you saw something. To capture that in the sketch, use the BRUSH TOOL. This time, you want a brush that does something generally fuzzy. Don’t worry about shape at this point. Just pick a brush that is fuzzy and make a blotch of fuzz on the grid where you think it should go.

    If you made the blotch--which at this point is always round--and it turned out to be too big or too small, go to the edit section and click on STEP BACKWARD. Change the SIZE of the brush in the brush box section and try again.

    You probably made it too bright. Open the COLOR box in the WINDOW section. This allows you to make the blotch brighter or dimmer on a scale of 0-100, though usually it is set to 100% to begin with. You usually want something in the range of 20-30% (unless you saw M31 or M42 at dark site, and even then you would only want something in the range of 30-60%). Try to gauge it by comparing the brightness of the background glow to the brightness of the dimmest star in your FOV.

    After you get through, you should end up with something like the *.JPG image in this post. However, your file should not be a *.JPG file (which has no layers) but a *.PSD file that you operate in Photoshop.

    M31 30mm prep 01.jpg

    Once you get the overall size and brightness fixed, adjust the shape as need be. Your sketch from the night before should give some indication of the shape and size. You definitely want to work from whatever you noted while at the eyepiece.

    Remember that you can always go back another night to refine what you’re doing in Photoshop if you think you don’t quite remember exactly what you saw, which you probably won’t. (This technique is more of an iterative technique then regular sketching.)

    To change the shape and size of the blotch, go to the TRANSFORM feature in the EDIT section. Note that as long as you stick with LAYER 2, the only part of your sketch that will be edited at this point is the blotch you stuck in a minute ago. (That is the beauty of using layers in Photoshop.)

    There are several possibilities for the TRANSFORM feature. You want to experiment a little. I mostly use DISTORT and SCALE. By manipulating the blotch, you can end up with something like the *.JPG file attached to this post.

    M31 30mm prep 02.jpg

    Once you have the background glow fixed, either continue in LAYER 2 or add a new layer (i.e., add LAYER 4 using the LAYER section, which should appear below LAYER 2 in the ranking of layers, with LAYER 3 first in ranking and background last in ranking.)

    Choosing an appropriate brush, with the right texture, opacity and size, start to put in whatever features you think are best. If you're in LAYER 4, you are putting these on top of the background glow being held fixed in LAYER 2.

    You’re trying to complete the sketch of the nebular/globular cluster/galaxy that is the main feature of your sketch. Manipulate your blotches using the TRANSFORM feature in EDIT or use one of the other drawing tools, like the SMUDGE feature.

    After you finish, SAVE the file. It should still be in the *.PSD format.

    It helps to keep a copy of this file in your records. Later, if you want to change anything in any of the layers, you can. And you will change!

    For now, THIS FILE IS YOUR SKETCH. You still have one more step, but you now have a sketch. Although you will probably want to re-touch lots of things after you see it in white on black, this is your black on white sketch.

    Clears,
    Joe
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    Default Step 4 // Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Step 4: INVERTING and FIXING the FOV

    Taking your black on white sketch from Step 2 or Step 3, you now want to make it look pretty. The first thing you want to do is get rid of the grid.

    Click LAYER 1 in the layer box. Go to the LAYER section and click on that. Find the feature DELETE LAYER and click on it. Tell Photoshop that YES, so you delete the layer. You will notice that the grid has disappeared, and, this time, it is not coming back.

    At this point, you want to flatten the layers into one single layer. Go to the LAYER section and click on FLATTEN. You now have only one layer.

    Now comes the hard part. You need to use the MASK feature.

    In the drawing toolbar, near the bottom, you should have two icons for masking: QUICK MASK and STANDARD MASK. Click on the QUICK. Then, still choosing from features in the drawing toolbar, choose the ELLIPSE TOOL. While pressing down the CTRL key, place the cursor close to but not touching the upper left corner of the sketch, then click and drag until a colorful circle appears that covers most of the sketch. Do not let the bounds of the circle exceed the edges of the sketch. If you blow it, do an UNDO or STEP BACKWARDS in the EDIT and try again.

    You should end up with a color circle in your sketch covering most of what you want included in the sketch. This will be your FOV. But it’s probably not centered, so choose the MOVE TOOL from the drawing tools toolbar and move the circle as appropriate.

    You’ll notice bars of color appearing at the edges. As long as there is some white space between the color circle and the color bar, don’t worry about these. If the circle and bar are touching, you have to start the masking operation over again.

    Once you got that circle centered and covering everything you want to appear in your sketch, you’re ready to mask the image. So, click on the STANDARD MASK icon (which is in the drawing tools toolbar.)

    The color disappears and you see this blinking circular line surrounding your stars and other blotches. Go to the SELECT section and click on the INVERSE feature. You won’t see any change. While press the CTRL button on the keyboard, type the letter “I”. This inverts the black and white.

    You probably have some bars of black at the edge. Use the CROP feature from the drawing tools to get rid of them. Then go to the IMAGE section and choose the CANVAS SIZE feature to get the right size for your canvas -- or do more cropping, which can have the same effect.

    If you were doing M31, you should have something like the *.JPG image attached to this post.

    This is the image I posted in my thread for the Messier sketches. It was one of my first ones. I would do it much better today if I was doing it over again. I’ve learned a lot about using the brushes since I started. You’ll have to experiment a lot with the brushes, so that you can get just the right effect to match what you saw when viewing.

    So, you have a sketch now, with white stars and black sky. Note that your file is still in *.PSD format. At this point do a SAVE AS, choosing the *.JPG option (or any other format you prefer for storing the final version of your sketch).

    At this point, you can add whatever lettering you want, using the LETTER tool in the drawing tools toolbar. But before doing that, you may want to rotate the whole thing. At least I normally do that in order to show North at the top. However, some people prefer to leave the orientation as they saw the object when at the eyepiece. That’s up to you.

    Adding lettering automatically creates new layers (which makes it easy to move the lettering around without changing the rest of the image). So make sure you flatten layers before doing your final SAVE.

    Clears,
    Joe
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    Default Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Thank you for posting this! It taught me a lot.
    Clear skies,
    Joe
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    Default Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Hi Joe,
    I just opened your template in Photoshop and it is just one layer. Just thought I'd let you know.

    [Edit: the link in Step 1 has been corrected. KeithBC]
    Last edited by KathyNS; 07-23-2012 at 04:20 PM.
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    Default Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Thanks for posting this Joe, nice job and well done. Now to go buy Photoshop and practice. Like I said in another of your posts, a hobby inside a hobby.
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    Default Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Excellent tutorial Joe, thanks for taking the time to post it.
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    Default correction // Re: using PHOTOSHOP to do sketches digitally

    Unfortunately, I loaded the wrong Photoshop file when I was explaining Step 1 above.

    The correct file is this one:

    BLANK template.psd

    Clears,
    Joe
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    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 11-29-2009, 02:38 AM
  5. Gerry's sketches 10-11-09
    By Gerrylightning in forum Astronomy Sketching Forum
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 10-13-2009, 07:28 PM

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