The dreaded blank document. All that white space, waiting to be filled with all those ideas floating in your head. But where do you even begin? To make those ideas a reality, give photo compositing a try. Golden Press Studio’s Art Director Cory Romeiser walks you through the process of choosing and layering elements from photos to create an original design in Procreate.
WHAT IS PHOTO COMPOSITING?
First, let’s talk about photo compositing. What is it? Compositing is the process of combining visual elements from separate sources into a single image to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene. Basically, this means that the designer is using pieces of multiple images to create one image.
For screen printing design purposes, compositing a photo doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s more for inspiration than the final design.
To get started, create a document in Procreate. Cory’s document has a resolution of 3,456 pixels by 5,184 pixels. It’s a large document, but bigger is better, especially if you’re planning to vectorize your artwork. Cory pulls a design from the Outdoor Vector Pack that he created this way. He places the image off to the side to show what the finished product will be. Then, he goes searching for inspiration.
There are many sites that offer stock photos for free. Cory finds his reference images from unsplash.com. You can download as many images as you like that have elements you want to incorporate into your final design.
Once the images are downloaded, it’s time to import them to Procreate. Hit the wrench icon, tap “Insert Photo,” and tap all the images you want to insert. They will all insert as different layers. Cory scales the images down so he can see them all on the canvas at once.
OUTLINING THE SCENE
Cory’s goal is to create his own original scene using elements from these images. He decides that the base layer of the image will be a road. He selects the image of a man standing on a road and places it in the center of the canvas.
Next, Cory looks at the image of a hiker with a backpack. He hits the “Outline” icon in the top left corner (it’s the second icon from the right) to draw an outline. The outline doesn’t have to be perfect. This is only for inspiration.
Once the hiker has been outlined, Cory hits the arrow icon next to the “Outline” icon and performs a three-finger swipe down to bring up the copy/paste menu. Hit “Duplicate” to copy the image onto another layer, and he turns off the layer of the full photo. Now, only the outline of the hiker is visible from the original image. Cory scales the hiker up to fill the center of the base layer of the road.
Repeat this process to grab elements from the other images you liked. Cory outlines a wide-brimmed hat and places it on the hiker, and grabs some mountains and pine trees from other images.
Pro Tip: Only grab the pieces of the image you want. If you only like part of a mountain, you don’t need to grab the entire mountain. The fun part of photo compositing is mixing and matching until you’re happy with the result.
Compile as many images as you want: the outline doesn’t have to be perfect. It might look like a busy mess when you’re done, but don’t worry. You’ve just created a template for your own artwork. Now it’s time to start drawing.
CRAFTING THE DESIGN
The first decision you’ll need to make when sketching your drawing is what shape you’d like the design to follow. Cory decides he wants his design to be circular, so he draws a circle around the hiking guy and holds until it snaps into a perfect circle and moves it into the center of the canvas.
Move the outlined images into position where you want them, scaling them up or down to fit the vision you have in mind. When you’re satisfied, put everything onto the same layer by pinching layers together, drop the opacity of the composition by hitting the letter “N” and moving the slider so you can see what you’re drawing, and get started.
Start your sketch on a new layer. Cory uses a pencil from the Everyday Brush Pack. Choose a bright color for the sketch so you can see what you’re drawing. Start sketching out the design using the composition of photos as a template. When you’re done sketching, turn off the composition layer and take a look at your work.
INKING THE FINAL DRAFT
Once you’re satisfied with the sketch, it’s time to create the final draft. Create a new layer and switch the color of your brush to black. You can use any brush to achieve the final look you have in mind. Cory uses the “wet ink pen” brush from the Tattoo Stipple Brush Pack.
Drop the opacity on the red sketch layer and draw your final draft. Remember, this doesn’t have to perfectly match the sketch. Cory scales some trees down and adds a few more details to the road to make the photo more interesting.
When you’re finished inking, turn off the sketch layer and see the final product. Make any changes to the design that you want before saving.
Cory lays out the project from the composition to sketch to final product for comparisons. The changes from the composition, sketch, and final draft aren’t giant, but really make the design come together.
Photo compositing is a great method to help visualize your project and give you a leg up during the drawing process. By taking the time to arrange elements on a canvas before you start drawing, you won’t lose your vision halfway through, and can have a template to work with and tweak as you design.