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Draw A Rough Sketch First: It’s The Thinker Thing To Do!!

October 31, 2011

I’m always checking out Photoshop tutorials, trying to learn new tricks. I found one recently that certainly seems appropriate for this Halloween post. It’s called Create A Spooky Scarecrow Wallpaper Using Photoshop. Author: Santhosh Koneru.

Like most Photoshop tutorials, it begins with a shot of the final image:

Photo illustration showing creepy scarecrow with noose and scythe in spooky foggy cornfield at night with moon

It’s an excellent photo manipulation tutorial, but what makes it unique in my experience
is the author’s first step: doing a rough sketch. See what you need, then look for photos.

I’ve looked at a lot of tutorials, but this was the first to say: work out your idea first. It’s
a good habit to get into, because in the case of actual illustration assignments, an art director will ask for sketches– you’ll need to get one approved before you can proceed
to the final. Here’s Mr. Koneru’s rough sketch: initial rough sketch for photo illustration showing creepy scarecrow with noose and scythe in spooky foggy cornfield at night with moon

Having worked out the concept, he then goes looking for photos. He begins with this shot of a harvested cornfield which he found on of cornfield used in photo illustration showing creepy scarecrow with noose and scythe in spooky foggy cornfield at night with moon

He pastes in this scarecrow image from deviantART, then continues to add bits and pieces of photos, building his illustration in of scarecrow pasted onto cornfield for photo illustration showing creepy scarecrow with noose and scythe in spooky foggy cornfield at night with moon

Recently I was asked to illustrate the concept of cloud computing. I’d heard the term, but didn’t know what it was. After doing some research, I sketched out some ideas and sent them to the art director as B&W GIFs. She approved the following sketch. (The final had to be slotted into a horizontal space, hence the elongated shape.)rough sketch for illustration about cloud computing

I then started rounding up images, like this photo of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture, The of replica of Auguste Rodin's famous sculpture of The Thinker

One by one, I added each photo element to my illustration.partially completed photo illustration showing cloud computing thought balloon, Rodin's The Thinker sculpture, and a computer and monitor

Here’s the final:finished photo illustration of cloud computing concept with ones and zeroes, hardware and software terminology, thought balloons, computer and keyboard, and Rodin's The Thinker wearing eyeglasses and a tie

I hate to admit it, but I have done some personal photo-illustration projects where I ignored this wise rule. Instead of taking the time to work out my concept, I went looking for photos first, hoping an idea would occur. Dumb approach. Sometimes you get lucky, but more often than not you box yourself in, allowing the photos to dictate terms and restrict your imagination.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What do you think? Does it make sense to think first, Photoshop second? Had any experience along those lines? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. robpixaday permalink
    October 31, 2011 3:11 PM

    I love this post so much I’d marry it if it asked me too. WOW!!!!!!!!!
    So much coolness!
    Your illustration for cloud-computing is fabulous.

    I use Photoshop Elements 8 quite often in my work (for digital compilations). Because I rarely have more than the wisp of an idea what I want to do before I start (and because I’m not illustrating anything, usually) I just grab random photos, drawing, paintings, textures from my hard drive and jump in. I’m lucky if I have a color scheme in mind. It all just…happens. click-click-click. Sometimes I’m very disappointed and stop midway, only to being again with new images. Sometimes it works fine but the result is underwhelming. What you’re saying here is something I ought to try. Because I always use original work and frequently stop to make something especially for the piece that may never be finished, I do a lot of work that ends up nowhere…LOL.
    So this should be a good approach. Will let you know how it goes, the next time I make something.


    • October 31, 2011 4:45 PM

      Uh… where am I? That was so much praise, I musta blacked out for a minute there from sheer happiness… : )

      Many thanks, sincerely appreciated, Robin. I hope I haven’t given the impression that I’m against experimentation. I’ve ad-libbed my way thru my share of photo-illustrations. Some work, many don’t. I don’t think any artistic experiment is a failure if you learn something from it. Letting one’s raw materials (photos, whatever) restrict one’s thinking is the big danger– it limits where one can go.

      That said, I think photos/images can trigger ideas that one can then develop. For example, I have a hunch the author of the Scarecrow Tutorial was directly inspired by that photo of the malevolent scarecrow he found on deviantART. Looking at the photo gave him the idea for the piece. Can’t prove it, just a hunch.

      I especially like the abstracts you’ve posted to BlueCanvas. Fear not, you’re doing great– and I shall look forward to seeing future creations!! : )


      • robpixaday permalink
        November 4, 2011 5:41 PM

        MANY thanks!! I really appreciate your kindness!

        Oh….I didn’t think you were against experimentation! But you did convince me that I ought to try planning things, at least occasionally.



  2. Margie permalink
    October 31, 2011 3:26 PM

    While I think it is an excellent idea, I think I would have trouble visualizing the concept in the first place!


    • October 31, 2011 4:19 PM

      Now, now… : ) I think it’s a bit different with straight photography. You need to be able to see what most of us miss in plain sight– and to capture it before it’s lost forever.

      Besides, you’re not giving yourself enough credit: to date, no one has visualized a more creative and compelling bee animation!! : )


  3. October 31, 2011 10:27 PM

    Work out your idea first, absolutely agree :). And draw a rough sketch afterwards. Then find some photos that support your idea or concept.

    Great tutorial and once again your job has made my day! 🙂

    Welcome to November 😀


    • November 1, 2011 9:19 AM

      We got two feet of snow here Saturday night, and just had our first ever White Halloween– but my November’s off to a great start thanks to your lovely comment!! : )


      • November 1, 2011 10:48 AM

        Hmmm…that means Halloween is not so scary anymore. Perhaps it repents already, LOL.

        Good to know that your November’s off to a great start 😉


  4. November 1, 2011 12:38 AM

    Amazing post! I love it.I love it.I love it 😀


    • November 1, 2011 9:13 AM

      Thank you for visiting, and for not controlling your enthusiasm– both much appreciated!! : )


  5. November 5, 2011 5:13 PM

    “What do you think? Does it make sense to think first, Photoshop second? Had any experience along those lines? ”

    I think it always makes sense to think first and photoshop second but I have no experience to draw on. I like what you created and most of all I like how you shared your process in this excellent tutorial. Thumbs up!


    • November 6, 2011 8:05 PM

      Aw, who needs experience with those great instincts of yours?? : )

      A kind and supportive comment from you is always energizing– onward to blogging glory!! Well, onward anyway… : ) Thanks, TT!


  6. November 8, 2011 7:12 AM

    The grim reaper scarecrow Photoshop looks very effective.


    • November 8, 2011 9:48 AM

      Yes, and I think the reason he’s so grim is because he stands in that cornfield and hardly ever sees a bicyclist go by… : )

      Cheers, Jean, and thanks for pedaling over to my blog!


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