Extracting 2


Now this section can get a little tricky. Not because of the actual tracing of photographs. In fact it's more due to copyright infringement awareness that you must proceed into this tutorial with caution, especially when dealing with making bases. Of course it is alright to trace and post your own photographs, and sometimes it is alright to use other people's photographs, even of movie stars. Why? Because some pictures and stock photographs are what the legal world likes to call "public domain".

The public domain comprises the body of knowledge and innovation (especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions) in relation to which no person or other legal entity can establish or maintain proprietary interests. This body of information and creativity is considered to be part of the common cultural and intellectual heritage of humanity, which in general anyone may use or exploit.

-Wikipidia definition on "Public Domain"
In other words, anything in public domain is up for grabs and can be used without fear of copyright infringement. Many, many stock photo sites are public domain and can be found easily if you search for public domain stock. More public domain stock images can be found here.

So before you find a hot picture of Pitt, Depp, or Cruise, understand now that any pictures you may use of them for basing may be subject to copyright infringement.

Please note that I do NOT endorse or condone the tracing of other people's artwork for basing, franking, and all general acts of copyright infringement. It's generally frowned upon to trace and display other people's artworks as your own so don't do it.

Now that we have that covered, let's begin.

Intro & Tracing

Following the tradition of the last lesson, duplicating photographs won't be too much of a problem. So we are going to learn how to make a good trace of a photo to start your pixel portrait. It won't be easy, but not a lot of art is.

Get your picture, the more visible the features the better. If it's dark, you might not be able to see other features of the picture to trace with. Make sure the foreshortening isn't too difficult if it is your first time, or when you clean up your trace it won't make sense. If you have an understanding of anatomy, especially the anatomy of your model, then feel free to proceed without any worry about how dark the picture is or how extreme the angles are.

For this tutorial I'll be using a photograph of my sister. (ain't she perdy?) Use a contrasting color among the 28 colors you have available to you only. I suggest using a bright neon color for photographs, as they tend to always be singled out in the cleanup process. For this I will be using hot-pink.

Quick Tip!

Play to watch demonstration! If you have AOL, it should have a feature you can open your images in (AOL cannot open PNGs into their picture editor). with this feature you can lighten or darken a picture to your heart's content. And it might help you out incase your afraid of drowning out your tracing. When looking for your picture, make sure you have it set to "All Files" so you can find your picture. You don't have to be a member of AOL to be able to use this either.

Tracing (cont...)

If I were making this a base, I would trace the roundness of her head
just as you see i did in this example

I am lucky with this photograph because her hair is up and flat against her head, showing her hairline and the shape of her skull. But sometimes in a photograph the hair is down and framing the face. Sometimes it's even in the eyes. This does not mean that those features behind the hair/clothes/object disappear and should not be considered when tracing. They exist even if you cannot see them (ESPECIALLY the back of the head!). So I suggest getting to know the lines of your own face if you don't know where to put it in the picture.

For instance: run your finger along your jaw line, it probably is a 193 angle that bends up 45 or 90 to connect with the bottom of your ear. And where the top of your ear connects with the side of your head, run your fingers horizontally towards your nose. Notice how it meets with the corner of your eye? Feel the back of your head where your skull meets your neck. Not flat is it, so don't draw it like it is if you are gunna base it.

And one I always do: put your finger to the tip of your nose and against your chin like you're making a "Shhh" face and feel the angle that your lips are on. That helps a great deal when drawing profiles. The face has a sort of symmetry. Hell, the whole body has symmetry! Your fingertips line up with your crotch; your elbows are in line with the bottom of your ribs; etc, etc, etc.

Unless you're making a monster or an alien, there is no excuse for ignoring proper symmetry in your anatomy, even if the body is exaggerated.

Remember that not every line, wrinkle, and bump you see in the face needs to be traced. That will be addressed when it comes time to color it in. As the lesson said before, if you absolutely need the lines to be traced, use a different color for it. 'Cause when it's all done and every single line is traced it will look freggin ridiculous. So I suggest, lightly referencing where an invisible lines will go. See how I didn't outline her lips but I did reference where they are? It will look a lot better when cleanup is around and will be a whole lot better when it comes to coloring it in.

I used different colors to reference wrinkles and shadow, as you see here
It may look silly now, but you'll honestly regret it if you make everything
the same color. Especially if you wish to erase the lines later.

Do not, I repeat, do not trace the hair with the same color you use to trace everything else. You might be happier if you don't. Treat your drawing like you would a base and reference your hairline and hair with another color completely.


Alright, so now you got it all traced with its wacky colors and all. "How do I clean up?" you're wondering. If you're thinking of going there and erasing things manually: don't. That is just too annoying of a step to do. Especially if there was a lot to trace and the picture is colorful and complicated.

So here are interesting steps, make sure to follow along, even if it might sound silly:

  1. Open up another MSP window, that way you have two.
  2. In the new MSP window, save the blank page as a 16 color bitmap. (save it someplace where you know it is, you might be using this a lot.)
  3. There will be a window that asks: "Saving into this format may cause some loss of color information. Do you want to continue?" Click Yes.
  4. Go back to the first MSP window and select and copy your picture.
  5. Paste it into the second MSP window.
VOILA! Now your picture has been put down to the lowest 16bit colors it can get to. Now you see why you couldn't use custom colors. The only colors that exist now are the 28 default colors. And your trace, if you did it right, should stick right out on it's own.

the sketch is reduced to it's simplest form

But we're not done yet.

There are two ways to get rid of the colors and single out your trace. One is to use the color replacement method to erase the colors without touching your trace, (If you remember my explanation of the color replacement in the previous lesson, then you should have an understanding of what i will be talking about.) which is ideal if the picture was simple with very little colors.

But if your picture was complex then color replacement may not get all the stray pixels. So what I do is, in the second MSP window, I select and copy the picture then press delete.

DON'T PANIC! So long as you don't copy anything else you are good. If you think you are going to copy something, then paste the picture back into the MSP window so you can come back to it. And don't forget the three S's: "Save, Stupid, Save!"

Then I copy the picture back into the window-Don't deselect it! Should look the same as it was right? Make sure the "transparency icon" is highlighted on the side then go down to the color and RIGHT CLICK one of the colors under the trace.

The color is completely gone! Replaced by white now and no sweat off your brow, no sir! Deselect it and select it again. Copy it. Delete it. Now there should be a box of the color you had just picked. Use the fill tool and Left click the box and it should fill with white (assuming you have white as your first color). Paste the picture back in and the color you just erased should still be gone. Right Click another color under the trace and that color will disappear now too. Starting to see a pattern?

Ready for coloring!

Keep repeating those steps until you completely isolated your trace. Make sure you didn't delete the other trace colors. it should look something like this.

In Closing

All finished! and i didn't have to start a drawing in Paint to do it!

Tadaa, voila, and hazaa! You have a cleaned up pixel trace. And without the use of layers! Copy and Paste your trace back into the first MSP and it's ready for cleaning, color replacement, and coloring. Keep the original photo next to it for reference and color away!
(c) Shelby Wright 2011. All Rights Reserved